Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
The Almighty Buck

Amazon Adjusts Prices After Sales Error 756

Posted by kdawson
from the double-dipping dept.
An anonymous reader writes "On December 23, Amazon advertised a 'buy one get one free' sale on DVD box-sets, but apparently did not test the promotion before going live. When anyone placed two box-sets in their cart, the website gave a double discount — so the 'grand total' shown (before order submission) was $0.00 or some very small amount. Despite terms stating that Amazon checks order prices before shipping, Amazon shipped a large number of these orders. Five days later (December 28), after orders had been received and presumably opened, Amazon emailed customers advising them to return the box-sets unopened or their credit cards would be charged an additional amount (more threads). Starting yesterday, Amazon has been (re)charging credit cards, often without authorization. On Amazon's side, they didn't advertise any double discount, and the free or nearly-free box-sets must have cost them a mint. But with Amazon continually giving unadvertised discounts that seem to be errors, is 'return the merchandise or be charged' the new way that price glitches will be handled?"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Amazon Adjusts Prices After Sales Error

Comments Filter:
  • The wise customer (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ktappe (747125) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @10:10AM (#18022860)
    (Morality aside,) Wise customers either cancelled their credit cards or placed blocks on Amazon being able to charge them.
    • Re:The wise customer (Score:5, Informative)

      by hack slash (1064002) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @10:15AM (#18022916)
      Amazon are comitting fraud if they don't have permission to take the money. Morally the people should pay but legally they don't have to. Anyone remember the Dixons £100 Kodak cameras some years ago? At least one person bought a whole bunch of them in the hope Dixons would cough up, they did and the person(s) sold the cameras on eBay and used the money to buy a top-notch camera. It seems companies aren't being so nice anymore when it comes to cock-ups they themselves make.
      • by Gr8Apes (679165) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @10:22AM (#18023016)
        All the consumer has to do is refuse the charge. Once charged, billed and shipped, the transaction is done.

        Amazon committing a charge after the transaction has completed should be considered fraud and treated as such.
        • by Ecuador (740021) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @11:25AM (#18023958) Homepage
          Amazon is the one big corporation I have found that cares about its customers. Many times they have swallowed return shipping for heavy items way after their 30 day limit (just by asking them politely), and they routinely adjust your charge if they lower their prices (send email) etc.

          So, let's get back to the issue. People saw on various threads on the net "Amazon Price Mistake!" logged on to Amazon and started ordering away, hoping their orders will get through. Probably the ebayers were the fist to take advantage of this. Now it was obvious to them that it was an error in the final cost calculation, as the promo rules were clear. There were even threads about the ethics of this on the various fora such as DVD Talk.

          Amazon does send many of these orders (my guess is many thousands) and when they realize it they apologise and they ask to pay return shipping to get them back or to charge the right amount. Then people start acusing Amazon.

          Wow. Just wow. I think because the general rule is to hate big corporations, we applaud people who try to steal from them? Yes, I would consider it stealing if you try to take advantage of a price mistake (especially if you do it to make money off ebay) AND you complain when the merchant wants to correct it. Yes, if the big corporation does not loose a lot of money, they will not bother you about it (consider it something like advertisment costs) and you would be fine with your conscience. But the fact that Amazon (with the amazing IMHO CS record) asks this, it meens that way too many people took advantage of this (I would bet most not for personal use) that they have to cut back their losses.

          Now, IANAL, but I have read many times on slashdot about cases such as the one with the animal (I forgot, was it cow or horse or sth?) that was cheap for meat but was not sterile after all so the court annuled the low price contract. In the animal case the buyer did not even know more than the seller - it was just luck - while with the Amazon situation the buyers were aware of the mistake on the seller part, something which makes the case simpler to me.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by HuckleCom (690630)
            Agreed, I think perhaps the return shipment fees should be on Amazon's dime - that way the are immunized from blame of some sort of scam. When it's online I think certain rules apply, and "send it back or be charged" is definately justified.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Ecuador (740021)
              Yes, if you read the email it is on Amazon's dime. As I said, they have been extremely reasonable with me in numerous occasions.
            • by Shakrai (717556) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @05:06PM (#18029696) Journal

              When it's online I think certain rules apply, and "send it back or be charged" is definately justified.

              It doesn't matter if it's justified or not. It's most likely a violation of their agreement with the credit card processing company and it's certainly a violation of the customer. If I agree to a $100 invoice and approve the charge on my card they can't later change that to $200 because they screwed up.

              All that said, I have a lot of respect for Amazon and have done a lot of business with them. It's pretty low to take advantage of their mistake like this. But it was their mistake and that doesn't mean that they get to change the rules and start charging peoples cards after the fact.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by dthable (163749)
            From the legal side:

            The buyer (customers) clearly knew that this deal was too good and an error. Any reasonable person would think so. In this case, the buyer is at fault for knowingly taking advantage of the seller (Amazon) and the seller's unintended sale at this discount. Any judge would find in favor of the seller in this situation. You can use the law to protect yourself but you can't use it to inflict undue harm on to others.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by jedidiah (1196)
              I dunno. Amazon are big boys. They have lots of professionals working
              for them and they only have to worry about policing a single storefront.
              They really should be expected to be able to manage their own business.
              If they are unable or unwilling to catch their own "mistakes" before
              their customers do then they should have to eat the loss.

              Also, it is not a given that those that benefit from the error are acting
              in bad faith. Not everyone lingers on Slashdot or Digg all day waiting for
              this stuff to come up.
            • by badasscat (563442) <basscadet75@@@yahoo...com> on Thursday February 15, 2007 @12:46PM (#18025232)
              The buyer (customers) clearly knew that this deal was too good and an error. Any reasonable person would think so. In this case, the buyer is at fault for knowingly taking advantage of the seller (Amazon) and the seller's unintended sale at this discount. Any judge would find in favor of the seller in this situation.

