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Amazon Erases Orders To Cover Up Pricing Mistake 338

Posted by kdawson
from the now-that's-just-naughty dept.
The Knife writes "Amazon secretly canceled orders for a large jazz CD set after realizing that it had mis-priced the item at $31 instead of its MSRP of $499. At first, inventory shortages caused the online merchant to string customers along for over a month after they placed their orders. But when Amazon realized that the box set was under-priced by $470, it simply erased all records of customers' order in their account history. No emails were sent to customers informing them of the price change or of the order cancellation. Probably because it violates Amazon's highly publicized price guarantee policy. A customer who called to complain and request the CD set at the $31 price was given a $20 discount off of his next Amazon order." A caveat: there is no external confirmation that Amazon did what is claimed here.
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Amazon Erases Orders To Cover Up Pricing Mistake

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  • Bad Summary. (Score:5, Informative)

    by adam (1231) * on Sunday February 10, 2008 @03:33AM (#22367612)

    Probably because it violates Amazon's highly publicized price guarantee policy
    Gee, let's check amazon's price guarantee policy [amazon.com] and see what it says at the bottom...

    Despite our best efforts, a small number of the items in our catalog may be mispriced. If an item's correct price is higher than our stated price, we will, at our discretion, either contact you for instructions before shipping or cancel your order and notify you of such cancellation.
    So, um, basically, their policy allows for them to cancel orders at their discretion. Which is approximately what it said in 2001, when I placed an order for 4 plasma TVs they had priced at $27/each. A few days later, they cancelled my order (along with the others of several others I know who were hoping for cheap TVs!). This has happened many times before with Amazon-- although by many I mean "several, that I am aware of," which is probably really good, considering the sheer volume of sales Amazon does. So, basically, nothing to see here.. move along. The product was priced incorrectly, they didn't charge anyone, they cancelled the orders. This is common practice for Amazon and other merchants.
    • Re:Bad Summary. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by phillips321 (955784) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @03:49AM (#22367694)
      You missed the point! Order's were canceled and the customer was not informed about it. Amazon's policy clearly states:
      "and notify you of such cancellation"
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by eyrieowl (881195)
        that may be the point, but it's a weak one. is it really news to all of us that sometimes companies don't follow all the steps they say they are? if amazon had charged them, failed to deliver, and "forgotten" about the orders, that would be one thing, but the harm done here is...somewhat minimal. did anyone die b/c they didn't get their fire-sale priced box set? thought not. while i'd certainly be sad if i found out i couldn't get the deal of a lifetime, eh, you don't win the lottery every day.
        • Re:Bad Summary. (Score:4, Informative)

          by Valdrax (32670) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @04:45AM (#22367936)
          Your points are all really irrelevant to whether or not they performed the contract. Harm, for purposes of recovery, is the difference between the price listed and the next best price. Also, an industry standard practice of not living up to one's contracts is generally not held to be a legal excuse for not doing so if someone calls you on it.

          Also, a contract of this sort is generally considered to be binding when the site gives you order confirmation, and you submit it. At that point, offer and acceptance has been had (even under the older UCC Article 2). The time at which they charge you or not is irrelevant in this situation.

          The question essentially is, "Was there a breach of contract?" Since we've established that there was one, the question of whether deleting an order without sending you a message is a breach needs to be answered. Most likely (not knowing any further information about their ordering policies), it seems like there would be one under the notification rule the earlier poster made.

          However, It's really a tempest in a teacup because no one is likely to sue them for it, and without a print-out of the order confirmation, there's no evidence the contract was ever made. Courts are unlikely to allow people to claim phantom orders on websites without any proof, and most states would make you go to small claims court for damages this small (which wouldn't allow you the discovery necessary to make Amazon.com cough up the proof that they did it). For a mere $350 bucks, most sane people wouldn't bother.
          • Re:Bad Summary. (Score:5, Insightful)

            by jasonwc (939262) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @06:45AM (#22368374)
            Well, you're jumping to conclusions. The fact that there was a breach of contract doesn't mean that the buyer can recover for the contract price - the next best available price. You point out that once there has been an offer and acceptance, a binding contract is created and Amazon is unable to repudiate. While that is true, the contract clearly allowed Amazon to cancel a buyer's order if the price was set incorrectly which certainly was the case here. Thus, Amazon was justified in its cancellation of the buyers' orders. If there was a breach, it was only the failure to notify the buyer of the order cancellation. I'm not sure from the contract terms whether a court would find there was a breach. The terms may be read as suggesting Amazon's current policy of notification rather than binding themselves to do so. In any event, a buyer would not be able to recover for the contract price - the best available price because that does not reflect the damages actually suffered. The buyer's expectation damages ought to put him in the position he would have been in had the contract been performed. Since Amazon's only failure was to notify him of the order cancellation, damages should be assessed based on the harm which resulted from lack of notification. In addition, it seems pretty clear in context that when UCC 2-711 speaks of the sellers failure to make delivery, it's referring to an unjustified refusal, rather than a justified refusal combined with a relatively minor breach. In the instant case, a court would likely award nominal damages due to the lack of any clear harm to the buyer.

