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Amazon Erases Orders To Cover Up Pricing Mistake

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the now-that's-just-naughty dept.

The Almighty Buck 338

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.

cancel ×

338 comments

Bad Summary. (4, Informative)

adam (1231) | more than 6 years ago | (#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. (0, Offtopic)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 6 years ago | (#22367640)

Wasn't there a record company during the dot-boom who went broke in about a week because they omitted the "required" flag on "enter credit card details"?

Re:Bad Summary. (5, Insightful)

phillips321 (955784) | more than 6 years ago | (#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:Bad Summary. (3, Insightful)

eyrieowl (881195) | more than 6 years ago | (#22367746)

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. (4, Informative)

Valdrax (32670) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Oops. Bad edit. (1)

Valdrax (32670) | more than 6 years ago | (#22367944)

Since we've established that there was one...
By that, I mean a contract -- not a breach. Sorry, that was error from rewording another part of the post.

Re:Bad Summary. (2, Insightful)

aznel (50914) | more than 6 years ago | (#22368168)

Ok, who let the 1L out of their cage?

Re:Bad Summary. (5, Insightful)

jasonwc (939262) | more than 6 years ago | (#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:Bad Summary. (1)

sholden (12227) | more than 6 years ago | (#22367760)

So they'll notify next year sometime. Or maybe they already yelled the cancellations out, not there fault the customer wasn't listening.

Re:Bad Summary. (5, Funny)

sentientbeing (688713) | more than 6 years ago | (#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'

Re:Bad Summary. (0, Redundant)

Broken scope (973885) | more than 6 years ago | (#22367924)

For those who didn't know. Thats a Hitchhikers Guide Reference.

Re:Bad Summary. (1, Redundant)

JustOK (667959) | more than 6 years ago | (#22367940)

What is it for those of us that did know?

Re:Bad Summary. (1)

mdenham (747985) | more than 6 years ago | (#22367990)

What is it for those of us that did know?
Funny?

Or maybe a cabinet marked "Beware of the Leopard"?

Re:Bad Summary. (2, Funny)

Broken scope (973885) | more than 6 years ago | (#22367992)

Something between redundant and off topic i guess.

Re:Bad Summary. (1)

MadnessASAP (1052274) | more than 6 years ago | (#22368158)

If you didn't know you must now hand in your geek card at the receptacle to your left.

So it's redundant for 99.9999999% of slashdot (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 6 years ago | (#22368350)

You must be new here.

Re:So it's redundant for 99.9999999% of slashdot (1)

Broken scope (973885) | more than 6 years ago | (#22368390)

Well flame bait and overrated could apply as well.

riiiight (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#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:Bad Summary. (1)

silverkniveshotmail. (713965) | more than 6 years ago | (#22367766)

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.

Re:Bad Summary. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22367896)

Um, except depending on where you are they may, by law, be required to honor that price. As in California, it's illegal to sell something at a price higher than advertised...

Re:Bad Summary. (1)

Kalriath (849904) | more than 6 years ago | (#22368292)

Not really, they still have the option of not selling it to you at all, and terminating the sale - which they did.

Re:Bad Summary. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22367954)

is it a "guarantee" if it promises nothing and can change at a whim?

Well (1)

i_liek_turtles (1110703) | more than 6 years ago | (#22367614)

I would welcome our new mispricing overlords, but I just ordered them off Amazon for about $20.

suckle on my penile tip (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22367618)

knob it BAY-BEEEE!!!

go Vitelle!

Re:suckle on my penile tip (-1, Troll)

schnikies79 (788746) | more than 6 years ago | (#22367662)

It's Vitale dumbass, as in Dick Vitale.

If you going to talk sports on slashdot, you better know exactly what the hell you are talking about BAY-BEEEE!

There are reverse errors, as well. (1, Redundant)

jd (1658) | more than 6 years ago | (#22367620)

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.

Re:There are reverse errors, as well. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22367718)

I did a search for "dr who audio cassette" and couldn't see any products with (best) prices ~$300. Can you clue us in on the product ASIN?

It is worth noting that the offer could have been from a third-party merchant. Merchants are free to offer products at whatever they feel the market will bear. (As is Amazon for that matter ... though Amazon >>generally try to offer a "good deal" ... on the theory that a satisfied customer is likely to return.)

The new "My Bad" policy (1)

edwardpickman (965122) | more than 6 years ago | (#22367622)

It covers the "accidental" erasure of orders by the President of the company.

