Hey, That's My Cape!: Amazon to Geeks, "My bad."

Posted at 10:00 AM Mar 10, 2010

By Jill Pantozzi


Amazon, I hope you're prepared to fight like the fierce ladies you share a name with, because you've just made a butt-load of new enemies. You may have heard of them, they're called geeks. Also, nerds, dorks and the people who run the world. Kindle is great and all, but you just screwed yourself.

Amazon had a massive ... let's call it "sale" ... on a large number of comic book omnibuses (omnibi?), trade paperbacks and other assorted collections over the weekend. I'm talking books that run close to, if not over $100 being offered for $14.99 or less. Comic fans placed orders in droves, most purchasing hundreds of dollars in merchandise. And then, Amazon noticed a glitch in the matrix and *poof* orders started disappearing overnight. Did they think we wouldn't notice?

Then, Amazon issued an automated response to thousands of customers and things started getting heated: "Unfortunately, due to a pricing error, we sold many more than expected. In fact, we completely sold out -- we don't have any in stock right now, and we're not even sure if we'll be able to get more." So it was a mistake, not an actual sale? Hmm. Even though some of the sale books were pre-orders and therefore cannot actually sell out. Interesting. "As a result, we've had to cancel your order. I realize this is disappointing news, and I'm so sorry for any inconvenience this causes. I'm sorry I don't have better news. We hope to see you again soon." Guys, I think Amazon just told us to suck it.

No one likes paying full price if they can help it, but geeks aren't taking this one lying down. Soon after the debacle hit the internet, the hashtag #honoryourprice popped up on Twitter with comic readers complaining about their lost orders. From what I've read, a few orders managed to go through and I've heard very few accounts of gift certificates being offered to those who complain to the company directly.

Of course, some good may come out of the giant corporation's mistake. Smaller online retailers and local comic shops are taking advantage by holding #notaglitch sales. Please, go spend your money with them instead of making Amazon offer us up a blood sacrifice.


Dan Slott said:

Quick update. Amazon is now running around giving a $25 credit to people with canceled orders as a mea culpa. Which was pretty nice of 'em. :)

Darryl Adams said:

In soviet Australia, the Trade Practices Act would actually hammer Amazon with a big brick, as this practice is specifically illegal. The ACCC (our price watchdog) has a good history of enforcing sales at advertised prices. I would not be supprised that an action could be launched here or in Europe, dispite any Amazon EULA, and nail Amazon to the wall. Someone would have to have bought the items first though in Eur or Aus.....

Jill aka The Nerdy Bird said:

I didn't order anything, can I get a $25 gift card too since they're being so generous?

Rebelcomix said:

Its funny how so many people have taken this lying down. I'm not one to advocate suing, but legally it's their mistake. They have a legal obligation to honor it. PERIOD. And I don't buy the "no chance of us getting new ones in stock" line. As a business, they have a responsibility to make sure that their listings are correct.

Amber said:

I wondered why people were tweeting about gift cards.

mkhall said:

Actually, you'd be surprised how few laws there are governing this sort of thing. There isn't any law saying a retailer must honor an advertised price unless a clear intent to defraud the public is found. At the major department store where I used to work we ran an ad listing a $299.99 cookware set for $9.99. Customers put up a fuss, but since it was a mistake all we legally had to do is say we were sorry for the error. Had someone actually sued us they all we would need to do is show the ad mock-up indicating the intended price and we would have been in the clear.

This isn't the first time Amazon has messed up like this. (Check Metafilter.com for a classic example.) They're offering credits to those who ask as a PR gesture, which is really a pretty nice thing since they have no legal obligation in the US to do so.

Oh, for the record, I Am Not A Lawyer.

Jon M. Wilson said:

I can see both points of view, but Amazon needs to live up to their mistakes. The $25 credit is a nice way to compensate, though.

And by the way, it's correctly said "omnibuses". :)


ktsssssmith said:

In Canada, they'd have to honour it or pay a big whacking fine--if anyone got around to complaining to our Ministry of Consumer and Commerical Affairs which is pretty good with investigating these kind of things. It's called bait and switch...they can complain abt their computer system all they want, but it's the system they choose to use, and it's their obligation to make sure it's correct.

matty719 said:

No blood, no foul. Per Amazon's Terms of Service, the sale isn't officially enacted until the item ships. It was a glitch, we all knew it was a glitch and Amazon corrected it. Did anyone actually lose anything because of this?

javier j said:

This happens ALL THE TIME in their DVD and Video game section. It's a misspriced item and as soon as the internet floods the orders they notice it.