            Furthermore, the measure of damages had there been an unjustified refusal to make delivery would be based on the difference between the market price of the good at the time when the buyer learned of the breach and the contract price (2-713) or in the alternative, the buyer could "cover" by buying the item at another retailer and sue for the difference between the contract price and the purchase price of the replacement (2-712). Cover doesn't even require that the price be the "next best price" - only that it is made in good faith and without unreasonable delay. This may very well exceed the market price if the buyer wants the item immediately and is willing to pay a higher price for the convenience of a local retailer.

            • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

              by mikiN (75494)
              Ok, to soup this up a bit with respect to the plasma TV sale mentioned earlier.

              Say that I bought 4 plasma TV's at the listed price of $27/each, printed the confirmation and used that to negotiate with my partners to hold a big presentation of my product at the Ritz, wining and dining included. Now say Amazon didn't confirm their cancellation of my order. Would I be able to claim damages because their failure to confirm cancellation caused me to fail to cancel the presentation in time?
            • Re:Bad Summary. (Score:4, Insightful)

              by Jeff DeMaagd (2015) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @11:39AM (#22369922) Homepage Journal
              It's an honest mistake and I think people would be clearly unreasonable if they didn't like Amazon coming clean and declared this a misprice. But if it's true that Amazon just erased all traces of their order without explanation or notice, then I would have a problem with that.
          • Re:Bad Summary. (Score:5, Insightful)

            by baboo_jackal (1021741) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @07:31AM (#22368554)
            Actually, this reminds me more of the people who stand at the register and argue with the manager, "But it was on the 99-cent rack, so you *have* to sell it to me for 99 cents!"

            Fortunately, those people don't know about Slashdot yet...
          • Re:Bad Summary. (Score:4, Informative)

            by 1u3hr (530656) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @08:37AM (#22368868)
            the question essentially is, "Was there a breach of contract?" Since we've established that there was one

            Nothiing has been established. There is a pseudonymous post to Slashdot. No supporting documents. No screenshots. No names. Not a single detail that can be verified. This is not news, it's not even gossip.

            • by rtb61 (674572)
              False advertising is false advertising and as such is fraudulent. I wonder if Amazon had overpriced items would they voluntarily give the money back.

              I have found Amazon to be definitely less than scrupulous. You know those special deals if you buy all the items in the package you get an extra special discount, well, being a some what suspicious fellow, I decide to check the individual prices of each item, I was not really surprised to find that that bought individually that were in fact cheaper than bough

              • Re:Bad Summary. (Score:5, Interesting)

                by joto (134244) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @10:11AM (#22369294)

                False advertising is false advertising and as such is fraudulent. I wonder if Amazon had overpriced items would they voluntarily give the money back.

                They don't have to. All you need to do is to send your item back, and you will get your money back. As all reputable online vendors, they have a full money-back guarantee.

                Besides, there's a big difference between false advertizing, and human error. This was most likely human error. Apart from the fact that there's no way amazon can make money from deleting customer orders, or prizing items so low they are guaranteed to lose a significant amount of money (and getting nothing in return), there is no indication that this is a systematic thing that amazon does often or deliberately.

                Hanlon's razor states: "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity". I think that should tell you enough. Someone amazon employee screwed up. Naturally, when the screwup is discovered, they fix it up, to avoid taking a big loss. That's all there is to it.

          • Re:Bad Summary. (Score:4, Informative)

            by zazzel (98233) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @08:43AM (#22368888)
            I don't know US contract law, but in other parts of the world (Germany), courts have regularly ruled that an on-line order is not in itself a contract, but simply a demand for a contract that must be acknowledged by the other party (the dealer) in words or deeds to become a valid contract. So, delivery of the item, immediate billing, or an e-mail (not a simple "we received your order" e-mail) would make this a contract.