Wasnt That The Point? (0)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 6 years ago | (#22367624)

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

Didnt they erase the evidence so that it couldnt be proven?

External Confirmation? (5, Insightful)

KingSkippus (799657) | more than 6 years ago | (#22367626)

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.

Re:External Confirmation? (5, Informative)

phillips321 (955784) | more than 6 years ago | (#22367764)

Well here's the proof from google cache: http://forumpix.co.uk/i.php?I=1202631583 [forumpix.co.uk]
And here's the corrected mistake afterwards: http://forumpix.co.uk/i.php?I=1202631639 [forumpix.co.uk]

Re:External Confirmation? (-1, Troll)

adpowers (153922) | more than 6 years ago | (#22368084)

this looks shopped i can tell from teh pixels and from having seen quite a few shops in my time

Re:External Confirmation? (5, Informative)

pjotrb123 (685993) | more than 6 years ago | (#22368262)

Even though I think the submitter is totally whining for nothing, the Google cache claim by grandparent is accurate.

Google query: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=site%3Awww.amazon.com+inurl%3AB00005RSB2+Jazz+import+box [google.com]
Locate the URL that is in the summary and then click "Cached" right below it.

Please check your facts before posting.
And here's hoping that the Google cache doesn't update too soon or I'll get flamed ;-)

Re:External Confirmation? (1)

adpowers (153922) | more than 6 years ago | (#22368304)

Hmm, perhaps the meme I chose to follow [google.com] was too obscure.

Re:External Confirmation? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22367930)

Re:External Confirmation? (1)

Cranky_92109 (414726) | more than 6 years ago | (#22367948)

External confirmation would be in the credit card records, a charge and then a chargeback. However, if Amazon never even charged anybody before discovering the pricing error, I don't see what anybody has to complain about.

Re:External Confirmation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22367976)

From the "Cory Doctorow" school of reporting

Re:External Confirmation? (1)

harlows_monkeys (106428) | more than 6 years ago | (#22368082)

If the submitter had written the exact same story on his blog, and then submitted the link to the blog entry, would that be any better? That's the level of external support that these kind of stories often have, so maybe skipping the blog is actually a good idea--at least the story won't get slashdotted! :-)

Here's your external confirmation (1)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 6 years ago | (#22368248)

Please note first of all that I am not the submitter of this article- I just saw it now. But something like this happened to me a few months ago with an order that I placed on Amazon. I did get an email within a few days alerting me of the cancellation although my attempt to get further information was unsuccessful.

Where's the screenshot of the item being offered for $31? Where's the printout of the placed order?

Since I am not in the habit of taking product page screenshots whenever I order things from Amazon, I can't provide a screenshot of the item being offered at the price I saw when I ordered it. However I can give you screenshots of my email exchanges with Amazon:

The original order confirmation [photobucket.com] dated November 29.
The cancellation email [photobucket.com] that arrived two days later. I sent them an email in an attempt to follow up on this, which probably went in the bit bucket.
The order history for my account. [photobucket.com] Notice that no trace of the canceled order remains in my account history. I bought my mother a sweater in October, and myself an LCD monitor in January, and nothing appears in between. I don't really know whether cancellations are actually retained in one's account history, and I'm not inclined to order something and cancel it just to find out, but it struck me as a little weird.

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?)

I don't know for sure whether the article submitter is in the United States or not, or if this was a U.S. based transaction at all, and I am not a lawyer. But I did consult one in a nonofficial capacity who told me that regardless of misprints, in the United States what Amazon did in my case was a violation of federal law. I didn't pursue the matter since the price really was a steal and I'd be too embarrassed to make a fuss about it.

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.

Say what you want about the correctness of Amazon's cancellation policy, but I see no reason to doubt this story.

See the Google cache (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:See the Google cache (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22367744)

Mod this up before the many people who've whined about lack of confirmation go take a dump and their shit gets on here and whines just as much and with similar levels of amiability.

Re:See the Google cache (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22367786)

I meant to add: Amazon does this kind of shit all the time. Besides changing up prices, their Amazon Prime service has had for most of its existence a convenient on-going flaw. If you order in the afternoon while they still say next day delivery is possible - which costs extra - but instead select 2-day delivery - which is included free of charge for Amazon Prime members - you will almost always find out after putting in your order (and haven't it immdiately marked as unable to cancel) that the 2-day delivery's date has been pushed off another day, despite being listed as the day after next day delivery before you put in your order. I can't actually tell you if it's been fixed or not being after being screwed almost every time I ordered, I eventually learned my lesson. They actually gave me some recompense a couple of times but eventually I lost my will to be indignant (well, not totally - I do like ripping on /. asshats from time to time, but that's recreational).

