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Website Checkout Glitches: Two Very Different Corporate Responses

timothy posted about 4 months ago | from the and-you-pay-the-stamp dept.

Businesses 303

Freshly Exhumed writes "On the morning of December 26th, 2013, an error on the website of Delta Air Lines' produced impossibly low fare discounts of as much as 90% for about 2 hours before the problem was corrected. Delta, to their PR benefit, have swallowed the losses, and the lucky customers have shared their delight via social media. Unfortunately for many buyers of goods from The Brick furniture retailer, no such consumer warmth is forthcoming. The Brick's website checkout had awarded them an additional 50% off, over and above all other costs, but the official corporate response has been to demand the money be returned. Affected customers are now lashing The Brick with social media opprobrium and drawing direct comparisons with Delta's response. So, given that these are not small, mom-and-pop companies, have we reached a point at which online retailers are expected to just swallow such costs for PR purposes, as part of doing web business?"

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303 comments

Same rules apply (5, Insightful)

sbassett (257852) | about 4 months ago | (#45806011)

If a brick and mortar left a sign up in their windows advertising X percent off consumers would expect it. Just because they are online doesn't give them a pass for sloppy practices.

Re:Same rules apply (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45806083)

However, if a brick and morter store sells me something at 0.1 the price, they are not allowed to chaise me down the street and demand me to pay them the remaining 0.9.

Re:Same rules apply (4, Insightful)

beelsebob (529313) | about 4 months ago | (#45806397)

No, they're not. The transaction is complete. They offered a certain price for the goods, they accepted the cash, and they gave you the goods. They have no expectation of getting the money out of you now.

Reposting what I posted above, because I failed to log in.

Re: Same rules apply (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45806111)

Same rules don't apply.

Mom and pop would notice something was up and take down the sign.

Consumers should whine less when these things happen. Mistakes happen, and if a business goes down, real people suffer.

1. If it seems to good to be true then it is.
2. Don't do something to someone else that you wouldn't want done to you.
3. Don't be a whiney d-bag just because you tried to take advantage of a computer or human cock-up and now you don't get your cheap whatever-crap-you-ordered.
4. And stop whinging on social media too, trying to shame the company. That's also the worst of the twittersphere right there.

Karma, dude.

Re:Same rules apply (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45806151)

In fact, the laws in some states demand that brick and mortar stores to honor the prices that they advertive. This includes prices that are in error! Why should online stores be treated any different?

Re:Same rules apply (0)

MonkeyDancer (797523) | about 4 months ago | (#45806163)

If a brick and mortar left a sign up in their windows advertising X percent off consumers would expect it. Just because they are online doesn't give them a pass for sloppy practices.

Your analogy is wrong. It is true the customer would get X percent off the advertised price. What happens if the cash register malfunctions and gives an additional discount? Don't forget that you agreed to the EULA contract upon checkout which protects the seller.

Re:Same rules apply (5, Insightful)

just fiddling around (636818) | about 4 months ago | (#45806305)

If the register malfunctions and the retailer stops the transaction, it's OK. If the register malfunctions and the retailer still makes the sale, that's the retailer's problem.

A sale is a contract which binds BOTH parties. And EULA's are subject to the law of the land, which says: if a contract is non-negociable, it has to be interpreted has widely as possible in favor of the party who did not draft it.

Re:Same rules apply (4, Insightful)

mysidia (191772) | about 4 months ago | (#45806239)

If a brick and mortar left a sign up in their windows advertising X percent off consumers would expect it.

Yes.... but I belive that's more about HONORING What you advertise. If the printed price they stuck on the goods says "$300" on a $3000 on a brand new Macbook pro; they better honor it.

On the other hand... if the price said $3000, BUT the cash register rings up $300, they need not honor the $300 price: if the clerk catches the error, before finalizing the transaction. If the clerk doesn't catch the error --- tells the customer this is what their price is: then the deal is final after the customer pays.

Similarly IF THE WEBSITE advertises $1000, but when you got to checkout, your total shows $100. The customer should expect the store won't honor the $100 price; if their online shopping cart disagrees with the advertised price.

The store should call the customer and inform them of the error --- give them the option to pay the expected price, or cancel the transaction.

If the online store goes ahead with the sale, then they have accepted the error. Once they ship the goods, it is now too late for them to back out of the deal, and escape without causing the customer undue harm.

Re:Same rules apply (5, Interesting)

msauve (701917) | about 4 months ago | (#45806247)

In your haste to comment early, it seems you didn't read the article. They offered items at a discount - but when customers checked out, they were given a 50% discount beyond what had been advertised/offered. They never advertised that additional 50%, never offered it, never did anything which would make a customer expect it. It was an error, and came as a surprise to both the seller and buyer.

This differs from the Delta case, where the low prices were offered before the buyer accepted the offer and went through checkout.

Your comparison fails, because they were (and still are) willing to honor the advertised prices. But, there are people who were charged less than they expected who are complaining that it's somehow unfair for the business to correct this obvious error. Those same people would no doubt be screaming for relief if they didn't get the offered discount when they got to the checkout - "fair" apparently only works in one direction.

Re:Same rules apply (5, Insightful)

youngatheart (1922394) | about 4 months ago | (#45806423)

My daughter convinced me to take her to Kohl's for some basic shopping. I checked in on 4square and was surprised to find that it got me a discount. Then at the register, when they rang me up, it was less than expected even with the discount. I was happily surprised to discover after paying, that the receipt showed another discount which I commented on to the cashier. I was happy to hear that they often give those kinds of discounts.