          • by fredklein (532096)
            without a print-out of the order confirmation, there's no evidence the contract was ever made

            Um, who DOESN'T make a printout of their online orders??? Especially ones like this with 'extra special savings'?
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by eyrieowl (881195)
            i don't recall mentioning contract. were i in contract law, i might give a rip about the legal definition of harm. however, in my news stories, i prefer people to save their hyperbole for stories where real harm is occurring, not where they got stymied in their attempt to screw a corporation. so, i stand by my statement that no real harm occurred, and that this is not really news. there are enough real examples of corporations causing financial damage and ruin that we need not resort to such trivialitie
      • by sholden (12227)
        So they'll notify next year sometime. Or maybe they already yelled the cancellations out, not there fault the customer wasn't listening.

        • by sentientbeing (688713) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @04:32AM (#22367872)
          Shopper: '...You hadn't exactly gone out of your way to call attention to the cancellation notices had you? I mean like actually telling anyone or anything.'

          Amazon: 'But the cancelled sales were on display...'

          Shopper: 'On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.'

          Amazon: 'That's the display department.'

          Shopper: 'With a torch.'

          Amazon: 'Ah, well the lights had probably gone.'

          Shopper: 'So had the stairs.'

          Amazon: 'But look you found the notice didn't you?'

          Shopper: 'Yes,' said the buyer, 'yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying "Beware of The Leopard'
      • riiiight (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 10, 2008 @04:08AM (#22367780)

        and the customer was not informed about it
        according to the oh-so-thorough summary that has ZERO links (except for one to amazon's own site with the $499 price). this summary smells a lot like someone who ordered the "$30" set from amazon in bad faith, hoping they wouldn't notice the mistake and $500 worth of CDs would show up a few weeks later. when the order was cancelled, off to slashdot they ran, hoping to stir up some sentiment against amazon. Now, maybe Amazon really DIDNT notify the customer(s) in this case, but in other publicised examples (as well as anecdotally in the grandparentpost) they *DID* do so.. so without evidence that they violated their own policy (which, by the way, is just a policy.. until they charge your credit card no contract exists), they're entitled to the benefit of the doubt.
        • Re:riiiight (Score:4, Insightful)

          by yog (19073) * on Sunday February 10, 2008 @11:01AM (#22369594) Homepage Journal
          I've spend thousands of dollars at Amazon over the past eleven years. One time I received a faulty Brother printer which Amazon promptly replaced, no questions asked, the new one sent in advance, trusting me to return the old one once I received the prepaid shipping sticker. (Brother's customer support was completely useless, which is why I'll never buy Brother again, but that's another story.)

          Not once have I ever experienced a pricing problem or other anomaly that might mar my buying experience. I have also taken advantage of Amo's easy approach to selling my stuff back to others and have unloaded many textbooks and DVDs over the years.

          In short, Amazon for me represents the most successful of the new online retailers; they have won my trust and admiration, no easy feat, and so I find this Slashdot story to be questionable at best. I am willing to believe that such a mistake occurred, but without any links or independent confirmation of the accusations it really sounds more like a disgruntled customer out to hurt them as much as possible. Given my own experience and that of many friends and associates over the years I would be surprised if this were anything more than a blip.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Sancho (17056)
        It's still a bad summary. The awful, awful summary posits that Amazon did not notify their customers because it violated their policy to cancel the order. Clearly it does not violate their policy to cancel the order--the only policy violation was, in fact, failing to notify the customer's about it. The submitter is putting the cart before the horse, so to speak.

        In other words, the submitter thinks that Amazon violated its own policy, and tried to cover it up by silently deleting the orders. Based on tha
      • Re:Bad Summary. (Score:5, Informative)

        by Ecuador (740021) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @12:34PM (#22370342) Homepage
        No, YOU missed the point. The article is simple libel. I ordered the Jazz set at $30 (I saw it on the FatWallet forum), knowing that it would probably cancel, and sure enough I did get the cancellation email Saturday morning. Ok, it is unusual that the order does not appear in my order history, but it wasn't a "real" order anyway.
        I hate it when idiots complain about such things when Amazon has the best retail policies - their price guarrantee and their free returns have saved me a lot of money and woe.
        I remember a little over a year ago I had bought a home theater amplifier on sale. But since I was to move shortly I never opened it until I was settled at the new appartment, bought speakers etc... It turned out to be about 5 months later when I opened it and found out it had a small problem. Amazon takes care of returns during the first month, so I had to go through the manufacturer. The manufacturer asked me to ship the (heavy) item - on my own cost of course, it would then be evaluated and a replacement, if needed, would ship out in 2-3 weeks. I wrote to amazon and politely explained my predicament and whether they would be able to help me, and two days later I had a replacement amp on my doorstep (I have prime so shipping is always 2-days), and a prepaid UPS voucher to send back the original amp on my cost. I have many other examples of good customer service from Amazon, but I believe this was quite indicative.
        The linked article was simply written by someone who is upset he didn't manage to get a freebie from a large retailer. This even happens to be the retailer with the best policies (which do state that price mistakes cannot be honored - duh!). Shame to the ./ editor for picking up this trash.
        • Cancellation email (Score:5, Informative)

          by Ecuador (740021) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @12:40PM (#22370382) Homepage
          Oh, and in case there is doubt about the cancellation email, this is what I got:

          Greetings from Amazon.com.