 

kdawson erased my.. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22367636)

first post.
I can show you the proof!*

*with no external proof other than what I say.

My own problems with Amazon (2, Interesting)

David_Shultz (750615) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:My own problems with Amazon (1)

xubu_caapn (1086401) | more than 6 years ago | (#22367702)

Your complaint is pretty vague. why did you wait several weeks into the course before emailing? A company the size of Amazon is bound to have a few incidents.. Ive had nothing but good experiences with them, and that probably applies to 95% of their customers.

Re:My own problems with Amazon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22368366)

What piece of shit asshole marked THAT redundant?

A caveat (1, Redundant)

Kuroji (990107) | more than 6 years ago | (#22367652)

>A caveat: there is no external confirmation that Amazon did what is claimed here. Then why is it on the front page?

Legality? (1)

7-Vodka (195504) | more than 6 years ago | (#22367654)

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 (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22367716)

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 your part to nullify the contract (if it's a $500 item, and you bought it for $30, it would be very difficult to explain how you did so in 'good faith belief')

Re:completely legal (1)

mooingyak (720677) | more than 6 years ago | (#22368270)

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 the discount, the more likely it is a mistake.

Re:completely legal (1)

larien (5608) | more than 6 years ago | (#22368322)

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.

How this works on web buying is less obvious, but most stores now have some kind of disclaimer in their terms & conditions stating that they can cancel orders or that they only legally accept the offer at shipping time.

Re:Legality? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22367720)

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 advertisements that's something else entirely. Though in most cases a misprint is still a misprint (they may have to put up signage to indicate that, laws vary.)

In any event, this was a mistake, no harm done, and any mature, reasonable and ethical person wouldn't expect them to honor the mistaken price. The only way this could be considered a story were if Amazon were to try to extort money after the fact or demand returns from customerswho managed to complete the purchase.

Re:Legality? (1)

loraksus (171574) | more than 6 years ago | (#22368208)

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 (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]

For some reason, online retailers feel that they can ignore consumer protection laws, and routinely do so. Most likely because the "we're not responsible for price mistakes" line in the "terms and conditions"
A major retailer deleting orders without notification is pretty scummy.

Re:Legality? (2, Informative)

philipgar (595691) | more than 6 years ago | (#22368388)

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 that the store knowingly charged the higher price when the pricing mistake is not intentional and will result in an obvious windfall to the consumer.
While this doesn't exactly say that the store can change the price, the law basically allows it, in particular when the pricing mistake was unintentional. In particular, this protects stores from swapping tags on items and try and call it the stores mistake. Consumers are not given a right to buy goods at a low price if the store makes a mistake and corrects it before the transaction has completed.

Phil

Re:Legality? (2, Informative)

jamesbulman (103594) | more than 6 years ago | (#22368392)

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 face obstacles convincing a court that the store knowingly charged the higher price when the pricing mistake is not intentional and will result in an obvious windfall to the consumer.

My personal take is that unless money has changed hands (in this case it hadn't) the store shouldn't be forced to honour an obvious mistake, especially as in this case the guy was acting in bad faith as he knew that the item was worth > 10x the listed price.

Re:Legality? (1)

namgge (777284) | more than 6 years ago | (#22368314)

In England, a shop is not obliged by Contract Law to sell goods at the wrongly marked price. However, in some circumstances (essentially doing it often enough that it looks like bait-and-switch) it becomes a criminal offence. This means that large companies will usually sell one item at the marked price (while dragging the rest off the shelves) just to avoid the customer reporting them to the local Trading Standards Officials. TSOs have the job of investigating and prosecuting such offences, and a wise store manager stays off their radar.

Namgge

Re:Legality? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22367852)

That would be a stupid, inhuman law if prices are clearly an error, like a $27 plasma tv, or imagine a Ferrari car dealer who types accidently one zero less in the price.

Re:Legality? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22367938)

Uhm, tell that to the nation/state of California. That's the actual law here. If something is advertised *anywhere* by you or your company at a certain price and someone attempts to buy it you *MUST* sell it at that price. I'll bet that's one reason Amazon Corporate isn't based in Cali...

Re:Legality? (2, Insightful)

jacksonj04 (800021) | more than 6 years ago | (#22368064)

[Citation Needed]

Re:Legality? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22367974)

No, because showcasing an item with a price tag is no binding offer. It's an invitation to place _your_ offer to buy the item which the store owner can either accept or deny.