The point is that when you get extra discounts, you don't assume they're made in error, you assume that you are being given a treat, probably something they are advertising and you just didn't see, by the seller.

fair? (1)

GoChickenFat (743372) | about 4 months ago | (#45806511)

"Fair" is the point when the transaction is completed. Advertising has nothing to do with it at the point the transaction is completed unless there is an agreed upon terms to correct a mistake.

Re:fair? (2)

msauve (701917) | about 4 months ago | (#45806569)

"unless there is an agreed upon terms to correct a mistake."

Say, for instance, website terms of sale which specifically allow them the right to "correct any error, inaccuracy or omission at any time without prior notice or liability to you or any other person" and "reject, correct, cancel or terminate any order, including accepted orders for any reason?"

Re:Same rules apply (1)

znanue (2782675) | about 4 months ago | (#45806367)

Except that the exposure of this error is much more contained in a brick and mortar. Websites can scale up rapidly before the error is noticed. If a store suddenly started selling the same thing at a tremendous discount and the store exploded to several hundred times its normal conversion or volume, probably the most dense cashier would notice that something was off quite quickly. Stores also often have a floor manager who would certainly notice this change in volume and probably react by figuring our there was a deal too good to be true.

Also, it is unclear whether Brick's business model took a greater hit, has less of a safety margin, or a greater method for making markups. Delta still may end up charging a fair bit and come close to recouping its costs on "value-added" things like luggage costs. Moreover, is the Brick's business model as driven by repeat business and reputation? We've seen plenty of businesses get negative attention and ultimately drive more traffic as a result. Some people love a good backlash. The only thing worse than being talked about, is not being talked about.

Finally, there is the moral and legal justification. Why should a business be held to such a mistake? IANAL, but I remember a contract being considered invalid if there was insufficient consideration for one party. This seems appropriate, at least in spirit. The business made a flagrant, possibly very easy mistake, and I'm going to guess most customers reasonably assumed that it was a mistake and took advantage, anyway. If the argument is that the business should have installed safeguards against such eventualities, like algorithms to detect egregious discounts from the subtotal, then they are already well motivated by the PR issues that can result, as well as the loss in time it takes to recover or correct the problem for each second the discount is erroneously available.

I'm going to guess if these businesses were sole proprietors in a neighborhood climate that the people would have been less likely to take advantage, more likely to tell the proprietor, and less likely to grouse if asked to return the product or pay the difference. Hundreds of people make their livelihoods in these respective businesses and millions are affected by the cost offsets the businesses would have to do to recover from the errors. There is more to this story than the solitary consumer's point of view.

Re:Same rules apply (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45806385)

More so, the company has already completed the transaction. They offered a certain price for the goods, they accepted the money, and they handed over the goods. They have no recourse now to demand more money.

Re:Same rules apply (2)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 4 months ago | (#45806463)

These were not advertised prices, but only appeared on checkout (after clicking on the "buy" button with the higher prices listed).
It's like the cash register being off by a factor of 10. In this case it was in favor of the customer. What if it was if favor of the shop?

Regardless; the way they're "paying" for customer's troubles by giving them 10% off a future purchase is just laughably pathetic.
If they said "Hey, we gave you 50% extra bue to an error, would you please return the 40% (keep the 10% as expenses) or return the items for a refund (will pay back 10% extra for your trouble)", it would have been very different. Instead they say "Hey, pay us more. As a thank you, we'll let you buy stuff from us again".

Re:Same rules apply (1)

_Shad0w_ (127912) | about 4 months ago | (#45806551)

Depends where you are. In the UK at least, as far as I know, they aren't required to honour a mistake if a reasonable person wouldn't have believed it was correct.

Re:Same rules apply (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45806605)

In many intellectual country, the law protects the consumer that if selling shop prints wrong price on the product, that price then holds.
But the law as well protects the shops owners, meaning buyer needs to use his own common sense that is the price real or just huge mistake.
Meaning that if you walk in the car shop and you see a new Volvo with a price tag of 99,99€ in its window, then you can not demand it to be sold to you with that price as it clearly is a mistake.
But if it is in price tag of 19999€ and correct one should have been 29999€, then you are usually allowed to have a small discount like 10-20% for the mistake.

Just curious if someone could chime in (1)

Alan Warrick (3422939) | about 4 months ago | (#45806013)

Could this possibly fall under E&O insurance claim to offset the loss if it was a software related bug. If it was user error i'm pretty sure it wouldn't be covered but just wondering if this sort of thing can fall in insurance land.

Honor your screwups. (2, Insightful)

JWSmythe (446288) | about 4 months ago | (#45806017)

That's part of business. If you screw up, you'd better honor them, and make sure you don't do it again.

I've seen places give away merchandise over accidents like that. ok, so you lost $10k in product, big deal. You also made some very happy customers, who will likely come back.

The opposite is true too.. If you try to come after the customers who bought in good faith, now they won't come back, and neither will their friends.. "friends" has expanded over the last decade or so, goign from "oh, what, a dozen people?" to thousands of Facebook friends who may in turn share your experience with millions. I don't know who "The Brick" is, but I won't even bother shop there now.