          We regret to inform you that an error caused the following item(s) to
          be displayed at an incorrect price:

          Jazz in Paris

          In accordance with our posted policies on pricing, we are unable to
          offer this item for the incorrectly posted price. Therefore, we have
          cancelled your order for this item.

          At any given time, despite our best efforts, a small number of the
          millions of items on our site may be mispriced. We do, however, verify
          prices as part of our shipping procedures. If we discover that an
          item's correct price is higher than our stated price, we will, at our
          discretion, either contact you for instructions before shipping or
          cancel your order and notify you of such cancellation. This policy is
          posted in the Help section and is accessible through numerous other
          areas of our web site.

          We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

          We value your business and hope that you will give us a chance to
          serve you again in the future.

          Sincerely,

          Customer Service Department
          Amazon.com

          Please note: this e-mail was sent from a notification-only address
          that cannot accept incoming e-mail. Please do not reply to this
          message.
    • when I placed an order for 4 plasma TVs they had priced at $27/each
      I did the same thing with an XGA projector for about $50 around the same time, I knew it was too good to be true thought, I just couldn't help trying.
    • Clicking "buy" is only an offer for you to buy a product at that price, the order is still subject to verification and acceptance. Ergo, they did nothing wrong and you have a bunch of guys trying to get 470$ worth of free stuff.
  • Several of the Doctor Who audio tapes are selling at over 300 dollars a throw. Given that they're just Crystal Clear audios the BBC dubbed over with commentary, someone is making a fortune if anyone is paying the full ammount. For that matter, someone is making a fortune at the more normal $20 a throw.
  • It covers the "accidental" erasure of orders by the President of the company.
  • by KingSkippus (799657) * on Sunday February 10, 2008 @03:37AM (#22367626) Homepage Journal

    A caveat: there is no external confirmation that Amazon did what is claimed here.

    External confirmation? I don't even see any internal confirmation. The one link in the submission goes to the item on Amazon.com's site, at which there is one glowing five-star rated customer review. As far as I can tell, this submitter simply wrote up something that may or may not be a complete fabrication with absolutely zero backing evidence, without even so much as a "here's my blog article about the experience," and somehow it make the front page.

    Where's the screenshot of the item being offered for $31? Where's the printout of the placed order? Who were those customers that Amazon strung along for over a month, and where are they complaining? Was there even more than one? Was there even one? What "highly publicized price guarantee policy?" Are you talking about? This one [slate.com], which Slate describes as "not something Amazon publicizes?" You are aware that companies don't have to honor prices that are obvious misprints, right? (And that a 75-CD limited edition import CD set being sold for $31 is an obivous misprint, right?)

    Man, next time I have a beef with some company, remind me to completely make some shit up about them and post it as an article here on Slashdot. I'm usually not one to gripe about the job the editorial staff does here, but you guys really drop the ball in a major way on this one. Whether you like Amazon.com or not, with nothing to back it up, this borders on outright libel.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 10, 2008 @03:38AM (#22367634)
    The pricing error seems to be borne out by a cached Google page. http://209.85.173.104/search?q=cache:MFzDQFSwSUkJ:www.amazon.com/Jazz-Paris-Various-Artists/dp/B00005RSB2+Jazz+in+Paris+%5BBOX+SET%5D+%5BIMPORT%5D+%5BLIMITED+EDITION%5D&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=us [209.85.173.104] How they handle this error by honoring what they advertise or by using a clause somewhere in their legal text to disavow pricing errors remains to be seen.
  • by David_Shultz (750615) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @03:40AM (#22367642)
    I haven't ordered anything from Amazon since I made the mistake of ordering textbooks. Several weeks into the course I sent an e-mail asking why I haven't received my books. The response was along the lines of "wait X weeks to make sure they aren't already sent" (I think X was 6 weeks). After waiting and not receiving anything, I wrote back. They replied something along the lines of "we can't do anything if an order was placed more than X weeks ago" (yes, the same X). My order never did arrive and I had to issue a charge back. No explanation or apology was ever given.
  • What's the legality of this? I think in some jurisdictions if you go to a brickNmortar store and they've mispriced something they're legally bound to sell it to you.
    • completely legal (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      i dont feel like burning karma, and someone with a law degree will chime up about the origins of "offer to treat" in the near future and clarify better than I could anyway, but basically until they charge your credit card, they don't have to honor the pricing. until they take your money, there is no contract between the two of you. even if the contract did at some point exist (i.e. they took your money and then failed to deliver on the product) and you sued them, they could probably argue bad faith on you
      • by mooingyak (720677)
        IIRC, it works like this:

        If the advertised price is clearly a typo or misprint or something along those lines, then the retailer is not required to honor the price. They might anyway if it's not that far from what they'd sell it at normally, just to avoid a hassle with customers.

        If the advertised price is being used as a means to get people into the store in hopes they'll either buy the item at the full price, or buy something else, then they're in iffy legal turf.

        The rule of thumb is basically the larger
      • by larien (5608)
        Disclaimer: IANAL (although I've done some law) and this is for UK law.

        I did a contract law course at uni years ago and as I recall it, the term is "Invitation to Treat"; at the point at which you take the item to the till, you're making an offer to buy it at the stated price, which the store can refuse to accept. However, if a store is found to be misrepresenting the price either deliberately or for too long after being informed about it, they can be taken under the Trades Descriptions Act in the UK.

        H

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      What's the legality of this? I think in some jurisdictions if you go to a brickNmortar store and they've mispriced something they're legally bound to sell it to you.

      You mean if the stockboy puts the wrong price on an item that's on the shelf, that's the price they the store has to sell it for? I doubt there's a law anywhere in the country that says that. Making mistakes is bad for the store's image but they aren't legally obligated to honor such an error.

      If you're talking about sale prices in advertisemen
      • by loraksus (171574)
        You mean if the stockboy puts the wrong price on an item that's on the shelf, that's the price they the store has to sell it for? I doubt there's a law anywhere in the country that says that. Making mistakes is bad for the store's image but they aren't legally obligated to honor such an error.

        You're wrong.
        The store has to sell it for the price on the shelf. Most (all?) states have consumer protection laws in place where if the price differs at the register, you get the price on the shelf plus a bit extra (o
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by philipgar (595691)
          Actually, from the link you gave us:

          15. What if an item is marked the wrong price and the clerk catches it before I pay; am I entitled to buy the item at the price marked?

          This is a fact-specific question best answered by a court. A store may not knowingly charge or attempt to charge a price higher than the price marked on the item. MCL 445.354. Therefore, the consumer may have a claim if the store will not sell the item at the price marked. However, the consumer may face obstacles convincing a court

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by jamesbulman (103594)
          This point from the website you mention would seem to apply to this case:

          15. What if an item is marked the wrong price and the clerk catches it before I pay; am I entitled to buy the item at the price marked?

          This is a fact-specific question best answered by a court. A store may not knowingly charge or attempt to charge a price higher than the price marked on the item. MCL 445.354. Therefore, the consumer may have a claim if the store will not sell the item at the price marked. However, the consumer may

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by rudy_wayne (414635)

          You're wrong. The store has to sell it for the price on the shelf. Most (all?) states have consumer protection laws in place where if the price differs at the register, you get the price on the shelf plus a bit extra (or if it is a small value item, it's free) For example... http://www.michigan.gov/ag/0,1607,7-164-34739_20942-134114--,00.html [michigan.gov]

          Well, unfortunately, you didn't read the whole law. Here's the relevant portion from the Q&A section about the Michigan law (and I suspect that all states ha

  • by Solder Fumes (797270) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @03:43AM (#22367658)
    Not only is there no confirmation of this beyond what some guy wrote in an email to Slashdot, the Amazon link contains a referral ID which should make someone some money if anyone buys the jazz cd set as a result of clicking on the link. This is pretty dishonest and the complaint could be completely false, and has NO place on Slashdot's front page.
  • I'll just slap on boilerplates everywhere disclaiming all my liability, even if it is probably fraud... Something about advertising price cant be raised after point of sale.

    I'd say hit them with customer lawsuits suing for advertised price. It's too bad they made an error, but they need to offer at the price they quoted.
    • by timmarhy (659436)
      at the very least they have to return the money and notify you of the error. a vouncher and apology would probably go a long way as well.

      but that's just good business practice, which probably doesn't make sense to them.

