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[P]
Too Good To Be True

By n8f8 in Internet
Sat Feb 09, 2002 at 01:10:15 PM EST
Tags: Internet (all tags)
Internet

On February 6, 2002 Best Buy posted a "Pre-Order Special" offering a "$200 savings" on the VisionTek GeForce4 Ti 4600 Graphics Card. A video card with an MSRP of $399 on sale for $129.99. News of the offer almost too good to be true quickly spread to Anandtech, HardOCP, Slashdot and TechBargains. Within hours as many as 5000 people had jumped on the offer.


Best Buy eventually changed the price on its website to $399 and the following day sent email notices to those who had ordered. The orders were cancelled - due to a "system error". The email also informed buyers that they could reorder at the higher price.

Buyers balked, threatened to sue Best Buy and even started a page to collect information for those who had ordered and had their orders cancelled. Various flames have been raging about whether people are simply taking advantage of an obvious pricing mistake or Best Buy either intentionally pulled a bait-and-switch or simply made an offer they weren't prepared to fulfill.

On one hand the price is almost unbelievable. Nivida rarely discounts new products -much less deeply discounting them. They also have a Terms of Service that states they have the right to correct pricing mistakes and cancel orders that result from pricing mistakes. On the other hand the offer explicitly said "Preorder Special" and "$200 savings". So $129 isn't reasonable when you consider a product with an MSRP of $399 (computer hardware products almost never sell for MSRP). Further adding to the credibility of the offer was the elaborate way it was advertised -Special advertisement button on Best Buy's computer catalog page and special page devoted to advertising the offer.

I took the offer. It was simply too good an offer to ignore. As a bargain hunter I spend at least a few minutes each day browsing various "Good Deal" websites I have book marked. Most of them weed out obvious pricing mistakes and in some cases even verify the offers before posting them. I've seen many good deals over the years on these sites. I've gotten in on a few and missed many. Big vendors like Amazon.com and Buy.com regularly have really good deals to attract customers. And as the owner of an Nvidia original TNT card, I was looking to upgrade.

E-commerce, as a business model, is still in its infancy. The Internet allows any business startup access to customers around the world with little or no capital investment. Put up a website and start selling. This has lead to every conceivable abuse to consumers. Bogus advertisements, spamming, outright theft...you name it. Commercial and consumer laws, encumbered by a procedural system that makes changing the law intentionally slow and deliberate, have left consumers oftentimes out in the cold. Again and again we are confronted with asking if laws written to apply to brick-and-mortar establishments should apply to e-business' and e-commerce.

IANAL, but I have taken classes in Business Law. Generally speaking most State and Federal Consumer and Commercial laws aim to keep the playing field fair. Businesses have the right to make money by selling goods and services and consumers have a right to get what they pay for. By purchasing a good or service consumers are entering into a contract with a seller and both parties have the right to expect fair and reasonable terms, treatment and consideration. Advertisements must not be misleading.

Best Buy is a large business with a good reputation for treating customers fairly with decent service and good prices. They sell on the Internet as well as having over 400 store locations across the United States. Their Internet storefront appears to be professionally managed.

So, considering Internet commerce in general, and this deal in particular, should Best Buy honor this deal? Should Internet businesses be held to the same standards as brick and mortar businesses? Should a business, knowing the potentially great damages in making a too good offer or pricing mistake on the Internet, take even more care? What should the law do to protect consumers from inconsiderate Internet businesses?

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Poll
What Should Best Buy Do?
o Honor the deal. 48%
o Offer an appeasement. 16%
o Cancel all orders with an apology. 16%
o Nothing - read the TOS. 18%

Votes: 86
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Slashdot
o Best Buy
o "Pre-Order Special"
o MSRP of $399
o Anandtech
o HardOCP
o Slashdot [2]
o TechBargai ns
o due to a "system error"
o page to collect information
o Terms of Service
o over 400
o Also by n8f8


Display: Sort:
Too Good To Be True | 77 comments (60 topical, 17 editorial, 0 hidden)
Basicly sucks.. (3.80 / 5) (#1)
by Danse on Sat Feb 09, 2002 at 03:06:14 AM EST

I think I have to agree with you. If they made such a big deal about the advertisement ("$200 savings" and all that), then I think they should be held to it.

Btw, would you mind sharing the website(s) where you found this and other deals?






An honest debate between Bush and Kerry
Deals Websites (4.00 / 6) (#2)
by n8f8 on Sat Feb 09, 2002 at 03:17:50 AM EST

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Sig: (This will get posted after your comments)
[ Parent ]

Tough case (4.33 / 9) (#3)
by KOTHP on Sat Feb 09, 2002 at 03:28:03 AM EST

My gut reaction is that Best Buy was probably planning to honor this price, but balked when it got so much publicity ("slashdotted"?).

My understanding of something like this as it would apply to a brick-and-mortar business is that there could be civil (and in rare cases criminal) penalties if it can be shown that it was part of a deliberate "bait-and-switch" fraud.

Emphasis on the if, because this is very difficult to prove. I suspect their defense would be what they claimed in the email, that it was a "system error" or "typo".

In a civil case, the winner must prove their case by a "preponderance of the evidence". Specifically, that is more likely than not that the offer was made in good faith. It would follow that Best Buy balked after the fact merely because they realized that way too many people participated, or that not enough of these people also purchased other widgets, or whatever. The supporting text in the ads of "$200 savings" seems to hurt the credibility of Best Buy's claim of a typo/error.