Re:Honor your screwups. (5, Insightful)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about 4 months ago | (#45806073)

Satisfied customers tell one or two people, while angry customers tell dozens of people. Right now you have a massive black-eye situation for this "The Brick" place.

I hadn't heard of them before now. They have created a bad first impression for thousands of people. It's a big screwup and another example of how so many corporate people live in their own little manufactured reality. They have just screwed up something basic that every small shopkeeper learns on the first day.

Re:Honor your screwups. (5, Informative)

Your.Master (1088569) | about 4 months ago | (#45806229)

The Brick is a large Canadian store, mostly for furniture, mattresses, and appliances. The submitter may not even be aware that it's only Canadian. They are infamous for advertising that you can purchase their shit for a very long deferred payment (as they put it, for $0 down, $0 payments, 0% interest for 2 years, back when interest rates were high). These adds have gone on for over 20 years, perhaps much longer.

They got dinged recently for actually requiring down payments despite their advertising, because you pay tax up front, and "administrative fees", and delivery, etc. etc., so they kind of have a reputation for welching on their advertised prices already.

Re:Honor your screwups. (2)

jaymz666 (34050) | about 4 months ago | (#45806189)

Good Faith? Really?

There are many people who find these "good deals" and abuse them. Airfares are one thing, where you can't really buy a dozen of them and resell them on ebay, but physical goods like whatever the Brick sells, some "enterprising" individuals can take advantage of.

No, I am not making excuses for anyone, but there's always more than one side to any story like this.

They should have offered to pick up and refund the purchase price, not ask for more money.

Re:Honor your screwups. (3, Insightful)

beelsebob (529313) | about 4 months ago | (#45806445)

No, they shouldn't. The deal is already done. If they have delivered the goods and accepted the cash, they have no recourse to decide that they either want to magically undo the contract they've already agreed to, or to decide to alter the contract for more money.

Plain and simple, once the deal is done, they can not go back on it, in any way.

Re:Honor your screwups. (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 4 months ago | (#45806501)

It should be pretty easy to separate the person who bought 1 matress from the person who bought 100 matresses.

Honest customers will understand a shop treats dishonest customers differently.

Re:Honor your screwups. (2)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | about 4 months ago | (#45806301)

I was taught, back when I worked retail, that studies showed that people influence the buying behaviors of, on average, 250 other people. I doubt this has changed by a large number, but 250 lost customers per dissatisfied customer is a pretty steep price to pay. This is especially true when the positive publicity in a situation like this probably exceeds any value you could spend on advertizing.

Re:Honor your screwups. (1)

znanue (2782675) | about 4 months ago | (#45806443)

Interesting, however I would expect that certain individuals had a much broader platform, like Oprah. These days, I'm going to guess that people who regularly use yelp and write reviews, or people who have a lot of twitter followers, might have much broader power to affect consumer decision. There are people on the internet who are not famous whose output I have found and now regard as more trustworthy and interesting than a randomly selected newspaper article. Microbloggers with significant followers come to mind.

Re:Honor your screwups. (3, Insightful)

fermion (181285) | about 4 months ago | (#45806377)

For walk in sales, that is probably correct. A price is mis-marked, a few customers get the deal, yes you have happy customers. However it is not clear that online customers have such loyalties. They will tend to go where the low prices are, as there is little opportunity cost for doing so. That is why Amazon has what much a loss leading Amazon Prime program. To keep customers coming back not just for low prices, but other perks. Same thing for airlines.

So no, the rules for online are not to fullfill orders that have clearly incorrect prices. If I go into a big grocery store like Krogers, and some disgruntled employee has put a a 50 dollar bottle of wine on sale at $10, they are not going to sell it to me for $10 when it rings up for 50. There is a secondary check there for price, the human element. Likewise, if a computer glitch, maybe put in by a disgruntled employee, allows me to check out for half price, then this is an admitted grey area. My payment has been accepted.

I would say, however, that until a product is formally charged to a customers card, which often happens as it is shipped, and maybe even until it is delivered there the retailer has an opportunity to cancel the order. Possession is, of course, paramount. This is why I would say one the product is delivered the price must be honored. This is a grey area as well, and we have seen cases where retailers have demanded delivered products back, but this to me is clearly bad manners.

So why is Delta honoring the price? I think it is because of delivered product. When I buy a ticket, my card is charged, and I immediately get a confirmation that I am guaranteed a seat on that flight. If something happens and I do not get a seat on the flight, I at minimum am sure to get a seat on a similar flight, often with financial compensation above and beyond that seat. Also, unlike most small retailers, the airlines have algorithms that continuously adjust the price of seats to maximize the total revenue on each flight. Therefore it is harder for airline to use the 'disgruntled employee' excuse.

Point of no return (1)

maroberts (15852) | about 4 months ago | (#45806021)

I'm not sure, but I think if they've actually dispatched the goods at the agreed price, then the companies have no legal redress. If they find the error before dispatch, then they're perfectly entitled to correct the problem.

Re:Point of no return (2)

JWSmythe (446288) | about 4 months ago | (#45806071)

Of course they have legal redress. Well, maybe not totally legal, but accepted in the current environment. You tell the customer to pay what you think they owe, even though they have the product. If they don't pay, you can file with the local courts, which cost money, or stick it on their credit report. It may be dirty, but not illegal. They'll get a world of bad press from it though.