              Doubtful. The FTC considers an order "properly completed" when payment is made based on the invoice price. At that point, no unilateral changes can be made - it's a binding contract accepted by both sides. (Mail order companies are free to make price changes and correct mistakes *before* a card is charged and the order shipped, but not after.)

              I'm not exactly sure how or when orders with an invoice price of "0.00" are considered properly completed, but I would guess at the time the order ships. That would constitute acceptance of the contract. Obviously, any order shipped based on some "small amount" (as mentioned in the article summary) would be properly completed at the time of the original charge.

              I don't see that legally Amazon has much of a leg to stand on here. You can't assume every customer was knowingly out to rip off Amazon, and even if they were, it was Amazon's mistake in not catching their own pricing error before completing these orders. It would be one thing if they put a stop on all the orders before shipping and emailed everybody that they'd need to adjust the prices - that happens all the time, and is the legal way to fix mistakes - but that's not what happened here. Amazon legally accepted these orders as correct and shipped the merchandise. At that point, the legal onus is no longer on the customer.
              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by pruss (246395)
                IANAL, but I thought that for a legally binding contract, something valuable must be offered by both sides. If I tell you that I will give you $100 with no strings attached, there is no legal contract there. (Of course, I've made a promise and so I am morally bound. But that's different.)
                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by Skreems (598317)
                  Ah, but that's BEFORE the transaction. If you then follow through and GIVE me $100, you can't come back a week later and say, "Remember that $100 I gave you? Well, I didn't mean to, and I want it back now." Well, you can say it, but you have no legal recourse to demand it back. Once ownership is transferred, it's a done deal. In this case, Amazon went through the standard order process, and just happened to come up with a $0.00 charge on some orders. That's their mistake. They can ask nicely for the people
              • It's UCC, not FTC (Score:5, Informative)

                by unassimilatible (225662) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @02:20PM (#18026776) Journal
                The UCC [cornell.edu] is controlling, and it places a duty of good faith and fair dealing on every sales of goods contract (both consumer and merchant). I think it is is a losing argument for a customer claim he thought that Amazon meant to give him two DVDs for free. You know it's a mistake, so you aren't being fair and honest. BTW, a breach of the duty of good faith can carry punitive damages. Plus, I'd guess that Amazon has a policy on this in the contract you agree to when you sign up with them.



                I am a lawyer but not your lawyer. Do not rely on this, as it is not legal advice, but merely another /. poster pretending to be an expert on something.

            • by Fred_A (10934) <fred&fredshome,org> on Thursday February 15, 2007 @12:50PM (#18025308) Homepage
              It seems to me that you're confusing the law and morality. I don't know where you got into your head that one had anything to do with the other...
          • by rhakka (224319) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @12:12PM (#18024728)
            I'm sorry, that's total BS.

            If I charge my client a price for an item or service, and they stand up to their end of our bargin, I must stand up for my end... period.

            If I accidentally give them a quote with no shipping costs on it, for example... well, I eat shipping on that order.

            If I quote them a price on a special order item, then go to order it and realize the price I had was old, well, that's my fault too, not my customers. We made a deal, and they lived up to their end of it.

            Going back after the fact to revise the terms of your deal is not only fraudulent, but opens the door to huge amount of intentional fraud. A contract would have no legitamacy at all... "whups, sorry, I messed up, let's rewrite the deal".

            I'm sorry, if you cannot be bothered to keep your own systems in order, you pay the price of failure. Amazon has no right and should have no expectation whatsoever that a single one of those customers would or should return what they purchased, fairly, for a price Amazon told them was good. Period.
            • by MoneyT (548795) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @12:45PM (#18025214) Journal
              But the deal wasnt two free box sets, the deal was BUY ONE (at regular price) and GET ONE free. This is more akin to you printing up a quote for something that's say $8001 and not realizing when you printed it out and handed it to your customer that the printer glitched and the middle line is missing from the 8 so the price reads $0001. Should your buyer be able to get away with taking advantage of the printer error? Why is it we piss and moan when companies act immoral and stick to the exact letter of laws and policies and then cheer and applaud when consumers do the same?
              • by Khuffie (818093) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @12:53PM (#18025388) Homepage
                This isn't the same. Looking at the flyer with a printer error doesn't make you cough up the cash. When you go to the store, the clerk there can telll you there was a printing error, the price is actually $8001, and to apologize for the inconvenience. In fact, these things happen often, and you tend to see correction notices posted around the store if such a thing happens. In this case, you haven't paid for the product, received it and opened it. Which is what's happening with Amazon. They are charging you because of a mistake on their end AFTER the transaction has been completed and you have received the item.
              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by hackstraw (262471) *
                But the deal wasnt two free box sets, the deal was BUY ONE (at regular price) and GET ONE free.

                That is irrelevant. Actually, the deal was $X was to be charged to your credit card for items, Y & Z. A deal is very specific. Specific products at a certain price at a certain time under certain conditions.

                Think about rebates. The price they advertise is not the price you pay at the register. That is the difference between what you pay at your register and what you get as a check from the rebate at a ce
            • by spun (1352) <loverevolutionary@nOSpam.yahoo.com> on Thursday February 15, 2007 @12:49PM (#18025296) Journal
              You go in to a big-box store. You see a special two-for one advertised and buy the products. When you get to the register the clerk mis-rings it, punching in the wrong amount. Do you A.) Politely notify the clerk of their mistake and pay the difference, or B.) Walk out knowing you just got away with not paying what you expected to.