My humble opinion on the matter is that there is enough money involved (5000 x $270 = $1.35 million) that someone might as well take some free consultations with attorneys (won't be me, I wasn't involved). It seems likely that one will bite and take the case on a contingency basis.

(IANAL either, but I play one on the Internet)

Who is the injured party here? It depends... (4.16 / 6) (#4)
by squigly on Sat Feb 09, 2002 at 03:49:16 AM EST

If they had simply acknowledged the order, then realised that the price was wrong (and its hardly unreasonable to assume there was a mistake), then they can cancel.

I'm not sure how it works in the US, but in England, advertisers do not have to honour errors in pricing.

The customer has not lost anything. They have not parted with money. Best Buy have not tried to charge them extra. All that has happened is that the customer has not received a product that they haven't paid for.No agreement had been made (depending on the wording of the order and receipt)

Or have they actually taken the money? If so, then they should hnour the deal. I'd say their taking the money would amount to them accepting the terms of the sale.

Paid Money (3.50 / 2) (#7)
by n8f8 on Sat Feb 09, 2002 at 04:02:41 AM EST

It varies by different accounts. Some have had their cridit cardes debited. Others had the amount reserved on their credit account.

Sig: (This will get posted after your comments)
[ Parent ]
Bzzzt. (3.16 / 6) (#10)
by truth versus death on Sat Feb 09, 2002 at 04:19:58 AM EST

The customer has not lost anything is not true. By entering into the contract to purchase, any customer with finite resources has obvious had the amount of resources they might consider parting with for other offers (from other parties) reduced.

Best Buy needs to honor this contract.

"any erection implies consent"-fae
[ Trim your Bush ]
[ Parent ]
bzzzt ^2 (3.00 / 2) (#12)
by rde on Sat Feb 09, 2002 at 06:43:47 AM EST

I don't know whether you read NTK, but they regularly come up with typos from the web; a lot of them are job advertisements, offering 50,000 per hour, or $300 per annum, for example.
Should those advertisers be required to pay the fifty grand an hour that the advertisement offers? You might argue that it's unreasonable to expect the offer to be valid - and it's a strong criticism - but if the figure were, say 10k a month, which is ludicrous for a telemarketer (for example), it might seem quite valid if the specific job content isn't specified.

If I walked into a shop, brought my new video card up to the counter and was told, "I'm sorry, that price is invalid; we'll reprice that now to avoid disappointing others, but we can't sell it at that price" I'd say fair enough, and decide whether I wanted it for the new price. I'd expect neither more nor less from an online shop.

[ Parent ]
^ 3 (3.80 / 5) (#25)
by truth versus death on Sat Feb 09, 2002 at 11:33:35 AM EST

Neither one of your examples is the same as what Best Buy did. Best Buy actually accepted the customer's purchase price for the item (and even charged some card). That is, these individual's took the item, put it in their shopping cart, and completed the entire purchasing process. No one told them they weren't going to be able to honor the purchasing price until after the customer's purchase had already been accepted (or more to the point the customer had accepted Best Buy's offer, Best Buy had been notified, and Best Buy had allowed it to go through, unlike NTK examples where someone calls up for the job offer and is notified immediately that the offer is not valid).

Even still, within the context of selling items at a retail store, the legal requirements of what constitutes a bait-and-switch and fraudulent offer are much less than your NTK job offer example. They aren't the same thing.

Best Buys' online shop fulfilled less than you expect since the 'sorry' happened well after Best Buy had accepted the transaction. And so Best Buy was able to benefit from news of the offer which spread like wildfire across the Internet. And would-be purchasers were not able to consider spending their hard earned cash on other items, without having to think they had already bought this particular video card at this particular price.

"any erection implies consent"-fae
[ Trim your Bush ]
[ Parent ]
^2 redux (3.50 / 2) (#29)
by rde on Sat Feb 09, 2002 at 12:29:33 PM EST

If they charged credit cards, then fair enough. But for those that weren't charged, as far as I'm concerned, my point stands.
According to the story, anyone who ordered it was contacted about the error the next day. This is as reasonable as I would expect from an internet company. When I make a purchase online, I don't consider the transaction complete until the goods have shipped. If my card is charged before this, I'll query it, but I'll be content with an assurance that my stuff is on the way.

The fundamental question is, I suppose, what constitutes a contract? I consider clicking on the checkout button to be a request for a transaction rather than a transaction proper.

would-be purchasers were not able to consider spending their hard earned cash on other items, without having to think they had already bought this particular video card at this particular price.
I don't think that's a valid argument in this case. The majority - if not all - the orders were opportunistic, and unlikely to have prevented anyone from buying elsewhere. There may well have been one or two people put off going to another shop, but any advantage accrued by Best Buy from lazy customers would surely be offset by the badwill generated. This, to my mind, means that the error was most likely that - an error. And thus forgivable.

[ Parent ]
Benefit? (4.00 / 2) (#32)
by mech9t8 on Sat Feb 09, 2002 at 03:06:48 PM EST

And so Best Buy was able to benefit from news of the offer which spread like wildfire across the Internet.

That's a questionable benefit, because while a bunch of people may have seen the good price, probably far more have seen all the negative publicity from the reneged deal.

And how many people that expected to get it for $129 are now going to turn around and buy it for $399? Not many to none, I'd wager. They've effectively lowered the perceived value of the product and given thousands of potential buyers a negative perception of their store.