They should have sucked up the GOOD press about it. "Wooo, we screwed up and gave stuff away for free! Enjoy! And here's our latest offer, 25% off new purchases! Coupon code: WESCREWEDUP"

Someone didn't pass the customer relations portion of their training.

Re:Point of no return (1)

dcollins117 (1267462) | about 4 months ago | (#45806409)

In the US it is not legal to advertise one price and then charge another higher price at the cash register. I'm not interested enough to look it up but I believe it runs afoul of false advertising laws.

I have gotten the sale price on physical items after the sale is over because some clerk screwed up and forgot to change the price in the aisle. There was no ambiguity at the register once I pointed it out.

Re:Point of no return (1)

znanue (2782675) | about 4 months ago | (#45806475)

Of course they have legal redress. Well, maybe not totally legal, but accepted in the current environment. You tell the customer to pay what you think they owe, even though they have the product. If they don't pay, you can file with the local courts, which cost money, or stick it on their credit report. It may be dirty, but not illegal. They'll get a world of bad press from it though.

They should have sucked up the GOOD press about it. "Wooo, we screwed up and gave stuff away for free! Enjoy! And here's our latest offer, 25% off new purchases! Coupon code: WESCREWEDUP"

Someone didn't pass the customer relations portion of their training.

This seems too facile a statement. We don't know their cash flow or projected cash flow, whether the PR hit would quantitatively affect the bottom line worse than eating the bad press and recovering the funds, etc. For proof of a company having terrible PR but making windfall profits, look at Walmart. PR is, and always should be, just one consideration.

Yes (1)

iCEBaLM (34905) | about 4 months ago | (#45806023)

If your website fucks up and gives me a good price, that's not my fault, and you shouldn't be "punishing" the customer for it.

Re: Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45806169)

You're not being punished. You're just not getting your stuff and receiving a refund.

Get some perspective.

Re: Yes (1)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | about 4 months ago | (#45806265)

'Get some perspective'

Exactly, the company should have realized that a few products sold at a loss are far and away cheaper than an entire internet being pissed off at you. Perspective isn't a one way street.

Demand? (3, Insightful)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 4 months ago | (#45806025)

Someplace sold me something, then they demand more money?

Can you guess my answer?

Re:Demand? (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 4 months ago | (#45806269)

"The advertised price in the flyer and on the product pages was correct when these customers added the item to their shopping cart and did not reflect this additional discount until the shopping cart was checked out. The Brick apologizes for the confusion and is currently working to contact all affected customers to advise of correct pricing."

Real Coallier, who works for Quebec's office of consumer protection, said such online transactions can't be modified after the fact and said customers should file complaints if The Brick asks them for money.

I guess the only other alternative is to reverse any orders that the customer doesn't willingly repay.

well, yes....... (1)

sp4ni3l (1417195) | about 4 months ago | (#45806035)

i think the story gives the answer already, but it of course depends whether the company can carry the loss

Re:well, yes....... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45806311)

Carry the loss? Tough shit.

This is a learning experience for the dumb fuck managers and executives who PROBABLY cut corners on the website programmers/contractors. The Brick had 50% off the price and we all know they mark up at least 100% from wholesale so they were selling it at cost with little to no profit. Like I said this should be an important learning experience, but I am sure that the management/executives will not see it that way.

I would venture a guess that right now lots of hackers are probing The Brick website to see what else is wrong and can they get some personal info or credit card numbers. Hell people got into Target for 3 weeks, this place should be wide open.

Don't be a dick (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45806041)

>have we reached a point at which online retailers are expected to just swallow such costs for PR purposes, as part of doing web business?"

Sure, if you wanna be greedy about it.
Mistake in my favor like that, if they asked for the extras back, I would have no problem returning it. I don't feel I am entitled simply because of a mistake.

But hey, if they say keep it, I probably would! And feel positive about that retailer and that would factor into my future shopping.

Re: Don't be a dick (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45806129)

The problem with furniture is that shipping is a lot of effort.
I'd certainly not pay more than the agreed price, I'd certainly not pay for transport, I'd certainly not take a day off to be there so they can get it back, and I'm certainly not going to store furniture for free for months until they manage to take it back.
And I'm quite certain that at least is right (though actually I very much think with shipping the deal is concluded and they just need to deal with the losses).
Of course if you've just ordered and nothing more than at most a credit card charge happened. Well, I think it won't win them friends but it doesn't seem unreasonable to cancel the contract. But every company should consider if it's not worth balancing the cost with your marketing budget.

Re: Don't be a dick (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45806575)

Of course if you've just ordered and nothing more than at most a credit card charge happened. Well, I think it won't win them friends but it doesn't seem unreasonable to cancel the contract.

Except that if it the other way around, they didn't shipped anything yet but billed you credit card and you want to cancel, there will be 'restocking fee' + 'cancellation fee' + you don't get refund the 'shipping and handling fee' +fuck you.

Stop being surch a corporate shill, they fuck over the customers all the time. When it's their time to lose, they should suck it and man the fuck up.

Delta (1)

McGruber (1417641) | about 4 months ago | (#45806043)

Delta, to their PR benefit, have swallowed the losses, and the lucky customers have shared their delight via social media

What losses does Delta have to swallow? They're going to make up for it by charging those "lucky" customers change fees, luggage fees, "Economy Comfort" fees, and for onboard entertainment, Gogo internet and food served onboard. Also, good luck getting full frequent flyer credit for the discounted flights.

Re:Delta (1)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | about 4 months ago | (#45806149)

>What losses does Delta have to swallow?

Losses resulting from the fact they likely could have sold those seats for much more money. Most flights depart full, or nearly-full, these days, so they would have sold those seats.

> charging those "lucky" customers change fees

Only if they change their tickets. Most passengers don't. I flew 66 segments last year. Didn't change a single ticket.

> luggage fees

Only if they check a bag. Pack a rollaboard and then check it at the gate for free.

> "Economy Comfort" fees

Only if you upgrade to a better seat.

>onboard entertainment

Bring your tablet.

> Gogo internet

Then don't buy it. No one is forcing you to buy internet

> and food served onboard

Then bring your own food.

I'm old enough to remember when flights included free bags, a free meal and free beer. Indexed to today's dollars, airline tickets were much more expensive than they are today, even if you include all the paid extras.

Delta HAD to. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45806173)

Delta had to honor the price. [npr.org]

Now, the AP adds that "new Department of Transportation regulations, aimed at truth in advertising, require airlines to honor any mistake fares offered." So it would seem the law is on the buyer's side.

Does ANYONE think that airlines would do this willingly?

Re: Delta HAD to. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45806359)

Yes. I believe it

Because that DoT rule is new. Screwups with fares, on the other hand, are NOT new. Heck, they pre-date online travel agencies.

When such errors have occurred in the past, it has NOT been universally the case that airlines refused to honor the inadvertent fares. They've frequently made the choice to honor them, even before it was required. As the article suggests, this has been for good PR and customer goodwill.

There have been times in the past when they declined to honor the fares (I recall an airline with $10 flights from the US to Asia), but even in those cases they often voluntarily provided some kind of discount/compensation (even though not required to do so).

Your cynicism here is overblown.

Re:Delta (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | about 4 months ago | (#45806177)

Nah, they charge everyone those fees. They may as well give away their tickets, considering the other fees included. I'm surprised they haven't added ticket counter fees, and terminal boarding fees. Those would be cash at the time of use, of course. Asking for directions to your next flight? $5. Asking if the flight is on time? $5. Asking to upgrade? $10 before they tell you if there are even upgrades available. $5 to ask if a flight is on time when waiting to pick someone up. $10 arrival waiting area fee. $5/bag luggage belt fee. Hell, I'd pay an extra $5 just to be sure my luggage got on the same plane as me.

Re:Delta (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45806205)

Delta, to their PR benefit, have swallowed the losses, and the lucky customers have shared their delight via social media

What losses does Delta have to swallow? They're going to make up for it by charging those "lucky" customers change fees, luggage fees, "Economy Comfort" fees, and for onboard entertainment, Gogo internet and food served onboard. Also, good luck getting full frequent flyer credit for the discounted flights.

Delta does not serve food onboard. I know that.

Re:Delta (1)

Your.Master (1088569) | about 4 months ago | (#45806243)

I think it's only fair that they don't get full frequent flyer credit on those flights, really.

Are you suggesting that Delta would not have charged those customers all of those things if they didn't get a sweet deal on their tickets?

Re:Delta (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45806321)

Starting in 2014 Delta's frequent flyer program is based off of how much you spend on the ticket not the miles flown. The question of how frequent flyer points should be determined for these website error tickets will soon become irrelevant.

Required by Federal Law (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45806093)

Delta may or may not have honored the fares if they weren't required to do so by federal law applicable specifically to airline fares.

Slow news day? (0)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 4 months ago | (#45806115)

So, given that these are not small, mom-and-pop companies, have we reached a point at which online retailers are expected to just swallow such costs for PR purposes, as part of doing web business?"

Let me rewrite this headline: There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch: Fact, or Myth of Web 2.0? Because that's what you're asking: And no, there isn't. Like every other time idiotic questions like this have been asked, it is situational. Unsurprisingly, different situations yield different responses. I can only conclude that it's a terribly slow news day at Dice Hipster And Slashvertisement Incorporated... perhaps nobody bought up any article slots on the weekend after a big holiday?

Re:Slow news day? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45806215)

Not very happy holidays, huh?

Delta had no choice (1)

aflyingcat (2611763) | about 4 months ago | (#45806117)

Apparently, recently adopted DOT truth in advertising regulations now require Delta to honor those fares that people managed to book. It's less an enlightened appreciation of PR on Delta's part so much as they had no choice. I bet given a free choice Delta would have made the same decision as Brick.

Re: Delta had no choice (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45806329)

The regulations required that before these new laws. Once the flight was booked and ticketed tthe transaction is complete and there is no redress. Friends of mine flew to Athens from NYC for $30 due to an error like this.

The new law may go beyond that if the website shows a specific price. That I don't know.

Better that than be accused of bait-and-switch (1)

QilessQi (2044624) | about 4 months ago | (#45806127)

If you entice a customer with low prices, and then rescind those prices after the sale, it feels basically the same as a bait-and-switch fraud. It's probably closer to resort fees and similar scams, where it turns out the low price being advertised doesn't cover certain mandatory charges. Either way, bad PR.

In contrast, if a business says that the low price was a mistake but then makes it known that they will eat the cost, it's good PR.

So unless it will bankrupt you, yeah, this seems like a no-brainer.

