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Website Checkout Glitches: Two Very Different Corporate Responses 303

Posted by timothy
from the and-you-pay-the-stamp dept.
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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Website Checkout Glitches: Two Very Different Corporate Responses

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  • Same rules apply (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sbassett (257852) on Saturday December 28, 2013 @01:15PM (#45806011) Homepage

    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.

  • by JWSmythe (446288) <jwsmythe@@@jwsmythe...com> on Saturday December 28, 2013 @01:16PM (#45806017) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • Demand? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by HornWumpus (783565) on Saturday December 28, 2013 @01:16PM (#45806025)

    Someplace sold me something, then they demand more money?

    Can you guess my answer?

  • by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Saturday December 28, 2013 @01:20PM (#45806073) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 28, 2013 @01:29PM (#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?

  • by mysidia (191772) on Saturday December 28, 2013 @01:39PM (#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.

  • by just fiddling around (636818) on Saturday December 28, 2013 @01:45PM (#45806305) Journal

    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.

  • by geekmux (1040042) on Saturday December 28, 2013 @01:54PM (#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.

  • by fermion (181285) on Saturday December 28, 2013 @01:55PM (#45806377) Homepage Journal
    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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 28, 2013 @01:57PM (#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.

  • by beelsebob (529313) on Saturday December 28, 2013 @01:58PM (#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.

  • by youngatheart (1922394) on Saturday December 28, 2013 @02:00PM (#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.

  • by beelsebob (529313) on Saturday December 28, 2013 @02:02PM (#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.

  • by itsdapead (734413) on Saturday December 28, 2013 @03:34PM (#45807005)

    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?

    because (even with such a law) there are practical limitations on how may $99 products can walk out the door of a bricks & mortar store for $0.99 before the error can be caught and corrected.

    For an an online store, the error can go viral on social networking and by the time a human being spots the situation, there can be so many orders that they'd need to build a couple of new factories to fulfil them.

    Now, if the retailer takes your $0.99 and delivers the product that's one thing (analogous to the shop taking your money and letting you walk out the door) - but when these stories crop up it is usually people whining because the retailer just refuses to honour the order (in this case, TFA is somewhat vague on whether money has been taken or products delivered).

    Try and compel stores to honour those orders and I guarantee that the only winners will be the lawyers.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 28, 2013 @04:11PM (#45807245)

    For an an online store, the error can go viral on social networking and by the time a human being spots the situation, there can be so many orders that they'd need to build a couple of new factories to fulfil them.

    1) Then they should double-check all prices before they go live.

    2) Then they should only accept as many orders as they have stock. That at least limits the damage to what they have on-hand. just like brick-n-mortar stores.

  • by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Saturday December 28, 2013 @05:44PM (#45807683) Homepage Journal

    I don't believe so.

    Everything on the website is under the vendor's control. The listing, the price in the listing, the checkout, everything. The ONLY part of the process under the customer's control, is the decision to enter financial information. Just like any brick and mortar store, once the transaction is concluded, and the customer has a receipt in hand, the vendor is obligated to deliver the goods.

    We've just had Black Friday, where damn near everything in the world was advertised at 50% to 80% off. With their bogus sales running like that, how is the customer to know that the store didn't mark the item up 600% so that he could then mark it down 80% and STILL make a huge profit? That is standard procedure today, after all.

    And, if there WERE a problem with the checkout, then the vendor most certainly should have caught it before he shipped the items. He is still obligated to deliver them, at the price he charged - but if he caught his mistake before he shipped, he could at least negotiate with the customer. "Look, Pal, I made a serious mistake, and I sold this item so far below cost that my boss is going to fire me. Can we meet in the middle? No? How 'bout you pay for the shipping, and you'll still be way ahead of the ballgame! Alright - if that sounds good to you, I'll just charge another ten bucks to your card, and ship it out today!"

    The vendor cannot arbitrarily cancel a sale, or arbitrarily add a charge to the sale. The customer has his receipt, the property is his. All you can do is beg him to meet you in the middle. And, doing that may well cost you a return customer.

    It's best if the vendor just swallows the loss.

  • by mysidia (191772) on Saturday December 28, 2013 @06:57PM (#45808095)

    So, what you're saying is, the business can take my money, 'ship' the product (Ground, of course), then, on the last day before it's delivered, cancel the shipping and have it returned to them, all that time keeping my money in their bank accounts, earning them interest, and only then refund me?

    Probably not. If you paid by credit card, and they void/reverse the transaction --- the business won't be earning any interest. There won't be any interest to earn -- and if there was any: it will be banks that are earning the transaction float, not retailers.

    The only way they would be earning interest would be with cleared funds -- which doesn't happen in 5 days, unless you paid by check or wire. Which just doesn't happen with online e-commerce sales.

  • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Saturday December 28, 2013 @07:13PM (#45808173)

    Don't forget that you agreed to the EULA contract upon checkout which protects the seller.

    No you didn't: a sale is a sale is a sale. That's all, period.

    You can take your bullshit "EULA" nonsense and fuck right off with it!

  • by MadAhab (40080) <slasher@@@ahab...com> on Saturday December 28, 2013 @09:25PM (#45808791) Homepage Journal

    If repeat business is overrated (and this is a bold, unsupported assertion), then I'm the customer Brick would want, because I haven't shopped them before. And I won't, because I have a reasonable expectation I won't get the price I agree to.

    There's bad PR, and there's bad rep.

Nondeterminism means never having to say you are wrong.

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