I mean, I guess more people are aware that there is an online Best Buy store now. But if they really wanted to do that, I bet they have enough clout to come up with a good deal that they can actually fulfill.

So I think it was mistake.

That being said, I think people should complain and possibly come up with a class action lawsuit - which they would indubitably settle on regardless of the legal merits - just to make sure these guys put enough effort into making sure database prices are right. It's like posted vs. scanning prices at the grocery store - unless you complain, they're going to get sloppy... and somehow, getting sloppy usually results in *higher* prices... funny how that works...

--
IMHO
[ Parent ]

"Bait-and-switch" explained (4.50 / 4) (#14)
by KOTHP on Sat Feb 09, 2002 at 07:11:29 AM EST

I'm not sure how this works in England, but in the US, if the advertised offer is disingenuous, it is fraud.

Let's get hypothetical :

You advertise that you're selling brand-new late-model Cadillacs for $1000 apiece.

I read your ad, show up on your lot and say "Damn! That's just about too good to be true! I'd love to buy one of your $1000 late-model Caddies! Where do I sign?"

You say, "Well, I hate to say it, but we just sold out of those! As long as you're on my lot, would you like to take a look at what we normally sell?"

I wander off thinking, "Well, WTF? I showed up expecting to pick up a great deal, and instead all I got was a sales pitch for something I wouldn't have normally given the time of day to!"

Guess what? In the U.S. of A, this is fraud! As I mentioned in my previous response, it's damn hard to prove. However, strictly according to the law, it doesn't matter that you haven't parted with money. Time is money, and you have been robbed of it.

[ Parent ]

E&OE (3.00 / 1) (#23)
by squigly on Sat Feb 09, 2002 at 11:08:09 AM EST

My understanding of English law is that as long as there was no deliberate policy to mislead, and the item on offer was withdrawn from sale before the transaction was completed, then you do not have to sell a product for the advertised price (although I don't think you are allowed to try to sell it for the correct price). The law does accept that people can make mistakes.

Most advertisers in magazines put E&OE (errors and omissions exempt I think) to cover themselves for mistakes.

Trading Standards do advice people to inform them when this happens. Presumably they do take action if they get a lot of complaints about a particular trader.

[ Parent ]

Jurisdiction of this issue (3.33 / 3) (#27)
by truth versus death on Sat Feb 09, 2002 at 11:48:14 AM EST

While English law may be different, Best Buy is governed by U.S. law.

"any erection implies consent"-fae
[ Trim your Bush ]
[ Parent ]
Should have quoted (none / 0) (#59)
by squigly on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 11:51:52 AM EST

Not disagreeing. The previousposter made a comment about not knowing how it works in England. Just felt an explanation might clear things up.

Doesn't US law have some similar protections for the merchants though? It seems that this would make the entire legal system prejudiced against small businesses.

[ Parent ]

How do you decide whether it was deliberate? (4.00 / 1) (#57)
by nstenz on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 11:44:19 AM EST

My understanding of English law is that as long as there was no deliberate policy to mislead, and the item on offer was withdrawn from sale before the transaction was completed, then you do not have to sell a product for the advertised price (although I don't think you are allowed to try to sell it for the correct price). The law does accept that people can make mistakes.
How do we know that the big, cuddly corporation just made a 'simple mistake'? Some companies will do anything they can get away with to make money. Enron is an excellent example of that. Global Crossing just filed for bankruptcy, and now their accounting practices are looking 'questionable'. The list goes on and on...

[ Parent ]
Proof of guilt (4.00 / 1) (#60)
by squigly on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 12:51:49 PM EST

If a company claims that they made an innocent mistake, then they did so. You (or a trading standards investigator) might assume that they didn't, in which case they might be able to prove it e.g. an employee blows the whistle and reveals a memo to the effect that this could improve hits, or they just seem to have too many to put down to honest mistakes.

They might try something crooked and get away with it because of this, but the harm done is nowhere near as bad as it would be to the company that made an innoicent mistake and got punished for fraud.

[ Parent ]

Deliberate vs non-Deliberate (none / 0) (#61)
by malikcoates on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 12:54:50 PM EST

It would be your responsibility to show that the price misquote was deliberate. That's also basic USA law. Nothing in the article or in the comments I've seen so far suggests that this was deliberate.

[ Parent ]
Dynamic pricing (2.86 / 15) (#11)
by rickward on Sat Feb 09, 2002 at 05:07:27 AM EST

I read here that Amazon.com has been charging different customers different prices for the same product.

What if you were charged more for a physics text because you had a Rose-Hulman billing address? What if you were charged more for a Toni Morrison novel because you lived in Alabama and had bought several other books by her?

Where is the line between being a "smart seller" and engaging in discriminatory pricing?

Does the government have a responsibility to protect US consumers from discriminatory pricing? (Certainly it has a direct relationship to the issue, in that most US states collect a percentage of the selling price in the form of sales or use taxes.)


"How am I to trust my own 5 feeble senses? Who's to say that when I open the freezer door that I'm really not just opening a gateway to a very cold dimension populated by wire racks?" —MisterQueue

1.0 off-topic (NT) (1.33 / 12) (#15)
by KOTHP on Sat Feb 09, 2002 at 07:15:09 AM EST



[ Parent ]
Um, not for a long time (3.50 / 2) (#34)
by delmoi on Sat Feb 09, 2002 at 04:27:48 PM EST

Amazon gave that up years ago, like a month after they started, and gave everyone who ordered under it a refund of their price minus the lowest price they sold for.