    • I see you have a great career in hotel reservations and car rental agreements.
  • So what's new, Amazon has cr@p customer service. In other news, the Pope is Catholic and bears cr@p in the woods.
    I used to buy a lot of stuff from Amazon UK. Then they changed couriers and the new courier had problems delivering to me. No problem I thought, I'll get on to their customer service line and fix it. Trouble is, there was no customer service line for Amazon UK, no customer service email address, just an online form that took you through several steps and then gave an error message. No problem
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by xubu_caapn (1086401)
      i just went to amazon.co.uk --> help --> cancelling an order, then found an email address and phone number. didnt look very hard, did you?
      • by carndearg (696084)
        This was 18 months to a couple of years ago. Trust me, at the time there was nothing but the form. No email, no phone. Yes, I did look.
  • So??? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EdIII (1114411) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @03:57AM (#22367728)
    Even if this was true, and verified independently by many sources.... so what??

    If you honestly thought it was 30$ to begin with and made the order and were charged for it, then you might have something to complain about it. I still think Amazon would be right to cancel the order and refund your money. So you may have been inconvenienced, but a 20$ discount demonstrates some pretty respectable behavior from Amazon.

    It's a little ridiculous to expect Amazon to eat thousands of dollars in losses over an error on their website. Maybe it's just common sense, or being raised right, but when you think somebody is making a mistake and you profit from it, that is just WRONG. If you knew it was worth 10 times that price and it was a simple mistake, how moral is it to purchase it?

    I have had plenty of stupid teenagers that can not do math correctly give me my change incorrectly. I have even given a 100$ bill to a girl, who gave me 130$ BACK.

    The last time I had a situation like that was at CompUSA. I bought a few Motorola routers and access points and was surprised when all of them rang up for 19.99$ each. I brought it up to the clerk, got the manager, and explained that it looked like a mistake and that the labels actually said a different price. The manager, shockingly, acted like a complete dick and stated that he had no control over the information in the databases and could not do anything for me. They was not any in stock anywhere else, so I ended up getting them for my client anyways.

    The point was that I TRIED to deal with them fairly. On another note, maybe that is why CompUSA went out of business.
    • by zakezuke (229119)

      The manager, shockingly, acted like a complete dick and stated that he had no control over the information in the databases and could not do anything for me.

      While they can change the price for a sale, they may not have the ability to change the prices. Keep in mind that while sometimes accidents happen, other times they under price something to get rid of surplus stock.

      I would believe a $20 access point or router even in 2002 as they often were that cheap.

      On the flip side of things, I know CompUSA often stocked older stuff but failed to mark it down in price.

      The point was that I TRIED to deal with them fairly. On another note, maybe that is why CompUSA went out of business.

      I would think it would be the extremely competitive market and the popularity of online resellers lik

      • by EdIII (1114411)
        These were not marked down for quick sale. Their website at the time stated something like 149.99$ and was comparable to other offerings online. I had checked around online before purchasing them for my client.

        These routers were very good and the access points had all 5 modes and an automatic multi-point-to-point bridge mode for up to 4 access points and the router. Unique at the time, and Motorola stopped production on them. Still working too.

        I knew it was an accident and the Manager seemed to complete
        • I knew it was an accident
          No, you only believed it was an accident. All of the big box stores do funny things with their inventory pricing, it is almost impossible to judge the validity of a price at one of those stores without access to the intention of the person, or the system, which set it.

          Unique at the time, and Motorola stopped production on them.
          That would easily explain why they were marked down.
          • by EdIII (1114411)
            I'm sorry, let me be clear on this. The bar code label on the products stated prices that were much, much higher.

            The websites were still selling these at full price. CompUSA was selling it at full price via their website, the bar code labels, and the shelf sticker.

            The ONLY price that was different, was the price being declared at the register.

            So you are correct, that I could not know it accident since I did not have full access to their systems or interviewed every employee involved. I just strongly beli
      • "I would believe a $20 access point or router even in 2002 as they often were that cheap." Go ahead, bring up a Google cache on this and I'll eat my words. There is NO WAY that legit access points or routers were running $20 in 2002. That is completely ridiculous and outright fabrication.
    • by loraksus (171574)
      It's a little ridiculous to expect Amazon to eat thousands of dollars in losses over an error on their website.

      Not according to various consumer protection laws (on the state level)
      Laws which were implemented to combat abusive retailers engaging in bait and switch tactics.
      • Re:So??? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by EdIII (1114411) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @06:23AM (#22368280)
        I understand what you are saying, but the article is a transparent PR job on Amazon, and demonstrably so.