Re:Better that than be accused of bait-and-switch (1)

gnasher719 (869701) | about 4 months ago | (#45806277)

If you entice a customer with low prices, and then rescind those prices after the sale, it feels basically the same as a bait-and-switch fraud.

In the UK, it is quite clear: The customer has no right to get a deal that is offered. However, if an item is intentionally displayed at a lower price than it is sold at, that would be something that Trading Standards would be interested in. So if you see it offered cheap, they refuse to sell it, and then don't change the displayed price as soon as possible, then the store is in trouble.

The Brick stinks (3, Informative)

grub (11606) | about 4 months ago | (#45806133)


People outside of Canada have probably never heard of The Brick until now. It's one of the stores I refuse to go in to. The salespeople jump on you the moment you step in the door and don't stop.

Re:The Brick stinks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45806261)

yup - real uncomfortable

Re:The Brick stinks (1)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | about 4 months ago | (#45806323)

No shit, eh? I would rather go to IKEA than the Brick any day of the week.

Re:The Brick stinks (1)

grub (11606) | about 4 months ago | (#45806343)

Actually the IKEA here (Winnipeg) is very relaxed. They don't get in the way and will help when asked.

Re:The Brick stinks (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45806425)

I think people used The Brick's website so that they wouldn't have to enter one of their stores, ever.

Re:The Brick stinks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45806389)

People outside of Canada have probably never heard of The Brick until now. It's one of the stores I refuse to go in to. The salespeople jump on you the moment you step in the door and don't stop.

Are you sure you went into a furniture store?

Accepting payment for goods/services is a contract (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45806139)

As such, they should accept the losses.

Now, they can ASK for more money... but the customer isn't required to give it.

After that, they can talk to lawyers.

Legally, the company's on the hook. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45806141)

They entered into a contract to sell for a particular price. The buyer accepted the offer and made the purchase. Now the seller wants to change the terms of an executed contract. Good luck with that.

Different response due to difference in losses (1)

rollingcalf (605357) | about 4 months ago | (#45806147)

When Delta sold seats at large discounts, some of those seats would have gone empty if the discount glitch didn't happen, and without the discount Delta would have eaten the costs of flying with those empty seats anyway. For some flights, selling the heavily discounted seats may even have been a net gain financially for Delta.

But with the furniture retailer, they had bigger real losses from the discount glitch because without the huge discounts, the items would have remained available for somebody else to purchase at full price.

So Delta is willing to bear the losses because their losses from this were less severe or perhaps nonexistent, whereas for the furniture retailer the losses are too large for them to accept without trying to recoup what they can.

Re:Different response due to difference in losses (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45806235)

Would have been true 10 years ago. These days almost 100% of seats are full.

Re:Different response due to difference in losses (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45806401)

My thoughts exactly. Lets say there were 10 seats sold for $25 on a particular flight. They can just oversell the plane by 10 seats at their normal $200 price. Even if they deny boarding to all 10 people, the denied boarding compensation will be $100 per person (400%) + maybe some meal and hotel vouchers. The good PR they are getting from this more than compensates for the risk that this will happen.

Probably biggest impact is there will be fewer non-rev people on the flights. Maybe some deadheading schedules will be re-arranged.

Now I don't know what sort of furniture is sold at the Brick, but the mistake discount + sale price might have been below cost causing them to lose real money on each sale. Having a loss-leader in retail is one thing, but a loss-everything may not make business sense.

And unlike the article's headline. They are not asking the customers for "refunds." They are asking the customer if they want to cancel the order or pay the correct price (i.e. advertised price before going through the bugged checkout) with a coupon for their next purchase. The customer never received the item.

Standard airline tactic? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45806155)

This happens way too often on airline web sites for it to be a mistake.

IMO they do it just often enough to keep people constantly searching their sites.

Airlines doing what's customary (1)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | about 4 months ago | (#45806201)

By and large, airlines have a history of honouring 'fare mistakes.' There are of course, exceptions, e.g. KAL's $500 fare to Palau...

http://crankyflier.com/2011/11/22/how-mistake-fares-get-filed-and-why-korean-messed-up/ [crankyflier.com]

Day after day Flyertalk.com has examples, e.g.

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/mileage-run-deals-372/ [flyertalk.com]

...but most of the time they do.

Retail is new to the game, so they're still making up the rules as they go along.

Re:Airlines doing what's customary (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45806391)

It's not customary, It's the law!

No one seems to have pointed out that Delta and other airlines are required by law to honor their price. FAA law states that once a sale confirmation has been given to the customer, the airline must honor the price, I'm paraphrasing of course. It's not as if they are recognizing the mistake and out of some sense of generosity or altruism, allowing the price to stand for those lucky few. Someone is going to get fired, stock price will drop in the short term, and there will be losses incurred. One woman got a first class round trip to Hawaii for $88; no amount of bag fees or taxes will make up for that.

Re:Airlines doing what's customary (1)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | about 4 months ago | (#45806477)

FAA law states that once a sale confirmation has been given to the customer, the airline must honor the price

FAA law states this? Really? Can you provide a cite?

I find it hard to believe airlines are required to honour mistake fares - Just read that KAL example I cite above, where they decided not to.

Shelf label laws... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45806207)

Some states have "shelf label laws" which state that the item's pricing must be honoured
to the customer's advantage (paraphrased, of course). So if I physically pick up a product
and either it's marked a certain price or the price on the label on the shelf is less than what
it should be, I am entitled to pay that price and no more. Sounds evil of the consumer, but the
law has a history of correcting bad retailer practices, which is why it exists (e.g. bait & switch).