Not that I see anything wrong with what they did, why not give people individualized prices?
--
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
Because people will go somewhere else. (none / 0) (#58)
by nstenz on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 11:47:43 AM EST

Not that I see anything wrong with what they did, why not give people individualized prices?
They see themselves possibly getting a bad deal, and they may well be right. Most people tend to shop around, and there's a good chance that Amazon could give them a higher price than the next guy. It's hard to make money that way when you have competition.

[ Parent ]
True (none / 0) (#68)
by delmoi on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 02:48:57 PM EST

And that should be a pressure on amazon to keep prices resonable. But I don't think that there is anything moraly wrong with it, unless they were a monopoly.
--
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
TOS not necessarily a binding contract (3.66 / 6) (#18)
by Blarney on Sat Feb 09, 2002 at 08:44:51 AM EST

Just because they put up a bunch of terms and conditions up on their site, in plain sight or buried behind a fine-print link, that doesn't necessarily mean that they have any legal backing for it. If you have credible evidence of their claimed "$200 Savings", you can probably file in small claims court and probably win. It is generally accepted law that if you advertise an item at a price you are expected to honor that price until you run out of the items, and you can't unreasonably limit the supply either.

Not every bit of legal language is a valid contract. The biggest example would be good old Dr. Kevorkian. Had the courts not convicted him of murdering a "consenting" man, you'd start seeing "termination" clauses in these standard boilerplate agreements. At some point, the scary looking legal stuff can go over the top by demanding unreasonable things and become merely a rant.

I'm not sure there's a case (3.25 / 4) (#21)
by UncleMikey on Sat Feb 09, 2002 at 10:35:37 AM EST

Since the orders were cancelled, rather than held onto and automaticly converted to the new (higher) price, I'm not certain there's a case here. Essentially, the entire event has been nullifed and declared a mistake, which is legitimate (which is not to say that I'm certain it was a mistake, but if it was, then it's a legal way to handle it, I believe).

That said, I would prefer Best Buy rise above the pack of unethical retail hyenas that dominate America these days and honour the pricing for those who already ordered, despite the mistake. I'm a deep believer in the free market, so I don't think this should be legislated. This is an ethical question, not a legal one, IMO. The answer, for good or ill, is to make an effort to patronise those establishments that honour their mistakes.

Full Disclosure: I am a small-scale Best Buy stock holder.
--
[ Uncle Mikey | Radio Free Tomorrow ]

Speaking of ethics (none / 0) (#48)
by sticky on Sat Feb 09, 2002 at 10:15:23 PM EST

What about the 5,000 people that jumped all over the offer when it was blatantly obvious that a mistake had been made. I have doubts that $129 even covers nVidia's costs on the card, never mind BestBuy's. The people that ordered the card knew it was a mistake, as was obvious from many of the comments on Slashdot on the day this occurred.


Don't eat the shrimp.---God
[ Parent ]
whereis "Best Buy regrets..." (3.80 / 5) (#26)
by bobpence on Sat Feb 09, 2002 at 11:43:42 AM EST

Real world retailers often protect themselves with printed notices somewhere when their current ad has a misprint. While it's harder to define what is current online, it would be good if online retailers voluntarily posted such information, whether linked from the product page or from the home page.

It would be instructive to find out how often these email cancellations go out, how similar they are, and relatedly how automated they are. Obviously if something is going out to 5000 customers, it should be flagged.

Bob
"Interesting. No wait, the other thing: tedious." - Bender

Inaccurate pricing... (3.00 / 9) (#28)
by seebs on Sat Feb 09, 2002 at 12:27:50 PM EST

I think this is pretty cut and dried. There's a policy warning you that there may be errors in pricing, and that they will not honor a price if it was put in the database in error.

Seems simple to me.

Re:Inaccurate pricing... (3.83 / 6) (#30)
by truth versus death on Sat Feb 09, 2002 at 01:24:53 PM EST

If it is so cut and dried, why did you rate my posts 0's on the subject? Are you afraid of the opposing viewpoint?

"any erection implies consent"-fae
[ Trim your Bush ]
[ Parent ]
Lack of coherent reasoning. (1.00 / 5) (#36)
by seebs on Sat Feb 09, 2002 at 05:51:59 PM EST

"Afraid", no. "Bored by", yes. The same reason I rate posts 0 any time they have no logical content, no reasoning, nothing but "mommy mommy make them stop being mean to me".

You made no points. You said nothing new. You offered no support. Your posts had *ZERO* informational content. Thus, "zero ratings".

You will notice that I did not rate *all* posts on the topic that disagree with me as zeros. There are reasons to dislike what Best Buy did. You did not present any of them.


[ Parent ]
Lack of coherent reasoning. (2.00 / 2) (#37)
by truth versus death on Sat Feb 09, 2002 at 05:56:26 PM EST

If you want to troll, seebs, go somewhere else.

"any erection implies consent"-fae
[ Trim your Bush ]
[ Parent ]
Whatever. (1.00 / 3) (#38)
by seebs on Sat Feb 09, 2002 at 05:58:28 PM EST

I'm not trolling; I just think you're whining, without making actual points. (With some exceptions; your observation that they're gonna be under U.S. law, not British law, is a good one.)