              I know what I'd do. Even though I hate big, faceless corporations, I'd pay. I wouldn't even think about it. That's just the way I was raised, I guess. Would I do the same thing on Amazon? I'd like to say yes, because I think the morality is pretty clear, but I'm actually unsure of what I would have done in this situation. The real difference is looking somone in the face and knowing, "hey, this person will probably get shit if I do this and their boss finds out." Without that immediate, person to person contact, the urge to put one over on a big corporation when no one will get hurt is pretty tempting.

              • by nasch (598556) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @02:02PM (#18026484)

                You see a special two-for one advertised and buy the products. When you get to the register the clerk mis-rings it, punching in the wrong amount. Do you A.) Politely notify the clerk of their mistake and pay the difference, or B.) Walk out knowing you just got away with not paying what you expected to.
                One time I went to a restaurant to get some take-out. It was their first day in business, and the cashier handed me my food and said "no charge". I said, "really?" (thus giving them an opportunity to correct a mistake or say just kidding), got confirmation that the food was free, and left. I would have been quite upset if they had then charged my credit card for the food without asking me (on principle, not because I can't afford it). This is exactly the same situation - Amazon told the customer "no charge" and shipped the product, and now they're charging without authorization. The only difference is there's no cashier, just software, so nobody to ask "did you get that price right?" I agree with everyone siding with the customers here. It makes no difference why the customers did what they did; Amazon is committing fraud by charging credit cards without authorization. The most they should be doing is asking the customers to please return the merchandise or accept a charge for X amount. If the customer refuses, leave them alone. Amazon's mistake should be Amazon's loss. Reminds me of what someone said in a movie: "I am altering the deal. Pray I don't alter it any further."
            • by iabervon (1971) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @02:32PM (#18026930) Homepage Journal
              On the other hand, if somebody was actually charged nothing at all, the contract isn't valid, because a contract requires consideration on both sides. At that point, the customer doesn't actually own the DVDs; those are actually still Amazon's DVDs, which they've essentially misplaced. So Amazon has a right to ask for them back (paying shipping, presumably). If they charged the customer something, but less than they meant to, that's their problem, legally. If you get something for nothing, it has to be arranged as a gift, not as a contract. And, if you want to have a strong claim on ownership of something, you have to pay for it, which is why people sell each other used cars for $1 instead of not worrying about money (and the Feynman story about selling patents for a dollar, and demanding the dollar, etc). If you really want, you can sell something for a dollar and cancel the debt, but the deal itself has to not be entirely one-sided to be valid.
          • by julesh (229690) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @12:16PM (#18024790)
            Yes, I would consider it stealing if you try to take advantage of a price mistake (especially if you do it to make money off ebay)

            As would I. I have little sympathy for the people who jumped on this mistake and tried to milk it. But there are people involved here who did not do this, as well. People who just tried to buy stuff, perhaps didn't notice that they had been charged less than they should have been, and then went on to spend the money they would have spent on the DVDs on other stuff. DVDs are luxury items, many of us have quite limited budgets to spend on such things.

            AND you complain when the merchant wants to correct it.

            The merchant is perfectly entitle to correct it, IMO. Here's how they should go about doing this:

            1. Write to the customer, apologising for the problem, and asking them to either (a) pay for the item or (b) fill in a simple form so that Amazon can arrange a convenient time for them to send somebody around to collect the unwanted item, at Amazon's own expense, and with a minimum of inconvenience to the customer.
            2. When, inevitably, large numbers of people do neither of these things, send them an invoice.
            3. When, inevitably, large numbers of people do not pay the invoice, send a notice of recovery of debt in a court of law.
            4. When, inevitably, large numbers of people ignore this letter, take one of them to court, and ask a court whether it believes the money can legally be recovered. If it can, then take the rest to court.



            5. How this is different from what Amazon are doing:

              1. People who have honestly made a mistake, and cannot afford the items they have purchased, should be allowed to return them. The mistake is Amazon's, so it should not inconvenience these people. Amazon are not allowing returns of opened packages, and are not making it as easy as possible for people to return the packages. They should be doing both of these things.
              2. Unexpectedly putting a charge on somebody's credit card could cause them all kinds of hassle, additional charges for going over credit limits, etc. They may not have received the correspondence from Amazon for a variety of reasons, or may just have discarded it as junk mail. These people shouldn't be penalised for Amazon's mistake.
              3. The legal situation is far from clear. As I see it, it may well be that Amazon cannot legally recover this money. For them to use some dubious method to do so anyway would be extremely bad.


              Now, IANAL, but I have read many times on slashdot about cases such as the one with the animal (I forgot, was it cow or horse or sth?) that was cheap for meat but was not sterile after all so the court annuled the low price contract.

              You're probably talking about Sherwood v Walker [pitt.edu]. Note this text:

              Soon after, the plaintiff tendered to Hiram Walker, one of the defendants, $80, and demanded the cow. Walker refused to take the money or deliver the cow.


              The vendor decided to cancel the contract before taking payment, not afterwards. This makes a substantial difference.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            Isn't this basically like the following scenario?

            I walk into a store and pick up a item. I take it to the register. It scans at the wrong price. The cashier doesn't notice. He hands me a receipt, bags my item and wished me a good day. I leave the store. The transaction is complete.

            Personally, If I got outside and realized I hadn't paid for something, I would return to the store and hand over the money due. But could the store, upon realizing their fuckup, unilaterally decide to place a second charge on

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by DM9290 (797337)
            "while with the Amazon situation the buyers were aware of the mistake on the seller part, something which makes the case simpler to me."

