If there is one thing about Disney’s merchandise program I’m constantly amazed at, it’s how they manage to screw up the limited edition merchandise events so frequently. If they didn’t have a brand with such a strong history, I don’t think people would put up with it.

Think of it this way, if Nordstroms (to pick a store at random) told you there would only be 100 of an item on a first come first serve basis, but when you arrived the store was closed, only to find out later that the item was sold, just out of a back door to some other customers, you’d be pretty mad right? If it happened again you’d be furious, and a 3rd strike would force you to think twice about giving that store your money.

Yet, there’s a 14+ year history of Disney screwing up limited edition merchandise events just like that. So, when I heard that lack of planning, unreliable technology, and a failure to understand demand has now impacted The Disney Store online event, I wasn’t surprised.

It is nice to see The Disney Store going out of their way to make it up to guests who may have felt slighted by the event. This email was sent out today:

Dear Disney Store Guest:

We know that every time you visit DisneyStore.com and shop for your children, family and friends, or for yourself you expect to find quality products matched by a quality online experience. On Tuesday, October 18 our site experienced technical difficulties as thousands of Guests simultaneously attempted to purchase our limited-edition doll collection. Due to the unprecedented traffic to our site, many Guests visiting us online were disappointed by the shopping experience.

The Designer Doll Collection has been the fastest-selling limited-edition doll collection in Disney Store’s history. We have learned many lessons with the release of this collection, and are implementing new systems to manage limited-edition product sales more effectively in the future. We understand that we are viewed by our Guests as more than a retail destination; we are representatives of Disney where exceptional Guest service is always expected.

To apologize and thank you for your continued loyalty we would like to give you a special 1-day gift. The discount code, THANKYOU25, allows you to shop online merchandise at 25% off* on Thursday, October 20. We value our Guests and we will continue to strive to deliver a magical shopping experience at DisneyStore.com every day.

If the Disney Store or any of Disney’s other merchandise departments is serious about preventing snafus like this in the future, they would do well to ask the customers how they want an event like this to work. Yes, there will always be hiccups, but there are ways to mitigate the impact of technology, even while putting it to maximum use. Yes, you can offer limited edition merchandise online, even very limited, and still do it in a way that’s fair and emphasizes the exclusive nature.

But you don’t offer a set of dolls, sell them separately, and then not offer people who want to buy a complete set a way to do that without rolling the dice. If you have a problem with releasing one doll, why would you then release five dolls on the same day? When you don’t do it right, all you’re doing is supporting the secondary market and not your fans. It’s not rocket science.