[ Parent ]
Whatever. (3.00 / 1) (#39)
by truth versus death on Sat Feb 09, 2002 at 06:37:07 PM EST

You can't redeem yourself by marking one of my posts well just to counteract your misbegotten ratings of two other clearly reasoned and plainly articulated posts as 0. You're not thinking straight if you believe my post about British law versus U.S. law is deserving of a 5 while the two earlier posts are 0's. You're just trolling.

"any erection implies consent"-fae
[ Trim your Bush ]
[ Parent ]
They weren't clearly reasoned. (none / 0) (#44)
by seebs on Sat Feb 09, 2002 at 09:53:10 PM EST

I don't think they were clearly reasoned. Let's look at one of them.

---

The customer has not lost anything is not true. By entering into the contract to purchase, any customer with finite resources has obvious had the amount of resources they might consider parting with for other offers (from other parties) reduced.

Best Buy needs to honor this deal.
---

Is there a point there to be made? Maybe. I don't think you made it. The writing is poor ("The customer has not lost anything is not true." is not a sentence; it might be with qutoes.)

You could make an interesting point about opportunity cost - but that's not how the law works, and there are good reasons for this. By the same argument, all announcements of future products should be illegal unless the product comes out exactly as specified on the day specified; after all, the consumer *might* have otherwise bought something else.

Most importantly, *YOUR CONCLUSION DOES NOT FOLLOW FROM YOUR ARGUMENT*. You didn't actually tie this in, or show that it connected; you may have hinted at an argument that could have been made about cost to the consumer, but *NOTHING* in your post shows that it's Best Buy's problem.

You didn't make your point well, and the writing was poor. The comment said nothing that hasn't been said elsewhere, better. Looks like a natural "zero" to me.



[ Parent ]
Looks like a natural "zero" to me. (none / 0) (#52)
by truth versus death on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 01:17:31 AM EST

Heh. You are a funny, small-minded individual.

Well, I guess you have me clearly, seebs. You see my posts which were posted before you ever showed up on the scene were meant to spam or troll the people whom I replied to because I just didn't have an argument to proffer one way or the other. It's a good thing you showed up, or else kuro5hin would have suffered under my evil spell of trollish postings (as you so clearly showed in your clever and very truthful post). It is fortunate kuro5hin has users such as you, seebs, because otherwise all would be lost. You might have to suffer from me explaining the legal intricacies of U.S. contract law which just wouldn't do because I am a troll and there is nothing else to it.

"any erection implies consent"-fae
[ Trim your Bush ]
[ Parent ]
See elsewhere in the thread... (none / 0) (#53)
by seebs on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 01:37:46 AM EST

I was, as pointed out elsewhere, confused; I meant to rate them as "badly argued", not as "spam or trolls".

And yet, the fact is, you didn't make much of an argument. Maybe you could, but it doesn't seem that you want to; all you want to do is flame me. You're welcome to (and, after all, I was clearly wrong), but it doesn't give me the sense that you really want to improve your debate style.

Go ahead, give it a try: Draw the connection between the opportunity cost of an advertised opportunity that turns out not to be available after all, and a requirement that all such committments are honored, whether or not they were mistakes. Talk to us about the benefits - and costs - of this proposed change in how we handle mistakes, typos, and the like, and how we distinguish them from willful fraud.

Or, alternatively, accept that you'll sometimes get rated down, for not bothering to support your points.



[ Parent ]
Contrition (none / 0) (#65)
by truth versus death on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 02:04:16 PM EST

An apology would be nice.

"any erection implies consent"-fae
[ Trim your Bush ]
[ Parent ]
"nice" isn't exactly the word I'd use. (none / 0) (#71)
by seebs on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 03:43:10 PM EST

"nice" doesn't quite fit. "Morally necessary" sounds about right.

Mea culpa. I botched. With any luck, at least you found my futile attempts at justifying my behavior amusing. :)

[ Parent ]
that's hardly a troll. (none / 0) (#40)
by rebelcool on Sat Feb 09, 2002 at 06:51:21 PM EST

I suggest you learn what a troll is. I don't agree with that sort of rating idea, but what do you care? It's a website where ratings don't mean a damn thing for the most part.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

troll (none / 0) (#42)
by truth versus death on Sat Feb 09, 2002 at 07:48:14 PM EST

I think you have mistaken my argument as being his rating is a troll. On the contrary, his post I was replying to wherein he makes the completely baseless argument:

The same reason I rate posts 0 any time they have no logical content, no reasoning, nothing but "mommy mommy make them stop being mean to me".

You made no points. You said nothing new. You offered no support. Your posts had *ZERO* informational content. Thus, "zero ratings".

You will notice that I did not rate *all* posts on the topic that disagree with me as zeros. There are reasons to dislike what Best Buy did. You did not present any of them.


...is what I consider the troll.

"any erection implies consent"-fae
[ Trim your Bush ]
[ Parent ]
Informational content? (4.50 / 2) (#41)
by roystgnr on Sat Feb 09, 2002 at 07:01:36 PM EST

I saw:
  • The theory that buying from Best Buy prevented those customers from patronizing competitors.
  • The fact that the Best Buy transactions were actually accepted purchases, not just advertisements.
You may not agree with these statements (I see some problems with them as well), but they aren't spam, they aren't trolling, they are serious. And because you disagree, you don't want other people to even be able to read them? That's ridiculous.

I'm sure someone else will quickly unhide your comments that I marked to zero, but I hope they wait long enough that you can appreciate the irony.