            Amazon will eat the cost if anyone refuses to pay or return. I've dealt with amazon before and twice they've sent me the wrong item and I just refused to return it at my expense and Amazon told me to just keep it with their compliments. That is to say: they refunded the purchase price AND let me keep the item.

            They can't correct a mistake by billing your credit card without
      • by StarvingSE (875139) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @10:37AM (#18023254)
        While Amazon.com did make a mistake, the advertised price was buy one get one free. Even though the checkout stated $0.00, it can be argued that the customer agreed to pay for one of those boxed sets.

        While many people have a problem with Amazon, I have had nothing but the best experiences dealing with them. Their customer service has been top notch the one time I have needed them, they ship fast, and they ship for free.

        While it sucks that a mistake was made, I think these customers are being a bit greedy expecting to get "something for nothing." While Amazon represents the "big corporation" and people love to screw with big companies (and some probably deserve it), I think its morally wrong for people to expect to not have to pay for the merchandise received.
        • by MindStalker (22827) <mindstalker @ g mail.com> on Thursday February 15, 2007 @10:43AM (#18023336) Journal
          Well when you click on a product on a website you are not agreeing to buy. The only point in which you agree to buy is AFTER you have entered your CC number and you see a final total and you hit the submit/I agree/whatever button.
          • by Zeinfeld (263942) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @10:54AM (#18023498) Homepage
            Well when you click on a product on a website you are not agreeing to buy. The only point in which you agree to buy is AFTER you have entered your CC number and you see a final total and you hit the submit/I agree/whatever button.

            IANAL but this is certainly what a customer is likely to argue in court. The seller has the responsibility to make sure that the invoice total is correct. No excuses. It is very clear that the final 'accept' button is an offer of a contract.

            Its a losing proposition for Amazon here. They are going to get crucified by chargebacks for the unauthorized purchases.

            The mailings telling people to return the merchandise would appear to risk falling into the category of demanding payment for unsolicited goods. The customer agreed to pay for the goods but for the stated price.

            Just fire the middle manager who you have bungling the remediation on this, eat the ten million or so and move on.

            • Re:The wise customer (Score:4, Informative)

              by BobTheLawyer (692026) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @11:11AM (#18023772)
              Under English common law you're not bound by a contract if you make a mistake on price (or something else) and the other party suspects you're making a mistake and takes advantage of it. Here, I think most people would have realised this was a mistake by Amazon's systems.

              Disclaimer: I've no idea what the position is in the US (and whether it varies State by State). But safe to say your post is not necessarily correct.
              • by TheDawgLives (546565) <htt[ ]/www.suckitdown.org ['p:/' in gap]> on Thursday February 15, 2007 @11:31AM (#18024056) Homepage Journal
                Let's think about this for a second... If you go to Wal*Mart, and buy a jar of pickles marked 2/$5 and get to the checkout, and they only charge you $0.50 because they had the wrong price in their system (which happens quite often), then Wal*Mart can't come to your house later and mug you to make up for it. Amazon should have verified the prices BEFORE shipping. If they had done their due diligence, then they would have canceled the order and e-mailed the customer. This is totally Amazon's fault and as many others have suggested, these customers should refuse the charges on their next statement.
                • by wealthychef (584778) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @11:44AM (#18024298)
                  Here's another analogy. You go to WalMart and buy a sleeping bag and the clerk at the counter mistakenly rings you up for $5.00 instead of $50.00. Or he or she hands you $50 in change when the register says $5.00. You absolutely can leave the store with "your" extra money, but if you admitted in court that you knew it was a mistake, I'm sure the law would say you stole the money, and so would anyone else. So anyone who accepts the second DVD set knowingly under false pretenses has stolen it. And you cannot convincingly say you didn't know that Amazon was not giving away free DVD sets, come on, that's not an honest argument. Amazon has a right to get their money back, but they should ask a court to allow it.
                  • Your analogy is completely wrong and not a relevant comparison to what happened in Amazon's case. This was not a human error (as far as a person being involved in the close of the transaction). If you want to make a point-of-sale analogy, it would have been more accurate of you to say that the POS terminal the Wal-Mart employee was using rang the price as $5 instead of $50. The human operator did not catch the difference and the customer silently and happily took a $45 discount on his merchandise. This
                  • by vux984 (928602) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @03:27PM (#18027862)
                    Here's another analogy. But in reverse.

                    You go to WalMart and buy a sleeping bag that was mispriced at $500. (perhaps some toddler moved the sticker from some other product.) Perhaps you didn't even see the sticker, but you know from having looked previously that the price is around $50 bucks. However the clerk at the counter mindlessly rings you up for $500.00 instead of $50. And without paying attention you sign your cc slip and happily and walk out of the store. A few days later you realize you've paid $500, a clear mistake, and you take the bag and receipt back to Walmart and ask for your money back.

                    If walmart were to say, "its a completed sale, its got a $500 sticker on it, its wasn't advertised as less anywhere else in the store the day you bought it, so no refunds; you were clearly appraised of the price at checkout, and you even signed your credit card slip" you'd probably throw a SCREAMING FIT.

                    Why is it ok to screw amazon, but a dirty sin if you get screwed?

                    Fwiw, I think amazon probably doesn't have a much of a legal leg to stand on in reclaiming the funds. However, they are indisputably in the right morally, and anyone that deliberately took advantage of this is morally bankrupt, doubly so if they aren't willing to make amends.

                    Reminds of a law & order episode, where some girl agreed to be a surrogate mother for a childless couple in exchage for cash, and then acts depressed and threatens to have abortion in order to extract additional money and gifts from the couple... turned out there's nothing actually illegal about that either...

                    I guess its ok then.

                    Sociopaths.