You really shouldn't complain about it. Sometimes they honor it, if it's small enough, and sometimes they don't.

Did you really expect to get $100 books for $14.99? I mean, come on.. seriously?

Jim Woods said:

Wow, most impressive dude, I really like it a lot.


Mike said:

Reminds me of the late 90's when amazon and buy.com would regularly screw up prices. They honored the prices for a little while, but began cancelling orders after a while. They then began to capitalize on their failures by offering a "price mistake of the day" deal.

Fripple said:

Those nerds are jerks! = http://bit.ly/cpQK18

ben said:

Waaaaa! Waaaaaa! Oh, woe is me, Amazon screwed up and won't GIVE ME $85! I think I'm going to sue!!!!!!@1!

Travis said:

Stop your damn belly aching! Amazon has no legal obligation whatsoever to honor the price mistake. They specifically account for this kind of thing in their terms of service. Bottom line, you just got excited like a little kid about something that didn't happen. GROW. THE FUCK. UP.

SomeGuyPassingBy said:

Entitlement issues anyone?
What of bunch of whiners you are.

Maybe they actually made a mistake (obviously), and didn't notice it until the numbers spiked (of course). If you made a similar mistake, wouldn't you say "sorry, my bad", and then move on?

I think the $25 credit is most friendly of them.

Will said:

As a dork, I really don't like the way you group me in with your righteous consumerism. Honestly, you're writing this like its a speech at a civil rights movement. They sold out, Get Over It.

Steave said:

"'As a result, we've had to cancel your order. I realize this is disappointing news, and I'm so sorry for any inconvenience this causes. I'm sorry I don't have better news. We hope to see you again soon.' Guys, I think Amazon just told us to suck it."

Is the whole 'communication' thing new to you Jil1 Pantozzi? How you interpret that statement to mean "suck it," I have no idea. How this article made it onto digg, I have no idea. Good luck on your high school proficiency tests.

Jack said:

It's ok, Amazon just made a funny.

Jill aka The Nerdy Bird said:

Thank you folks, I'll be here all week!

Actually, I think it's plenty generous of Amazon to give the gift certificates to everyone. I still expect to get one for doing nothing. ::crosses fingers::

Steave huh? Now I understand why you spelled Jill with a 1.

Jon Stump said:

I'm not sure if anyone heard, but I saw a few instances on twitter where someone tried to use their gift certs for this and they didn't apply. Amazon continues to make this a bloody mess.

James said:

I wonder if there was a notable spike in sales of asthma inhalants during this debacle.

Jonathan said:

This actually happens all the time and it's not against the law because you accept it when you register for the Amazon site. If you read the "Terms of Service" agreement it states somewhere in there that the company isn't liable for pricing errors, which as the costumer you accepted when you registered and click the little check box. I've had multiple ordered cancelled by Amazon before. You just have to suck it up and realize that you're not going to get your 90% discount.

Seminymous Coward said:

Dell routinely does worse, to the point that many suspect they use "price errors" to stress-test their ordering systems.In any case, I've never had Amazon be anything but upright in its dealings with me, even when facilitating third party sales.

Jacob Vardy said:

Interesting, i wonder if a class action will get up? Australia, Canada and the UK all have pretty strict laws against this. And the Australian Trade Practices Act explicitly rules out ToS and EULA exceptions.

When i was a kid i got my first Nintendo like this. Big W advertised it at $49.95 instead of $149.95. And they had to sell it at that price.

RobP said:

Jacob Vardy, retail stores that price match like that (at least in the U.S.) usually do it for customer service reasons. If you look at the fine print in most ads, they all state that the store isn't responsible for mis-priced items, but that doesn't mean the store itself won't honor the price, just to ensure you become, or continue to be, a return customer. Stores can sell their products for any price they want, ads be damned. It's just good business not to screw your customers too much.

As for the Amazon debacle, it's so much ado about nothing. No money exchanged hands, as Amazon doesn't charge you until your order is shipped, so them giving these customers the gift certificates is, again, just good business. They don't have to honor any price they don't want to. Now, had they already charged their customers and then tried to adjust that charge after-the-fact, then they'd be setting themselves up for huge lawsuits. This is precisely why they don't charge you until they ship your order (also, so you have time to cancel).

This is why the internet isn't a slam dunk. Also, jerk offs who call people names just for having a different opinion/perspective. Ugh.

Popi said:

Seems like the company messed up big time. Imagine all the anxiety it must have caused the potential buyers! Are they going to cover therapy fees, too?

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