[ Parent ]

Oops! (none / 0) (#45)
by seebs on Sat Feb 09, 2002 at 09:58:08 PM EST

I just realized, I had totally forgotten that zero isn't just "a little less than a 1".

Ugh. I was writing you a little article about how I couldn't see your point, but then I re-read the FAQ. OOPS!

Mea culpa.


[ Parent ]
Amusingly enough... (none / 0) (#72)
by seebs on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 03:47:48 PM EST

At least one person has now gone through and rated all my comments 1, presumably on the grounds that the best possible way to teach people not to abuse the system is to abuse the system even more. *sigh*. No matter how childish, confused, or wrong I get, there's always someone even more childish, and even more wrong.



[ Parent ]
OOPS! (none / 0) (#46)
by seebs on Sat Feb 09, 2002 at 10:00:32 PM EST

Someone just caught my error; I'd forgotten that 0 was a magic number. Mea culpa. I've gone back and given them more reasonable ratings; I still think they're badly written, but 0 was, indeed, quite clearly wrong.


[ Parent ]
Nobody reads small print (2.00 / 1) (#43)
by Jel on Sat Feb 09, 2002 at 09:13:45 PM EST

Nobody reads small print before buying. Therefore, it shouldn't be recognised as legally binding.

It's a simple matter to ensure that prices change after a certain amount of orders have been received. Or even to say ".. on first 500 orders. You will be informed if this offer has sold out." In fact, I'm gonna go implement such a feature in my cart right now.

They miscalculated, and lost money. Those are the breaks in business.


[ Parent ]
Re: Nobody reads small print (3.00 / 1) (#51)
by mrbkap on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 12:01:42 AM EST

Nobody reads small print before buying. Therefore, it shouldn't be recognised as legally binding.

How about this: nobody follows the speed limit, therefore it should be abolished. This is the same type of idea. Just because it's small and is not clearly marked doesn't mean that it shouldn't count. It is important in many cases (such as this). And it is there for you to read, so why not read it?
-mrbkap
[ Parent ]

Small print != Big F*ck Off Sign (5.00 / 1) (#63)
by Jel on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 01:28:45 PM EST

No, small print is designed to be unnoticable. They hide it away at the bottom of the page, and hope you won't get out of the buying mood by stopping to read it.

A big sign at eye level on the side of the road, that driving lessons teach us all to pay close attention too doesn't really fall into the same category.

The fact is, people like to trust each other, whether it's sensible or not. To me, business dealings should legally be required to follow the basic level honesty and decency that the common person expects to be present.
...lend your voices only to sounds of freedom. No longer lend your strength to that which you wish to be free from. Fill your lives with love and bravery, and we shall lead a life uncommon
- Jewel, Life Uncommon
[ Parent ]
Yep...they treat customers right... (4.00 / 8) (#31)
by enry on Sat Feb 09, 2002 at 02:57:42 PM EST

I bought a TV from BB two years ago. When I got it home, there was no remote, and there was a form inside indicating the TV was not new and was previously repaired. After I plugged it in and turned it on, the power supply blew. Okay, so I call best buy, wait 30 minutes for the manager, and demand a new TV to be delivered. Mgr says okay, arranges a shipping date and it's all fine. Ship date comes, ship date goes. Get a call from BB saying the TV is now out of stock. Took the TV back and got a refund after I pointed out to them that selling a used TV as new is illegal. Bought a new one (that still works) from Sears 20 minutes later.

I won't buy anything worth more than $50 from them.

My experience with Best Buy (4.66 / 3) (#47)
by Secret Coward on Sat Feb 09, 2002 at 10:06:10 PM EST

I don't shop at Best Buy anymore. Unlike you, I didn't boycott them after one bad sale. They sold me a defective VCR, which I brought back and got a replacement. They charged me twice for another item. So I went to their customer service desk and had the second charge refunded. They charged me double the listed price on another item. So I went to their customer service desk and had that charge corrected. I bought a Chrismas gift, send in for the mail-in rebate, but never got it. All of this happened within six months and accounts for over half of my purchases at Best Buy during that time.

My brother bought a defective microwave from Best Buy. Then he bought a defective TV. Best Buy also sold a defective TV to another one of my brothers. My sister took her computer there and had one of her CDs stolen. Due to her job, she still shops at Best Buy frequently, and she frequently complains about getting ripped off. I just tell her she should shop elsewhere.

Is this just a weird coincidence, or have other people had similar experiences.

[ Parent ]

The Lone BBY Rep (3.00 / 2) (#69)
by sykmind on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 02:56:50 PM EST

I am a BBY associate, and all I can say is that mistakes happen. We try to correct any mistakes that come up, and I feel we are usually very accomadating. I am just a lowly prod-specialist so I have no real power, but I have heard these types of stories before. Other than the CD incident and the rebate not being mailed back (was it a Best Buy rebate or a manufacturer rebate?) it seems that BBY accepted responsibility and fixed the problems.

[ Parent ]
cancellation notice (4.50 / 8) (#33)
by freshgroundpepper on Sat Feb 09, 2002 at 03:56:38 PM EST

I was one of the ones who ordered at this price. 2 days later I recieved the following cancellation notice from Todd Schoen [Todd.Schoen@bestbuy.com] a best buy representative. I feel that this is a breach of contract and that they should honor the price. I would understand their position if it was simply a typo (ex offering it for 39.99 instead of 399.99), but the offer did say a $200 savings as well as how it was a pre-order special. I've spent literally thousands of dollars at best buy (I'd guess about 4k a year average for the past 10 years). If they don't honor this, all of that business will be going to their competitors.