Having said all of that, I don't know if it applies to on-line things like the Brick, and they may have a point.

However, this is software. A conscience company should have insurance against these things.
When I was a software contractor I had to carry liability insurance in case I made a significant error --
just sayin'.

I mean customers acted in good faith - and it's a furniture store, there's a huge markup on those items.
No one hacked their system. I just don't want to be the software guy who halted that chain in the land
down under - Myer. Ouch!!!

Re:Shelf label laws... (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | about 4 months ago | (#45806603)

I think the general law is in any case of a difference in price the customer gets the lowest price offered.

AND THE EMPLOYEE DESTROYS THE TAG WITH THE ERROR.

I have actually told customers that a bugged tag is good RIGHT NOW and if they leave and come back i will have removed the tag (i was sales support so it was kind of my job).

Government consumer protection agencies (4, Informative)

just fiddling around (636818) | about 4 months ago | (#45806253)

The Brick is known in Canada for deceptive business practices [option-consommateurs.org] , so the consumer protection agencies have taken to the media to inform that customers do NOT have to give the money back.

The retailer advertised those prices, and tries to trick the customer into cancelling the sale to wiggle out of the sales. That's a tactic known as bait-and-switch, and it's illegal.

A Canadian thing....? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45806271)

I had a similar experience with Futureshop in Canada.....they advertised a product on sale on their web page. It was a good price and I was looking for it, so I bought it, but in the cart, the price was different (regular price). Because they have a good return policy, I decided to buy it and print out the web page. After I receive the product I went to Customer Service with the invoice and the printed web page. A "poker face" customer service woman told me: "Looks like there was a mistake in the web page, because we never had that price. By policy, we do not honor "published error prices in the web site". So I returned it. We are not talking about 90% off....but something like 25% off the regular price....

Real time double entry bookkeeping (1)

hamjudo (64140) | about 4 months ago | (#45806303)

A few trading firms have learned to have a second system that monitors transactions to keep tabs on profit and loss. If the things swing out of the expected range, it is time to have a human look at the situation. If things get really out of hand, it is time to rate limit transactions, or halt them out right. Sudden extreme profits usually indicates a data entry error on your system, not that the rest of the market has gotten really stupid.

Most inventory systems have a way to track cost of goods, age of inventory, and expected profit margin. Eventually retailers will start filling in those details, and tracking them, so they can notice when something goes expensively wrong.

Swallow it and learn (1)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | about 4 months ago | (#45806313)

dear Brick:
First: fuck you.

Second: If you had a giant sign in the front window of your store that said "All sofas are $5" and then when people demanded their $5 sofa and you said "Nuh uh", you'd be sued for false advertising. Therefore:

Third: Suck it up and deal with it. It won't put you out of business. Fire the clod who lost you all that money, but honour your mistakes.

Example: Back in the late 1990s, A certain online musical instrument website was selling the (then new) Yamaha CS2X keyboard for $450. Why? Because someone fucked up and switched the price with the CS1X (which was wrongly priced at $850). I bought the CS2X, and loved it. It was a great keyboard that I got for dirt cheap. I still have it, even though two of the keys don't work anymore. And I still go back to that retailer. Their prices are competitive (they're not really higher or lower than anyone else by very much) but I saved $400 with them. That bought my loyalty. Now, I don't always buy from them all the time, but I *go there first* and if they have what I want at a fair price, I will usually buy from them. If someone has the same thing at a super cheap price, then I'll buy from the cheaper, but if all things are roughly equal, I'll go with the people who fucked up AND HONOURED THE DEAL. Because I know I can trust them.

So, dear Brick: fuck off. I may have to build IKEA stuff, but 9 times out of 10 it's cheaper and better than your junk.

In Quebec (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45806333)

we have pretty strict laws about advertising and price accuracy. In the event of an error or a discrepancy between the label and checkout, the lowest price prevails, if it's under 10$ then it's free.

In this case, "According to Quebec's office of consumer protection, the price on a receipt is legally binding and must be honoured." (http://www.ctvnews.ca/business/too-good-to-be-true-the-brick-trying-to-go-back-on-online-offer-1.1609318)

Companies Should Honor The Published Prices... (1)

CAOgdin (984672) | about 4 months ago | (#45806335)

...and Specs, even if they are absurdly wrong, but ONLY if they expect to keep their customers...as "The Brick" will no doubt discover.

This isn't, to me, a moral issue: It is just acknowledging that sometimes mistakes happen, and the customer has behaved by buying into those terms as offered. The customer isn't wrong here; they're just taking advantage of an apparent price advantage. The seller isn't wrong here; they just made a mistake.

"Customer satisfaction" is a core principle of capitalism, although many capitalists (to their own disadvantage) still refuse to understand that fact.

Question (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45806337)

Interesting question. I'd counter "have we reached the point where we think honoring our commitments is only meaningful as a PR move?"

If your answer is "but they didn't know what they were getting into," I'm inclined to challenge your understanding of the term "commitment."