                    (PS The "you" in the analagies above refers to the people who took advantage of amazon, not the parent poster.)
                • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                  by bberens (965711)
                  When you go to the bank and withdraw $100 but the clerk accidentally hands you $120 they will debit $20 from your account after notifying you of the error. It's happened to my mom before. I dunno how they figured out she was the one to get the extra money but we double-checked and the clerk was correct.
        • The stupid company (Score:3, Insightful)

          by TWX (665546)

          While Amazon.com did make a mistake, the advertised price was buy one get one free. Even though the checkout stated $0.00, it can be argued that the customer agreed to pay for one of those boxed sets.

          While it sucks that a mistake was made, I think these customers are being a bit greedy expecting to get "something for nothing." While Amazon represents the "big corporation" and people love to screw with big companies (and some probably deserve it), I think its morally wrong for people to expect to not have

        • by encoderer (1060616) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @10:48AM (#18023432)
          "it can be argued that the customer agreed to pay for one of those boxed sets."

          Well, it could be argued that Jeff Bezos was the second gunman on the grassy knoll but that doesn't mean it's actually true.

          In reality, though, every shopping cart that I've ever used or developed has a step, after shipping and tax is calculated, where the user is asked to confirm their purchase and authorize the sale. A similar step occurs in offline-processing, where the full amount is shown on the screen and you are asked to confirm, by either swiping your card and entering your pin, or by signing the receipt.

          THIS is the step where you agree to the price and accept the terms. You couldn't possible agree and confirm a price before this step because it wouldn't include shipping/taxes.

          And while IANAL, I believe that at this step, Amazon is responsible for their own mistake. They showed the user a price. The user was given a chance to say confirm his order and authorize charges. He did so.

          This is a contract, it's been digitally signed.

          Amazon is trying to make it so their mistake costs them nothing. That's certainly a nice fuzzy warm thing to think about, but in the real world, there is a price to pay for mistakes.

          • by bloobloo (957543)
            My understanding of this situation is that Amazon would have been under no obligation to ship, due to the fact that the purchaser as a reasonable person should have known that the price was a mistake. If they had not shipped and the purchasers tried to sue, Amazon would have won under the doctrine of unilateral mistake.

            However, Amazon shipped the goods, and so executed the contract at the price on the invoice. At this point they have no case, and no right to charge the customers.
    • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@ya ... m minus math_god> on Thursday February 15, 2007 @10:20AM (#18022970) Homepage Journal
      MOrality?
      A price was agreed upon by both parties. If anyone is not being moral it's the person at Amazon who has decided to change the terms of the deal after the transaction has been completed.

      The fact that the business failed because it was automated is a fault in theer business practice. It is not the fault of the customers. The customer can NOT know what the business has done or what deals the business has made, or what special promotions the business is running, or a myriad of other things.

      If you got a notice right now saying you were undercharged 10,000 dollars for your car, would you pay?
      • by cybermage (112274) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @10:48AM (#18023434) Homepage Journal
        If you got a notice right now saying you were undercharged 10,000 dollars for your car, would you pay?

        Well, if I only paid $0.00 for it in the first place, I might expect to be asked to return the car or pay a fair price later.

        I think the problem with Amazon's deal isn't really any different than walking into a store, taking something to the cashier, having the cashier just put it in a bag and leaving without paying. Even if the cashier says "just go ahead and take it", that doesn't make it right.

        Taking advantage of a broken automated system isn't any more moral than stealing if you know the price isn't appropriate.

        If an ATM gave you money and didn't deduct it from your account, would you tell the bank?
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Helios1182 (629010)
          It would be more like if the cashier rang up the item, set the price to zero, and then gave you a receipt giving proof of a legitimate transaction. The fact that it didn't cost the customer anything doesn't change the fact that the store (or its representative) authorized the transaction.
          • by Hijacked Public (999535) * on Thursday February 15, 2007 @11:07AM (#18023706)
            Know what it would be even more like?


            It would even more like if Amazon.com advertised a 'buy one get one free' promo on box sets, but their shopping cart screwed up and didn't charge anything at all, and then several days later Amazon.com tried to buyers what they should have charged in the first place.

            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by UbuntuDupe (970646) *
              Kind of a convoluted analogy there, dude ... when has that kind of thing ever happened? I mean, considering how advanced Amazon's IT is, you'd think they'd have some kind of failsafes to make sure they didn't accidentally discount a full purchase to zero before shipping, right?

              Why not think of something that's actually likely to happen?
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Magic5Ball (188725)
            A receipt with a price of zero is strong evidence that there was no exchange of valuable consideration, which puts into question the legitimacy and enforcability of any contract that generated the transaction documented by the receipt.

            The right thing to do might be for beneficiaries of this mistake to pay a correct, reasonable price for the items received, so that they, and all other customers, don't end up paying more in the future. But that would require thinking and acting like a non-exploitative member
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Sancho (17056) *
              For people who only ordered box sets of TV shows, this is true.

              What about people with other items in their virtual 'basket'?
      • by frdmfghtr (603968) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @11:16AM (#18023846)

        If you got a notice right now saying you were undercharged 10,000 dollars for your car, would you pay?


        Another scenario: you order the DVD box sets from Amazon but a few weeks later (after the return window), you realize that you got charged too much for the purchase. Amazon refuses to refund the overcharge. Is Amazon right or wrong? After all, at the end of the transaction, you agreed to a price for the delivered goods.

        It works both ways; if you expect Amazon (or any business or individual) to correct an error after the transaction that works in your favor, then you don't have any room to complain when the entity tries to correct an error after the fact in their favor.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by alx5000 (896642)
          {You got charged too much} or {You agreed to pay the stated quantity on checkout}?
          If just before clicking "Proceed with payment", the deal is $X, then you'll have to pay $X. This story is not on "what users were charged with", but on "what users agreed to pay on checkout".
  • by A beautiful mind (821714) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @10:11AM (#18022874)
    ...and they sold it for the price they specified. The problem is their fault and why should a customer care or be responsible for the problem on Amazon's end?

