Comparing Heroku and Instacart Screw Ups

Relatively recently both Heroku and Instacart made some mistakes that caused large public outcries. Heroku had a problem with some confusion surrounding their routing on their Bamboo stack. Instacart had a problem with their Instacart Express service.

Both companies published posts explaining what happened and apoligizing. Despite their similar nature, Heroku’s post is actually quite different compared to Instacart’s.

Heroku’s response can be seen here:

And Instacart’s here:

Numerous articles have been written by/about both companies, but I’m going to be comparing the above two, which to my knowledge are the most recent.

Disclaimer: I was not affected by either of these companies’ mistakes; this post it just comparing Heroku’s response and Instacart’s response


Heroku: “Routing and Web Performance on Heroku: a FAQ”

Instacart: “We are sorry!”

It’s easy to tell right from the beginning that the company responses are going to be very, VERY different. By Instacart’s title, you can instantly tell that they know that they made a mistake and are apologizing for it. Heroku’s, on the other hand, conveys the message that there is some confusion about one of their products, and they are going to clear that up here.

Already, Heroku’s response makes me feel a little bit like its my fault. They didn’t do anything wrong; their service simply works one way, and I, a non-intelligent user, didn’t understand how it was supposed to work.

What’s being done


As to the future, here’s what we’re doing. We’re ramping up hands-on migration assistance for all users running on our older stack, Bamboo, or running a non-concurrent backend on our new stack, Cedar. (See the FAQ for why this is the fix.) We’re adding new features such as 2X dynos to make it easier to run concurrent backends for large Rails apps. And we’re making performance and visibility a bigger area of product attention, starting with some tools we’ve already released in the last month.


First, we’re going to refund all delivery fees paid by the people affected by this bug.

Second, we’re going to give these customers the choice to either:

Receive a full refund of the Instacart Express subscription fee immediately

Continue as a subscriber of Instacart Express for the next year. We’ll extend the end date of your subscription through April 30, 2014. This option includes unlimited free deliveries for orders over $35.

Heroku explains what they are going to do on the technological side to help fix the problem. While that’s all fine and dandy (and certainly an important part of the solution), what about the users who have already been affected by the problem? Heroku’s response tells me that they acknowledge that there was some sort of problem because they are going to do things differently in the future, but they could care less that this problem has had negative consequences for me in the past.

Instacart takes a much more pleasing approach to me, as a user. They tell how they are going to fix the problem, not just by doing things differently going forward, but by actually compensating those who were affected in the past. Even better, they actually give multiple options to those affected. They can either choose to get their money back, or let Instacart keep the money and get the premium service for longer.



To all our customers who experienced real pain from this: we’re truly sorry. After reading this FAQ, I hope you feel we’re taking every reasonable step to set things right, but if not, please let us know.



Again, we’re really sorry about this. We always try to go the extra mile to ensure that our customer experience is top notch — and obviously here we failed.

If there is anything else we can do – please let us know: or (910) 817-2278

Thank you,


CEO/Founder @ Instacart

Ok Heroku, I’ll give you props here. Its certainly better than the other parts of the article. But still not on the level of Instacart. After a great apology, Heroku takes some of the meaning behind that apology away when they then make the remark about how they hope we think they are fixing it the right way. It still feels like they are trying to defend themselves. They are sorry, but don’t be mad because it should be clear to you that they are doing everything they can.

Instacart, like Heroku, starts with a sincere apology. Following this apology, contrary to Heroku’s, is a complete acknowledgement that they failed. They make no attempt to defend themselves, and instead fully accept responsibility.

Instacart is the model of how a company should react when they screw-up. Quite frankly, after reading about how Instacart made a mistake and then fixed it so swiftly, fully, and in doing so accepted all responsibility, it made me want to use their service more.

 I don’t care if companies make mistakes. All do. What I do care about is whether or not that company is willing to fix what’s wrong, compensate those affected, and acknowledge that they, and they alone, are to blame.

Too bad Heroku. You just lost a customer.

 Kudos Instacart. You just gained one.