-FGP

Here is the cancellation notice:


      Dear Best Buy Customer,

      Thank you for your recent graphics card order.
      A recent systems error on our web site allowed you to purchase the VisionTek GeForce4 Ti 4600 Graphics Card at $129.99. The actual price for this item is $399.99. Due to the nature of this error, we will be canceling your order for this item. We apologize for any disappointment this cancellation may cause.
      We would like to inform you that the error has been fixed, and if you are still interested in ordering this product, please visit http://www.bestbuy.com/ComputersPeripherals/details.asp?e=11099619&m=488&cat
=521&scat=522 <http://www.bestbuy.com/ComputersPeripherals/details.asp?e=11099619&m=488&ca
t=521&scat=522> to place your order again. This card is available as a special pre-order. It will begin shipping on 3/4/2002.

      Thank you for your understanding. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns.

      Best wishes from Best Buy,
      The Customer Care Team

That's Odd (4.00 / 2) (#35)
by great throwdini on Sat Feb 09, 2002 at 05:24:34 PM EST

I was one of the ones who ordered [...] 2 days later I recieved [sic] the following cancellation notice.

Strange, I would assume that they would manage to churn out all the return emails within a day:

Received: from xxxx
by xxxx with ESMTP id g17L9Pu17441
for <xxxx>; Thu, 7 Feb 2002 16:09:25 -0500 (EST)
Received: from tag2.bestbuy.com (tag2.BestBuy.com [205.215.216.67])
by xxxx with ESMTP id g17L9N302038
for <xxxx>; Thu, 7 Feb 2002 16:09:24 -0500
Received: from ds01filt.bestbuy.com ([168.94.4.196])
by tag2.bestbuy.com (8.9.3/8.9.3) with SMTP id PAA09169
for <xxxx>; Thu, 7 Feb 2002 15:09:22 -0600 (CST)
Received: from 168.94.28.97 by ds01filt.bestbuy.com with ESMTP (
Tumbleweed MMS SMTP Relay (MMS v4.7)); Thu, 07 Feb 2002 15:09:14 -0600
X-Server-Uuid: 34700ffa-72d0-429b-b38a-825a3bad50df
Received: by cs20mail.bestbuy.com with Internet Mail Service (
5.5.2653.19) id <12JT3WZ5>; Thu, 7 Feb 2002 15:09:10 -0600
Message-ID: <08DB0CA58DD08049AF4DE785EC2A857F018FF0AE@cs17mail.bestbuy.com>
From: "BestBuy.com Customer Care" <OnlineStore@BestBuy.com>
To:
Subject:
Date: Thu, 7 Feb 2002 15:08:56 -0600
[...]

Dear Best Buy Customer,

Thank you for your recent graphics card order. A recent systems error on our web site allowed you to purchase the VisionTek GeForce4 Ti 4600 Graphics Card at $129.99...

It even looks like they rushed delivery, as the email received completely lacked a subject line. Silly customer service reps...



[ Parent ]
No-one's mentioned Kodak yet... (4.20 / 5) (#49)
by gidds on Sat Feb 09, 2002 at 10:31:45 PM EST

Here in the UK Kodak are in a lot of trouble for a very similar incident: their web site offered the DX3700 digicam for 100, and thousands of people ordered it.  The price should have been 329, and when Kodak realised, they cancelled all the orders.  However, one of the would-be customers organised a protest on his web site.  They threatened legal action, and a few days later Kodak changed their minds and decided to honour all the orders.

The main legal arguments that were made (but not tested in court) were:

  • Although the advertised 100 price is only an `offer to treat' and not binding, Kodak's confirmation of the order constituted acceptance and entered into a contract with the customer.
  • What with the `discount' and `special price' notices, it wasn't obvious to customers that the price was a mistake.
Obviously, legal details will differ between the UK and USA, but if Best Buy had issued order confirmations, then perhaps they'd be binding too?

Andy/
Depends on your definition of "order confirma (4.00 / 2) (#50)
by n8f8 on Sat Feb 09, 2002 at 10:49:37 PM EST

Even now when I check my order on BestBuy.com the order status in my account reads "In Processing" on one page and "On Order" on another even though they emailed me the order cancellation notice.

The US has many laws covering consumer fraud, fair business practices and such, but I'm not sure where this situation falls. It certainly doesn't help that the only thing we have heard from Best Buy is the cancellation notice claiming a "system error" that hardly seems plausible given the evidence.

If we were talking about a generic web catalog where you simply had a list of items and prices and a price was typed in incorrectly it would be feasible that it was purely a mistake. But the elaborate advertising claiming a "$200 savings" and a special page devoted to the offer makes me think otherwise.

More plausible scenarios would be either a HUGE misunderstanding between BB's management and the team working on the website or maybe they intended to offer the special for a limited time (say between 9AM and 1230PM) and they got many more orders than they expected.

Sig: (This will get posted after your comments)
[ Parent ]
Updates (4.00 / 3) (#54)
by n8f8 on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 04:16:36 AM EST

Steve over at Hypothermia has added some new information including links to related incident with Buy.com & Kodak, an article covering the issue of Brick and Mortar versus e-busniesses and a scan of a print advertisement from Best Buy selling the card for $179 (dated Feb 9).

Overclockers.com is taking readers input on the issue and is set to post a story on monday slamming people for wanting Best Buy to honor the deal.

