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E-food crisis abates as Sainsbury's online sparks into life

Netizens scramble to replenish frozen pizza stockpiles

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The UK’s net population narrowly escaped starvation today as Sainsbury’s finally got its e-commerce site up and running again.

The UK’s favourite supermarket for people who can’t always afford Waitrose and are a bit sniffy about Tesco announced last night that its online ordering system would be back up and running from 6pm Thursday. As of this morning, the ordering page is asking customers to tap in their shopping lists rather than presenting them with a picture of a couple of lemons.

The site had died late on Tuesday, taking details of orders made and awaiting fulfilment with it. It was never exactly clear what the problem was. Sainsbury’s blamed a “technical issue”, which is not unheard of when talking about technology.

However, one reader said they had been told by Sainsbury’s staff that a fire in a building next to its server centre had cut off the machines.

Sainsbury’s did the decent thing and contacted all its customers who were awaiting orders to let them know that their groceries were lost in the ether, and rather sportingly gave them £10 discount vouchers. The fact that the supermarket was still able to access details of customers awaiting orders but not the orders themselves left some observers scratching their heads about what exactly had gone wrong.

In the meantime, disappointed online shoppers were forced to make other arrangements, presumably by succumbing to opportunistic grabs from rivals such as Tesco.com. Some are even reported to have left their houses in search of sustenance, after perusing Ray Mears' tips on foraging for food in modern Britain.

This week's server failure was a particular embarrassment for Sainsbury’s: it happened just as the firm trumpeted the success of its online operation in its latest results. More to the point, reports suggested the outage cost it upwards of a million quid. ®

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