    If a guy sells his car while drunk for a small amount of money, or gambles it away while drunk, it's his fault entirely not the buyers.
    • by RattFink (93631) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @10:18AM (#18022950) Journal
      First of all you cannot be a party to a contract when you are under the influence period. That is why car sales need a notary to verify the sale.

      This in particular is a clear case of Unjust Enrichment [wikipedia.org].
      • by jlarocco (851450) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @10:41AM (#18023302) Homepage

        This in particular is a clear case of Unjust Enrichment.

        I don't think it is. Unjust Enrichment would be if the customer agreed to pay $50, but Amazon only charged them $5. Then the customer would be obligated to pay the remaining $45 because both parties agreed on the price of $50.

        In this case however, Amazon meant to charge $50, but only charged the customers $0.01. The customers didn't agree to $50, they agreed to $0.01. Since, at the time, both parties agreed to the price of $0.01, it doesn't matter if Amazon changes their mind after the fact, the deal's done.

        Amazon's pissed they lost a lot of money, but they're not allowed to retroactively charge people extra. I think their only option is to treat it as a sunk cost and make sure it doesn't happen again.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by MikeJ9919 (48520)
        Nope, nice try. You would be right if it weren't for the fact that, as the original poster noted, they have a contract in which Amazon takes the risk for error upon itself. They stated they check prices before shipping. When two parties negotiate the risk of error between themselves and it is fixed on one party, courts will not likely disturb that. I have no doubt Amazon has received a material benefit in the form of consumer trust from the "we check prices first" promise. It would be unjust enrichment to a
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by WarlockD (623872)
      It might be true in YOUR state. There where lies the problem. It could be there are different fault rules for other states.

      But to be honest, I just don't see a problem here. The customer knew there was an error but still ordered anyway. Even if he didn't know, one would reasonably suspect that he would want to be charged for one of the box sets (Knowing how these promotions work, possibly the higher priced box set)

      So while Amazaon is being a dick about it, I don't see why there is even a problem her
    • by cryfreedomlove (929828) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @10:27AM (#18023084)
      Have you ever looked at your check in a restaurant and noticed that the waiter forgot to charge you for something your ordered and ate? What do you do? I tell the waiter so they can add it to the check. Then I pay for what I ate. All of it. It's the right thing to do and that's the kind of society I want my kids to inherit.

      In your world, there is no honor system. You'd sneer and leave the resaurant without paying what you owe. You'd pat yourself on the back while the restaurant owner struggles to pay his workers and keep the doors open.

      In my example, there is a moral choice on the table. I made it one wa and you made it the other way. Who is the better man?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by MindStalker (22827)
        I totally agree, and yet I also agree with the next poster. It has become dog eat dog. While at a restaurant I would definitely want to be honest, simply because this could come out of the waiters pay. When it comes to large corporations I have been screwed by them numerous times and been treated like dirty. These corporations show absolutely NO morality when dealing with their customers, specially when it comes to hidden fees are other crap charges... Yea you try screwing up your bank account one month and
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by poot_rootbeer (188613)
        In your world, there is no honor system. You'd sneer and leave the resaurant without paying what you owe. You'd pat yourself on the back while the restaurant owner struggles to pay his workers and keep the doors open.

        Also the restaurant is a place that cooks and serves babies. If you're going to paint a ridiculously dark scenario, you have to go All The Way, man.

        If I'm at a restaurant and the check arrives with some of the items I ordered absent from that total, I am probably going to assume that the waite
      • Most analogies are wrong (at least here in slashdot), and yours is no exception. This is very different from a waiter forgetting to charge for something. A more accurate analogy would be you going to a restaurant, and the menu contains wrong prices. You order, eat, and in the end the waiter says "oops, some promotions were calculated wrongly" and charging extra money on your credit card without giving you any other option. Yes, you read me right, without giving you any other option. I say that because "they
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by nolife (233813)
        That is not the same thing.
        Imagine asking the waiter how much the Roast duck and bottle costs, he states $9 and you order that and pay the bill when you leave, two weeks later receive a bill for $90 because the bill should have been $99. Would you have ordered it if would not have clearly stated $9?

        With ordering online, the final price minus all discounts, shipping and taxes is posted on the final page that states click here to finalize your order. That is the point where you make an agreement and agree w
      • by Kintanon (65528) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @11:01AM (#18023614) Homepage Journal
        Whenever that happens to me I tip the amount that was left off of the check. So if they gave me my 5.99 appetizer for free, I tip an extra 6$.

        Kintanon
      • by Alchemar (720449) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @11:13AM (#18023788)
        Law and Honor are two seperate entities. The law states that when two parties agree on a price and completed a transaction, the transaction if final. If Amazon wants to request that these people pay for the intended amount, they are free to do so. Charging someones account without their authorization in not the honorable or legal thing to do. A lot of people feel that they have been screwed over by a legal system that is drastically in favor of corporations. When they have a situation where for once the law is on their side, they will take it. Honor will only take a corportation so far in a world where corporations tell people that EULA that they didn't sign overrides their rights to fair use, where phone companies can send you a notice in your bill telling you that you have agreed to waive your constitutional right to a jury trial. If corporations want to play games with legal loop holes, they should not expect people to let them skirt around the legal system in order to force those people to do the honorable thing.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by LordSnooty (853791)
      In the UK I think there is something in law which states that the customer must expect to pay a reasonable price for an item, and they don't get all the rights if the retailer messes up the price. Can't find an exact citation but this has come up before in similar on-line foul-ups - Argos offered TVs for a pound or something like that, and they were legally entitled to cancel all completed orders as the price was not a reasonable price for a TV.