Sig: (This will get posted after your comments)

Further Updates (none / 0) (#75)
by great throwdini on Mon Feb 11, 2002 at 09:08:39 PM EST

After re-entering video card preorders into the purchase queues (i.e., making the preorders valid again) and then cancelling them again, Best Buy sends out the following email:

Dear Best Buy Customer,

We sincerely apologize for the error in your recent pre-order of the VisionTek Xtasy GeForce4 Graphics Accelerator. Because we value you as a BestBuy.com customer, we would like to offer you a $30 digital coupon to use on your next online purchase.

Click here to redeem this coupon or visit our homepage, click on Redeem Coupons, and enter and redeem the following code before February 28th, 2002:

[coupon code]

If you have received a backorder email notification from us, please disregard the backorder email notification, your original order of this graphics accelerator has been cancelled. We apologize for any disappointment this cancellation may cause.

Thank you for your understanding. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns.

Best wishes from Best Buy, The Customer Care Team

(Coupon can only be used one time and must be redeemed by 11:59 p.m. CST 2/28/02. Coupon cannot be redeemed for gift card purchases. Redeemable online only. Coupon cannot be replaced if lost or stolen. Not redeemable for cash. Valid major credit card required for online purchases. Not valid as payment on the Best Buy credit card.)

As sent through Best Buy's direct email marketer, CheetahMail, who were kind enough to enable cookie tracking for the email drop.



[ Parent ]
good story....... but (1.50 / 2) (#55)
by Lelon on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 05:23:04 AM EST

you should post these "good buy" sites you say you frequent every day. i'm interested.....


----
This sig is a work in progress.
I did (none / 0) (#56)
by n8f8 on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 05:49:03 AM EST

Here

Sig: (This will get posted after your comments)
[ Parent ]
Stop Whining (4.00 / 5) (#64)
by malikcoates on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 01:36:05 PM EST

So you thought you could get a free lunch and now you are crying because it didn't happen?

What exactly are you accusing Best Buy of? There are four options I can see:

  1. Breach of contract
  2. Bait-and-Switch
  3. Credit Card Fraud
  4. An error in the ad

Breach of Contract
I see many posts here saying that Best Buy should honor the contract the entered into once the offer was accepted. Even if you do look at this offer in terms of a contract, Best Buy still has the right to not honor the contract. Legal details will depend on what state the transaction occured in, but in general all you can do is sue them for monetary damages. Did you have any monetary damage? Can you document it? I doubt your "emotional pain and suffering" claim will succeed.

Bait-and-Switch
The other most common complaint is that this is false advertising and as such it's illegal. This might be actually true and so you might be able to get something out of it. There is a big problem with claiming bait-and-switch, though. It will be your responsibility to prove that the offer was intentionally made in bad faith. Unless you come up with docs to prove it, or someone inside of Best Buy who says it was intentional this will be impossible to prove

Credit Card Fraud
It seems that some people had $129 reserved on a credit card, and some actually had it charged. Credit Cards are not supposed to be charged until the product is actually shipping, so it sounds like there could be a claim here. But if everyone has already been reimbursed and a letter of apology has been sent out what more can be done to redress the error? An error like this might get Best Buy into trouble with Visa, but it still will not get you the card for $129.

An error in the Ad
Often stores will honor advertisement errors just for the sake of keeping the customer happy. After all happy customers = return business from that customer plus free positive word of mouth (instead of negative ). They think even if take a loss here, the positive feeling toward them will help them make up for it in the long run. In this case, the ad was copied to a lot of tech websites so the volume of the order may just be too much for Best Buy to even consider taking the loss. If you are going to try to convince Best Buy to honor the deal, your best bet is to use this arguement.


IANAL but ... (5.00 / 3) (#66)
by n8f8 on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 02:17:19 PM EST

First, Here is a link to coverage of a similar case: Buy.com

Second, here is the legal definition of Bait-and-switch as codified in16 CFR PART 238

Third, here is a decent overview of false advertising from a law firm

Third, and I think most important: If fair trade is meaningless on the Internet and companies are free to state any TOS they want abridging fair trade then I take serious issue .

ANY contract as an instrument is meaningless if one party can make up whatever silly rules they want and is never held accountable for its actions or practices. How are consumers to feel confident in online commerce if there are no standards. I may even agree that due to the potentially huge impact of a retailer's actions on the internet this could mean a lower bar being set than that applied to brick and mortar retailers. A simple typo is one thing but this instance goes beyond that with the elaborate nature of the advertisement and other details.

Sig: (This will get posted after your comments)
[ Parent ]

Integrity of e-business (none / 0) (#77)
by dbc001 on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 02:17:35 PM EST

While there is no doubt that many of the buyers had questionable ethics and knew that they were taking advantage of Best Buy, the larger question here is what happens to the integrity of e-business when the media begins to publicize this. This says to Joe Sixpack that if you buy something online, you wont necessarily get it - the online advertisement means nothing (if Best Buy wins this).

Also, if Best Buy wins, many other online shops may attempt to cash in by trying to pull scams and claim that they were simply mistakes. So I would guess that even those who knew they were taking advantage of BB may still have a case.

Finally, there are a crapload of dumbass politicians who might see this as an opportunity to show that they support the average consumer, and show support for e-business at the same time.

-dbc

Too Good To Be True | 77 comments (60 topical, 17 editorial, 0 hidden)
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