        Bait and Switch does not apply here, and the laws that were created around it certainly do not apply here either.

        There is a little confusion about what constitutes a transaction here. Traditionally, that has always been a face to face, arms length transaction where the 2 parties walk away from each other. I would say that neither party has a right to complain about the price afterwards. Caveat Emptor.

        However, does that really apply to the ability to cancel online orders BEFORE they are fulfilled? IMHO, transactions are not completed until the product is actually received and compensation exchanged. The article makes it clear that the orders were canceled and the products were not shipped. Therefore, the transactions were not completed.

        Although it is not very nice for Amazon to not notify customers of the problem, the 20$ discount demonstrates a good faith effort to compensate the customers for their wasted time.
    • by Auckerman (223266)
      Even if this was true, and verified independently by many sources.... so what??

      There are laws against "bait and switch" pricing in the United States. That's what. Computer error or no computer error, it's their problem they were selling it at a loss, not the consumers. They can be held for this if anyone actually cared enough.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by EdIII (1114411)
        You want to argue that there are remedies under the law. Since you, along with another poster, specifically site bait and switch laws let us discuss those particular laws. From http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/guides/baitads-gd.htm [ftc.gov]

        Sec. 238.0 Bait advertising defined.1

        Bait advertising is an alluring but insincere offer to sell a product or service which the advertiser in truth does not intend or want to sell. Its purpose is to switch consumers from buying the advertised merchandise, in order to sell something else,

    • So you may have been inconvenienced, but a 20$ discount demonstrates some pretty respectable behavior from Amazon.

      Okay, let's apply your thinking elsewhere. Like some of those sleazy online camera stores, advertising very attractive camera prices. They start accepting orders for new cameras, wait a week or two, then start calling customers back and saying they made a mistake and offering them a different model for slightly more. The dealer calls it an honest mistake...one they repeat regularly.

      The on

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by EdIII (1114411)
        Let me respond, but before that let me be clear about what I believe Amazon did FTA:

        1) Amazon offered a product for sale at a price less then 1/10th of the "real" price. 2) Amazon took orders from customers. These orders constituted an offer to purchase at the stated price, IMO. 3) Amazon did not fulfill, or ship the products. 4) Amazon did not communicate anything to the customers. 5) Amazon canceled the orders.

        Okay, let's apply your thinking elsewhere. Like some of those sleazy online camera stores,

  • I really don't understand how these pricing mistakes continue to happen. OK, the occasional typo when entering the price is human nature, but why doesn't their system catch them ? It doesn't seem like it would be very hard to make a warning or require manual confirmation by a manager if a price of something is reduced to (say) less than 20% of its previous price.
  • but a few years back a friend sent me a link, amazon was selling $200 laptop memory for $20 or so. They cancelled my order after I ordered a few sticks, but they were nice enough to give me a $25 gift certificate(which I blew on anime), but my friend who also ordered got nothing.
    • by snl2587 (1177409)

      they were nice enough to give me a $25 gift certificate(which I blew on anime), but my friend who also ordered got nothing

      Interesting...did one of you have a larger ordering history with Amazon than the other?

      • Almost certainly, lost contact with this individual so I cannot confirm it, but he didn't seem to order very much of amazon at all. However, now that I think about it, that may have been the reason, or it could have been how he found it. He found it through some sort of deals website, so when he clicked the link and ordered it, it probably contained a referral URL. However, when he emailed me the link, he just sent the direct link to the amazon.com product page, so there was no referral....
  • by ChePibe (882378) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @04:34AM (#22367888)
    I'm a law student... just a student... NOT a lawyer, and certainly not your lawyer, so nothing here is legal advice, period. I am not qualified to give legal advice, so I'm not giving it and cannot, in fact, even do so. Speak to a qualified professional about these matters, NOT ME.

    (This is all assuming, of course, that there is an actual problem here.)

    If I'm remembering first year contracts properly, then there's no problem here with Amazon refusing to sell at the price it listed.

    A contract must have a few things to come into existence, generally: offer, acceptance, consideration.

    Advertisements and catalog listings suffer from an "over-subscription problem" and are not considered firm offers themselves and, therefore, cannot simply be "accepted" by a consumer who makes an order. Ads are generally treated as invitations to deal unless they require something special on top of just showing up (i.e. being the first in line). The consumer's order, however, is considered an offer, which can be rejected by the seller by either refusing to provide goods and refunding money in a timely fashion or refusing to accept the money in the first place. This is done to protect merchants from themselves (people shouldn't be able to walk away with huge windfalls because a $5.00/hr clerk forgot a zero) and to protect their advertisers from them (newspapers shouldn't be held accountable for giving people windfalls for much the same reason). It's just good public policy, and prevents the games of "gotcha".