Except Consumers are treated like Dirt (1)

tuppe666 (904118) | about 4 months ago | (#45806353)

This article is weird, for every consumer that catches a break(in this instance because of a mass consumer backlash), there are thousands treated badly. I cannot remember the last time. I had good (real) customer service. Every company seems to rely on the fact that you have little free time, and takes the piss. Internet\Mobile(sales and carriers)\Computer(Electronics) Companies treat you like parasites after you make the sale; returning\replacing items and and Cancelling a service\subscription is near impossible. There are no exceptions, it has become profitable to treat the consumer badly; breaking\circumventing standard consumer legal rights is routine.

Personal Responsibility has become this. (3, Insightful)

geekmux (1040042) | about 4 months ago | (#45806365)

"...have we reached a point at which online retailers are expected to just swallow such costs for PR purposes, as part of doing web business?"

Uh, yeah, I do. It's called personal responsibility. If you've screwed up and cost the business even millions of dollars, then hold the person who screwed up accountable to try and eliminate the chances of it happening again.

THAT is what I expect. Not some weak-ass horribly worded excuse to attempt to make the consumer somehow feel guilty about a providers mistake that they happened to capitalize on.

Yes (1)

SoftwareArtist (1472499) | about 4 months ago | (#45806399)

A sale is a type of contract. Once you agree to a contract, you're bound by it. You don't get to say, "Wait, I didn't really intend to give you that good a deal, I'm changing the terms I agreed to!"

If you're going to write a computer program to agree to contracts on your behalf, you'd better make darned sure that program works correctly. If it doesn't, you're stuck with the consequences.

Piffle (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45806421)

If you can't manage you own website then you should suck it up.

They should learn from this (1)

TomGreenhaw (929233) | about 4 months ago | (#45806427)

I bet the first airline promoting a policy of randomly offering 90% off or free first class to every X users would get a big boost in business.

Not Legal in all states (or any even?) (1)

enharmonix (988983) | about 4 months ago | (#45806431)

I can't speak for the rest of the states. In Texas there is a lot of buyer beware, but there is also quite a bit of beware of buyer to balance that out. If you accidentally discount something and it could be reasonably assumed to be true (i.e., it wasn't an obvious typo), then you get that deal whether they meant to give it to you or not. To use a current product as an example, while "XBOX One now $44.99, save $50.00!" is obviously a typo, "$50 off XBOX One" sounds reasonable enough to be true. You may not get the XBOX at $44.99, but they do have to honor $449.99 for a $499.99 XBOX.

However, is this just Texas? I always thought these were FTC rules, but I'm not sure it really is or how it is enforced. Most retailers are cooperative. If they forgot to take signage down, didn't switch out their price tags, or stocked something on the wrong shelf without identifying the product the price applies to, I've always gotten the deal they didn't mean to offer.

Re:Not Legal in all states (or any even?) (1)

enharmonix (988983) | about 4 months ago | (#45806455)

Sorry, the point is 50% can reasonably be assumed to be a genuine offer. The Brick may not have a choice but to honor the discount, at least in some parts of the country.

wow, it's worth reading the article (1)

sribe (304414) | about 4 months ago | (#45806449)

Seriously.

1) An asshole spokesman for Brick accuses customers of knowingly taking advantage of them, outright claiming that customers knew the discount was an error.

2) The spokesman continues on to say that they're "doing exactly what the customer wanted us to do" by "honoring" the correct price.

3) A spokesman for the local government says what Brick is doing is illegal.

Is it the business process that is broken? (1)

Bomarc (306716) | about 4 months ago | (#45806493)

My response to both of these is: Ever hear of “QA”? Hire some. For Brick, the loss of credibility is substantial. For Delta and Brick, the loss of dollars is quite high. As a QA professional, there have been many times that I’ve more than paid for my keep by finding critical bugs in developer code. However is this era of “ship it today, we’ll fix it tomorrow” (and they never do fix it); problems such as these abound. Don’t blame the customer for you being short sighted. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the oven. For these (and more) you should fire your QA managers (or may chance hire one in the first place?). Your software development process is broken, and you need to take this as a warning. How many times have people blamed the computer (“Computer error”); when the fault is with the business process (or lack)? How many business are connected to the internet that shouldn't be - or shouldn't have been (read: Target)?

Re:Is it the business process that is broken? (1)

Shados (741919) | about 4 months ago | (#45806553)

The issue is checkout flows for big companies is extremely complex. Those are usually piles of software interacting with each other, and a lot of it isn't even handled by IT. The marketing department sets up the rules, schedule them, and at the designated hour, they start.

So some mistakes happen. Sometimes you're right, the company's stupid. Other times, its a known risk that is accepted. The company I work for does business in countless countries and locals, each with their own marketing department, and thousands of marketing channels, all of which interact with the checkout in different subtle ways. We probably have 60 QA people overseeing JUST that part (not counting the rest of the site).

When it comes to the markdowns and promotion rules, that is handled purely by marketing (unless they make a particularly complicated one, then it becomes a project and QA is involved). Otherwise the amount of QA people needed to test them out would inflate 10x and the QA infrastructure to be able to test all combinations would also grow exponentially.

Sometimes a mistake happen and we lose a few hundred thousand dollars. its rare, and its a lot less money than testing it all would cost. Risk vs reward.

Simple. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45806509)

If it's their error, then they shouldn't expect customers to return the money. It has nothing to do with being online, and everything to do with PR. Unless you have no choice, it will cost you more to pull a stunt like this in the long run. Especially in a world where customers have choice and word of mouth spreads faster than anything.

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