      Here's [ed-u.com] some detail on the Argos case, and on other examples
  • by st_judas (953710) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @10:12AM (#18022886)
    It is for this reason that fraud protection exists. Visa and other major credit card providers will generally charge back the vendor in cases like this, as it is essentially fraud.

    What proof do we have that this was an honest mistake? They could have done this intentionally. Not that I think they really did, but is it even legal for them to pull this bait and switch? They can't charge your card without your authorization, right? RIGHT?!
    • by julesh (229690) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @10:24AM (#18023040)
      Not that I think they really did, but is it even legal for them to pull this bait and switch?

      No. You can't ask somebody to pay one price for something and then charge them something else, even if you've previously told them the terms will be what you later change them back to be. This is called the "last shot" rule: the last exchange between vendor and purchaser determines what's in a contract: if it contradicts anything agreed previously, then the previous agreement is cancelled.

      They can't charge your card without your authorization, right? RIGHT?!

      Right. So you talk to your bank and ask them to charge it back. The bank will ask a few question and do so, the money appearing back in your account after ~7 days in my experience. At the other end, Amazon will receive a number of charges from their bank for the privelege of dealing with the mess. Serves 'em right.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by discord5 (798235)

      Visa and other major credit card providers will generally charge back the vendor in cases like this, as it is essentially fraud.

      This is true. After you receive your monthly invoice from VISA (or sooner if you use online banking), you simply have to pick up the phone and report a fraudulent charge. VISA will then "investigate" and chargeback Amazon.

      However, I don't know how it is in the US, but here any company is free to not accept certain credit cards even if they are valid.

      They can't charge your card

  • by Apocalypse111 (597674) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @10:13AM (#18022890) Journal
    Ok, let me get this straight. Your online service, which you claim to test rigorously, fails to charge me. We (myself and your system) agree on a price for these goods ($0.00), you charge me for it, send me my merchandise, and now you're trying to make me give it back or pay more for it? IANAL but the legality of this seems rather dubious.
    • by RattFink (93631) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @10:24AM (#18023046) Journal
      I have posted this elsewhere by under the law there is a concept known as unjust enrichment. Basically if someone looses money by an honest mistake there is a legal obligation to return the money. Then again it's the moral thing to do, I don't see why people would get so upset over it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Strict legality aside, let's sit back, take a deep breath, and test out your comment in the physical world.

      You walk into Best Buy, select your merchandise then take it to a checkout counter. The clerk charges you $0.00 and the receipt reflects that. You exit the store and on the way to your car the manager approaches you with the error.

      Realistically, what's going to happen next?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Don_dumb (927108)
        Also consider the opposite -

        You go into a store and purchase two DVDs, you go through the till and you pay full price for both DVDs, the reciept states as such. You then leave the store, go home, watch the DVDs and then notice that the same shop had a "2 for 1" discount on those two DVDs.
        I would guess that when you return for the one DVD discount, they would reply that you can only query the charges before leaving the store, not after (just like the sign in the store says).

        All of that seems fair, so why
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by cduffy (652)
        If it's $0.00, I give the merchandise back -- if they took it to small claims, they'd win, because any reasonable person would know they were making a mistake, and without me giving them some amount of compensation there's no valid purchase contract.

        If it's $5.00 for something that usually costs $30.00, and that merchant is known for having discounts they don't always publicize, I'd refuse -- I could have reasonably believed that the discount was intentional at the time of purchase, and all the elements nec


  • It's their fault so customers shouldn't be made to pay. However, Amazon would be remiss if they didn't try to people's sense of fair play.
  • Not new at all... (Score:4, Informative)

    by fitten (521191) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @10:15AM (#18022912)
    Back when the NVIDIA GeForce4Ti4600 was released, BestBuy's online store had pre-orders for them up at an erroneous price (very low for what the card cost). BestBuy caught it after a few thousand orders had been placed and invalidated the orders as made, but at least compromised. Those of us who placed orders got $50 off the actual price the card should have been sold for. I think we were all happy enough with that since I don't recall any legal action being taken for it.
  • Is that even legal? (Score:4, Informative)

    by terrencefw (605681) <slashdot@jamesSL ... net minus distro> on Thursday February 15, 2007 @10:16AM (#18022924) Homepage
    I don't know about US law, but in the UK once the goods have been paid for and received, the contract of sale has been established and they couldn't do anything about it. They agreed to sell the goods for a particular price, and provided the goods. I don't see how they could demand additional payment.

    Think about it this way: You go to Asda (or Wal-Mart or whatever) and buy something. If the supermarket decided that there was an error in the price, or found that their till has miscalculated some promotion in some way, could they come to your house and demand more money or the goods back? No, they couldn't.

    As an interesting side point, the supermarket near me will effectively pay you to take home food from the reductions counter when their tills apply a promotional discount greater than the price the food has been reduced to! I don't think they'd have a leg to stand on if they demanded it back after the sale had completed.
  • by Zo0ok (209803) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @10:17AM (#18022936) Homepage
    This is not exactly unique for Amazon. It is quite common that companies send goods to people (mostly registered customers) that they have not ordered, and supply an invoice. People either have to just pay, or to call the company, complain and return the goods.

    It is easy to suspect that Amazon did this on purpose.

    In Sweden politicians are talking about writing a law that will basically give the cunsumers the right to keep whatever is sent to them, even if they never ordered it.