    I see why some people are whining, but from a legal standpoint (again, I am not providing legal advice and I'm only a student - I could be 100% wrong on this and would welcome correction), Amazon has done nothing wrong in simply deleting the orders and refunding any money already sent.
    • by loraksus (171574)
      No offense, but you're a pretty poor law student if you can't realize that this doesn't really fall under contract law, but under consumer protection laws that have been implemented by State governments.
      Shelf price is the selling price in most states.
      Just google "attorney general" "scanned price" and you'll get a number of results.

      You're also apparantly completely unaware of bait and switch / false advertising laws.
      Laws that were put in because of scummy, abusive retailers who felt that it was perfectly ok
      • by abigsmurf (919188)
        In the UK the law has been tested many times and a sale isn't binding until the following 3 stages are complete:

        1. Invitation to treat (legal term)
        2. Offer
        3. Acceptance

        Acceptance being the good has shipped. They are under no obligation to actually sell you something for a price advertised.

        However conversely trading standards say the price advertised has to be the price at the till for goods. There's an insane fine for stores that get it wrong when inspected, something like £1000... Per miss-priced ite
  • This probably happens a good amount of time. Otherwise they would most likely take this singular loss to maintain their reputation. No big deal really (How is this news).
  • Amazon sends a confirmation notice when you place an order. No email = no transaction.
    • Amazon sends a confirmation notice when you place an order. No email = no transaction.

      The email is a confirmation the order process has started, unless there is some text in the email that states otherwise. From memory, Amazon do not write "This is a receipt" on their confirmation emails, so no contract at this point. The bricks and mortar equivalent would be taking the item to the check out. The transaction turns into a contract once the payment has been made. So cash, cheque, or credit card acceptance. The sequence of events has a lot of importance.

      This happened to Kodak a few years ago v

  • by Monsterdog (985765) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @05:03AM (#22367988)
    I used to be on a board that tracked amazon pricing errors -- picked up quite a few items for next to nothing that way. They used to play along and make good on such orders, but it got to the point where it was costing them so much and causing such disruptiveness that they changed the policy, and mispriced orders now are usually canceled. That's been in effect for at least the last five years. They don't always notify the buyer -- which I think is a customer service issue where people fall through the cracks -- and they only rarely offer a make-nice like a gift certificate.
    • They don't always notify the buyer -- which I think is a customer service issue where people fall through the cracks -- and they only rarely offer a make-nice like a gift certificate.

      It's worse than that. Nowadays they correct the price on their website, ship the product out, and then they submit fraudulent charges using the credit card info they have on file in order to "make up the difference." [dvdtalk.com]

      I was not a victim of the deliberate fraud reported in the linked, and subsequent threads, but after seeing many reports by others on that forum, I filled my amazon account with garbage information and have not made a purchase there for over a year.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by STrinity (723872)

        It's worse than that. Nowadays they correct the price on their website, ship the product out, and then they submit fraudulent charges using the credit card info they have on file in order to "make up the difference."

        In the case you're citing, there was never an error with the prices listed on Amazon. They advertised a buy-one-get-one-free sale, but a glitch in the system caused the cheaper price to be deducted twice -- which meant that if someone bought two items of the same price, they were both free. Th

  • by bagsc (254194) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @05:08AM (#22368010) Journal
    People who viewed "Jazz in Paris" bought:
    Jazz in Paris 1%
    Linux in a Nutshell 55%
    Understanding the Linux Kernel 12%
    Running Weblogs with Slash 7%
  • "A customer who called to complain and request the CD set at the $31 price"

    is an asshole.

    Are you perfect? Have you ever made a mistake? Don't get me wrong -- I don't particularly like Amazon and I think that secretly cancelling orders is a really shitty way of doing business. Their overall lacking of honesty is why I rarely do business with them.

    But demanding that someone sell you an item at a price that is obviously a mistake, is just being a jerk.

  • Happens Every Week (Score:3, Interesting)

    by I'll Provide The War (1045190) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @09:46AM (#22369140)
    Seriously. Visit SlickDeals or FatWallet and you will see that there is a thread for every single pricing mistake, followed shortly by posters bragging about ordering the maximum amount of product allowed. 99% of the time the orders are canceled.

  • It's still available (Score:4, Informative)

    by jdc180 (125863) on Sunday February 10, 2008 @12:53PM (#22370492)

Testing can show the presense of bugs, but not their absence. -- Dijkstra

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