Re:Legality? (1)

NotQuiteInsane (981960) | more than 6 years ago | (#22368190)

IIRC under UK law, the retailer has a choice -- they can either sell at that price, or take the item off the shelf for 30 days. Again, this is on the basis of my sketchy memory and naturally IANAL.

Of course, if you really want to annoy the sales staff, start spouting off about this immediately after he/she says "Hmm, it's ringing up at £2.99, but the sticker says £1.99, I'll have to talk to the manager..." :)

Kill this article: referral (4, Interesting)

Solder Fumes (797270) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:Kill this article: referral (1)

Solder Fumes (797270) | more than 6 years ago | (#22367696)

I googled some more and it might not be a referral ID. But the other reasons still stand...

Re:Kill this article: referral (1)

$random_var (919061) | more than 6 years ago | (#22368282)

Not sure how long until the google cache [209.85.173.104] refreshes, but if you check it out you do see the cache lists the price at $31. So one part of the story is corroborated, at least.

That's nice.. (1)

Creepy Crawler (680178) | more than 6 years ago | (#22367660)

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.

Re:That's nice.. (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 6 years ago | (#22367770)

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.

Re:That's nice.. (1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 6 years ago | (#22368026)

I see you have a great career in hotel reservations and car rental agreements.

It's just kdawson (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22367692)

Honestly, I was about to post a huge rant on the logical flaws and implications the author of the summary made, ie: Amazon is evil and didn't guarantee me $31 CD sets, but then I realized that this was posted by kdawson. Everyone just stop reading the thread and don't bother commenting from here.

Amazon sucks, what's new? (2, Informative)

carndearg (696084) | more than 6 years ago | (#22367722)

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 I thought, it must be my minority browser/OS choice. Except it gave the same response on everything I could try it on at every site I tried it, including the obvious win/IE combo.
Amazon: great when everything goes right, cr@p when it doesn't. I've made my last ever Amazon order.

Re:Amazon sucks, what's new? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22367802)

Why are we masking the 'a' in crap? When did we start masking letters in replacement curse words? Just say Shit, for fucks sake.

Re:Amazon sucks, what's new? (1)

carndearg (696084) | more than 6 years ago | (#22367830)

Sheer force of habit. If you spend your week doing it because you're at work then you do it at the weekend too without thinking. I have been assimilated.

Re:Amazon sucks, what's new? (1)

glwtta (532858) | more than 6 years ago | (#22367860)

Don't you mean "@ssimilated"?

Re:Amazon sucks, what's new? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22367920)

QQ

Re:Amazon sucks, what's new? (2, Insightful)

xubu_caapn (1086401) | more than 6 years ago | (#22368066)

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?

So??? (5, Insightful)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

so obvious (1, Insightful)

Scudsucker (17617) | more than 6 years ago | (#22368032)

It's a little ridiculous to expect Amazon to eat thousands of dollars in losses over an error on their website.

Then they should take as a lesson and improve their site.

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.

No, THEY MADE A MISTAKE. Nothing wrong about it, and the converse is equally true: if you buy a cd set from Amazon priced at $400 when another site has it priced at $30, it's your own damn fault for not checking the price.

And while we're on the subject of right and wrong, Ms. Manners, what about the retailer trying to sweep their mistake under the rug instead of manning up and admitting their mistake?

Re:so obvious (3, Insightful)

Firas Zirie (1179357) | more than 6 years ago | (#22368200)

Then they should take as a lesson and improve their site.

Product information -including price- is most likely manually entered into their database. Why do you think Amazon should swallow thousands of dollars worth of losses over a typo?

No, THEY MADE A MISTAKE. Nothing wrong about it, and the converse is equally true: if you buy a cd set from Amazon priced at $400 when another site has it priced at $30, it's your own damn fault for not checking the price.

Wow, is the idea of screwing the corporations so tempting to you that any shred of morals is lost? I don't think you would be saying what you are saying if any of this involved your money now would you?

And while we're on the subject of right and wrong, Ms. Manners, what about the retailer trying to sweep their mistake under the rug instead of manning up and admitting their mistake?

I'm afraid I can't disagree with you there, that is exactly what they should do.

Re:so obvious (1)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 6 years ago | (#22368224)

Talk about missing the point.

Nothing wrong about it, and the converse is equally true
Caveat Emptor? Since you want to apply this both ways equally, let me also point out that this only occurs after the transaction has been completed.

Amazon as a seller caught their mistake and they had every right to cancel the transactions before, they shipped the product. Saying they don't is ludicrous and an attempt at immoral behavior. You seem to want them to have to ship the product even after they found their mistake and take it as a "lesson". You may wish that, but don't fool yourself into thinking that is a moral action. It isn't. I am sure there are plenty of people who want to stick it to the man, but two wrongs don't make a right.

Your example of the buyer making a mistake and paying over 10 times the price falls under equal terms. The buyers can also cancel their orders before shipping. Moreover, the buyer has rights to a full refund within 30 days under normal conditions.

For the record, I don't propose or encourage protecting the stupid who buy things at vastly inflated prices. It is their fault for not checking the price. But were not talking about that are we? I thought we were talking about Amazon being able to stop those orders from being fulfilled right?

On to your other question:

what about the retailer trying to sweep their mistake under the rug instead of manning up and admitting their mistake?
If you RTFA, you see that is says:

Amazon secretly canceled orders...
string customers along for over a month after they placed their orders
Hmmmmmmm. As opposed to publicly canceling the order? The whole article is PR job on Amazon, and an amazingly transparent one at that.

Re:So??? (1)

zakezuke (229119) | more than 6 years ago | (#22368058)

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 like NewEgg. I mean lets face it, we are not willing to pay for customer service.

Re:So??? (1)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 6 years ago | (#22368112)

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 completely miss my point that he was being shorted by hundreds of dollars in the sale. In the end I had no choice but to purchase it, since you could not find access points with all the modes for local sale at that time and I needed to get them for my client quickly.

Re:So??? (1)

loraksus (171574) | more than 6 years ago | (#22368236)

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??? (3, Insightful)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:So??? (1)

Auckerman (223266) | more than 6 years ago | (#22368294)

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.

Ecommerce pricing errors (1)

jaiyen (821972) | more than 6 years ago | (#22367732)

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.

Re:Ecommerce pricing errors (1)

eyrieowl (881195) | more than 6 years ago | (#22367774)

and if someone enters it in incorrectly the first time?

Not external confirmation per se (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 6 years ago | (#22367758)

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.

Re:Not external confirmation per se (1)

snl2587 (1177409) | more than 6 years ago | (#22367858)

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?

Re:Not external confirmation per se (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 6 years ago | (#22368124)

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....

[Citation Needed] (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22367814)

Posting unsubstantiated rumors with no attempt at fact or reason? Slashdot gets more like Digg every day.

Buried as inaccurate.

Amazon's just fine here... (4, Informative)

ChePibe (882378) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:Amazon's just fine here... (1)

loraksus (171574) | more than 6 years ago | (#22368298)

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 to screw around with people.
Certain industries are more tightly regulated (car dealerships) because of... well, let's just call them "widespread practices"

Not only did amazon cancel orders (which may of have been fine), but they also "disappeared" them from their system. Orders where the cost of the CD set gave someone free shipping changed - without any notification - to orders where shipping was charged. Amazon could of have handled this a lot better than trying to cover it up.

Probably happens a lot (2, Insightful)

tiger32kw (1236584) | more than 6 years ago | (#22367946)

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).

Sounds like bullshit (1)

cioxx (456323) | more than 6 years ago | (#22367958)

Amazon sends a confirmation notice when you place an order. No email = no transaction.

I don't see anything out of the ordinary here... (5, Interesting)

Monsterdog (985765) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:I don't see anything out of the ordinary here.. (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 6 years ago | (#22368198)

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.

New Slashdot Effect (5, Funny)

bagsc (254194) | more than 6 years ago | (#22368010)

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%

Re:New Slashdot Effect (1)

nexuspal (720736) | more than 6 years ago | (#22368342)

Consumer Behavior 101, well us nerds at least :-P. But I agree, PV of expected profits from amazon.com have increased marginally because this article made the "front page" ;-P.

Let's do the math... (1)

th3rtythr33 (1191409) | more than 6 years ago | (#22368142)

Even if only $1,064 people ordered this CD Box Set from Amazon, Amazon is still losing out of $500,000 by selling 1,064 copies at a $470 discount. This is a no brainer. Keeping the orders wouldn't be good business no matter how you look at it.

Re:Let's do the math... (2, Interesting)

BattleApple (956701) | more than 6 years ago | (#22368184)

Even if only $1,064 people ordered this CD Box Set...

And how exactly do you come up with these monetary values you place on humans?
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