    I sometimes order things from my Cable-TV/Internet-provider on their webpage. The conditions are often very unclear - to the point I suspect they are vague on purpose.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      I'm not sure what the case is with stuff that comes with an invoice, but in the UK you can already keep anything sent to you unsolicited (as in stuff addressed to you, yuo can't keep your neighbour's mis-delivered amazon order) without being told that you'll be charged for it. If it comes with an invoice, you probably can't keep it, but it should only cost you the time to write "return to sender" on the package and drop it back in a post box to send it back.
      It's like trying to demand a letter or the value
    • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@ya ... m minus math_god> on Thursday February 15, 2007 @10:28AM (#18023124) Homepage Journal
      In America, if someone sends you something through the mail and charges you later, you don't have to pay.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by T.E.D. (34228)

      This is not exactly unique for Amazon. It is quite common that companies send goods to people (mostly registered customers) that they have not ordered, and supply an invoice. People either have to just pay, or to call the company, complain and return the goods.


      Later you talk about Sweden, so perhaps you aren't posting from the US. Here that would be illegal. If someone mails you something you didn't ask for, its yours free. That's a federal law.
  • by $pearhead (1021201) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @10:21AM (#18022984)
    This is one of the reasons I like the e-card service my bank provides [swedbank.se]. It allows you to create a virtual one-time credit card with a specified amount of money for on-line shopping. This makes sure you don't get charged for more than you specify (among other things).
  • Poor Amazon... (Score:3, Informative)

    by djones101 (1021277) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @10:24AM (#18023034)
    They don't realize that the common purchaser can issue a chargeback on the second transaction by Amazon, and despite all of the action taken by Amazon, they will still lose it in arbitration. It was their responsibility to charge correctly the first time, and they failed to do such. Unless they had a policy that was adequately (note that adequately means that the common customer must be able to readily find the link, little 2-point font links at the bottom of a long-scrolling page do not count) displayed at the time of purchase that gave them specific right to do this (which they don't) and the customer accepted, they'll be stuck paying for arbitration for every single charge, in addition to giving the money back to the common purchaser.
  • by mkcmkc (197982) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @11:41AM (#18024244)
    I for one hope that Amazon will not hesitate to grind their customers under the Amazon Wheel of Bureaucratic Justice. They are big, they are powerful, and they should listen to no one--no one I say!--on their path to world domination.
  • by gillbates (106458) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @11:57AM (#18024476) Homepage Journal

    Zero dollars?

    In Amazon's defense, they advertised "buy one, get one free". So everyone who bought one expected initially to be charged for at least on of the box sets. Some were probably pleasantly surprised to see 0.00 on the invoice, but I don't think any reasonable person expected Amazon to give them two box sets for free.

    It would be different if Amazon had advertised "buy one, get one free", and then charged customers for both boxed sets when they ordered two. But they didn't. Instead, Amazon is holding their customers and themselves to the terms of the original advertised offer - buy one, get one free. I fail to see how anyone could have seen the zero dollar charge as the honest price - or how they expected to get something for free from Amazon when their ad clearly indicated otherwise.

    Really, how could you not know that a charge of $0.00 wasn't a mistake?

  • by Dagmar d'Surreal (5939) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @01:21PM (#18025852) Journal
    So far, this thread has mainly been composed of two groups of opinions. The first opinion, which is definitely the minority so far, is claiming that these customers are morally obligated to pay Amazon the money that Amazon was supposed to have charged them in the first place.

    The second group seems to simply be saying "Screw 'em. The law says it's a done deal and no takesies-backsies."

    Both of these responses are actually equally valid, taken away from their context, and both seem to be rooted in a sense of what is "fair". Which of the two is the usefully "correct" answer given the context has yet to be addressed, so I'll address it.

    People should be treated as you'd like them to treat you. It's as simple as that. Good people make moral decisions. They do what's "right". Anyone arguing this? Of course not. The problem is that this is not the context in which this transaction took place. Amazon is not a person. Amazon is a corporation. This does not automatically mean one should be looking to screw them over, so follow along carefully.

    Corporations, unlike people, do not make moral decisions. They make decisions based on profit margins and a curious thing called "stockholder interest", which, while it does involve people, has little to nothing to do with morality. It's simply a fact that even if someone in the corporation dared to make a decision where the moral response differs from the profitable solution by any significant degree, the organization would consider the un-profitable moral response to be incorrect (and probably fire that person if it was a large enough difference). Corporations are amoral, which is different from "immoral" so if you're having trouble understanding this, use the intertubes to look up the meanings of the words.

    Taking the context of the situation into account, the customers, from a purely moral standpoint shouldn't have made the deal they did. However, you can pretty much bank on the fact that the corporation would not be making this same distinction. Corporations, while enjoying the benefits of being declared a "business entity" can be counted on to go with the letter of the law and no further in a situation involving assets of almost any kind, including money, and for this reason these customers should treat Amazon the same way Amazon would treat them. By the letter of the law, these customers owe Amazon no more money than what they were charged, Amazon would be breaking the law by charging their credit cards after the fact, and the customers should fight them every step of the way because that's what Amazon would do if the roles were reversed, simply because it would be profitable for Amazon to do so, and seldom does the issue of the morality of a business decision ever become challenged. When a non-entity which has no moral incentive is granted rights by law to be an "entity" with the same rights as a person--by acting in an amoral fashion they have to accept that their customers will behave with the exact same level of self-interest if the corporation being given these rights is to be anything approaching fair. Otherwise, ethically speaking, a corporation is no more than a paper facade for large groups of people to make decisions and interact with other people without being hindered by moral judgements. Fail to understand this, and the corporations will eventually gobble up everything.

"A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices." -- William James

Working...