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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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  • Re:Same rules apply (Score:5, Interesting)

    by msauve (701917) on Saturday December 28, 2013 @01:39PM (#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.
  • Amazon Did it Too (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Saturday December 28, 2013 @02:48PM (#45806771)

    Here's a little story about Amazon doing the same thing. []

    Some of the details in the Amazon story are missing though:

    (1) It was a 2-for-1 sale on DVD box sets where they double-discounted the price of the cheaper DVD set. Some people bought identically priced sets and so paid $0, but a lot of people bought two sets with different prices so they paid the nominal difference.

    (2) Amazon corrected the error on the website within hours, but continued shipping some of the orders for up to 4 days later so they clearly knew about the error and still choose to let merchandise ship rather than make the effort to put an internal hold on it.

  • Re:Same rules apply (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mysidia (191772) on Saturday December 28, 2013 @04:35PM (#45807389)

    So, I guess the whole thing comes down to: When is an online order 'complete'?

    After the buyer has both paid for and taken delivery of the item.

    If they discover that the amount has been paid any time before that, the seller can suspend delivery of the goods (cancel before shipping, or delivery intercept)

    With no goods in hand by the buyer, the sale is not yet completed.

    As soon as the shipping company deposits the goods on the buyer's doorstep however --- the items are now at the buyer's property, and the transaction has concluded; can no longer be cancelled or revised, without the buyer's consent.

  • by JWSmythe (446288) <> on Sunday December 29, 2013 @02:39AM (#45809975) Homepage Journal

    Groupon logic is horribly flawed. They actively encourage vendors to sell under cost, with the hope that customers will return. There's always a chance they will, especially if you treat them well. There are numerous stories online about how the vendors are totally screwed. []

    In this blog post, Groupon takes 100% of the sale, promising that customers will always buy more than the ad (and they didn't), and wouldn't limit sales, so they were giving away everything for every Groupon customer for months. []

    In this story, the story is similar, where far too many customers were sent in, and the vendor was pressured to sell at materials cost, which almost killed them.

    Now, in The Brick case (TFA for those not paying attention), the company made the mistake. They were able to limit their losses by resolving the discount problem.

    There were several other comments here. One says "what if they bought 100 mattresses?". Well, there's no indication of that in the story. Others are first-hand accounts of the way the company operates, which has included blatant false advertising and other deceptions. That would indicates the real truth behind TFA was intentional. If I, an average consumer, see that I get an outrageous discount, I'll probably go add more items so I can get the better deal. Great. But their plan is to now bill me for the difference.

    Some people have said the problem was caught before anything shipped. Great. So cancel the order, and work with the customer. I have seen that happen before. It's not unreasonable. "Sorry, due to a technical error, your order has been cancelled. Please place your order again."

    The Brick went totally the other way with it. "Hey, we screwed up and applied the wrong discount, pay this new amount. We don't care about the receipt being the legally binding contract. You owe us." I have seen that before too, usually with con artists who get to exert some sort of leverage. I've mostly heard this with moving companies. "It will be $5,000 to ship your belongings from Point A to Point B." When the day comes for delivery, since they have all of your possessions in their storage yard they demand more for whatever fees they decide to apply.

    You get it at car dealerships too. "$22,500 out the door" and hours of dealing with them over paperwork becomes "$22,500 plus tax, tag, dealer prep, showroom fees, and whatever else is now $33,999."

    I've heard many stories about car dealerships taking your trade-in car, which they offer to "wash, detail, and inspect", and when it comes time to close the deal and you're presented with a new price *and* an insulting trade-in value, your car is no longer on the lot. It's been "sold", which usually means moved to another lot. So before you've signed the paperwork, you're stuck between walking home or accepting their offer. I've known people who had to go as far as to call law enforcement to report their car stolen, just to get their old car back.

    Personally, I've never had to go that far with a car dealer. I trust them less than a thug who says he wants to steal my wallet. At least the thug is up front about what they're going to do. I demand to know what they will give me for my trade-in before I do anything else. Once I was offered $100 trade-in on a $10,000 car. Ok, so you're a crook. I'll go buy elsewhere.

    Of course, all of those are dirty tactics, and the company will deny any knowledge of such activity ever happening, but they still do it. So TFA about The Brick isn't some sob story about a company being screwed by the customers. It's a sob story of a con gone bad.

The more cordial the buyer's secretary, the greater the odds that the competition already has the order.