By Harry McCracken | Wednesday, August 12, 2009 at 10:05 am
Early this morning, Best Buy had a deal on its site that was not merely a best buy but a mindbendingly, impossibly cheap one: a well-reviewed, high-end 52-inch Samsung LCD HDTV for…under ten bucks. $9.99 to be exact. Here, I’ll show you:
The price was, of course, a typo–one reported on at deal sites and by my pal Danny Allen at Gizmodo, whereupon scads of people presumably pulled out their wallets and bought a TV (maybe several of ’em!). Including me: I had to pay 91 cents in tax and California’s $25 recycling fee, but shipping was free, so it still seemed like an attractive deal overall. My order went through, with friendly confirmation:
Now, I’m aware that BestBuy.com’s conditions of use says it can cancel your order if it messed up a price. I’m also not one who rubs my hands in glee and pounces to seize advantage of other folks’ mistakes–even those of large, prosperous corporations. (For one thing, it’s bad karma, unless you have no problem with the rest of the world messing with you when you screw up.) But these kinds of site snafus are pretty common–here’s a news story on $15 Dell monitors–and I was curious how Best Buy would handle it. If the order got as far as me getting a call to schedule delivery, I was going to cancel it.
It was not exactly stunning when the set was both $1699.99 and unavailable later this morning:
Or when I got a form letter from Best Buy:
I’m not ticked off that Best Buy canceled the order, but the bit about the product being “no longer available” seems pretty weasly. I suspect that the Best Buy warehouses are still stocked with this TV, and that the company will sell them to people willing to fork over $1700. (Although at the moment, the page for the set is just gone.) “We’re sorry, we messed up on the price, but the terms and conditions of our site allow us to cancel orders at inaccurate prices, and we’re hereby doing so–you didn’t really think the set was $10, did you?” woulda earned BB some serious credibility here. But maybe that’s just me.
Meanwhile, I wonder if Best Buy will face an outburst of anger by aggrieved shoppers denied their $10 HDTVs. And why Best Buy and other Web retailers don’t have safeguards in place to flag bizarrely large discounts off list prices so they never get listed in the first place.
UPDATE: I got a second form letter from Best Buy, which comes pretty close to what I hoped for in the first place: an admission of pricing error (albeit in “mistakes were made” passive tense) and an apology. Here it is: