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Amazon promotion error: we have cameras.
November 20, 2001 11:47 AM   Subscribe

Amazon screws up bag promotion. Amazon messes up a 'Buy this camera and get that bag free" promotion to be "Buy this bag and get that camera free." As a result you can get a $350 Minolta Maxxum SLR for $40. We'll see how long this lasts. I know that when the airlines made this mistake, they had to honor it.
posted by kfury (146 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Nope, doesn't work anymore.
posted by skallas at 11:54 AM on November 20, 2001


Looks like a bust already, my shopping cart said $329 after adding it.
posted by mathowie at 11:56 AM on November 20, 2001


Tt worked for me, 2 minutes ago. But i didn't order it. I don't really need it and if for some reason i end up having to pay the full price it would be a huge waste of money...
posted by edlundart at 11:56 AM on November 20, 2001


After adding it to your cart, go to Checkout and it will show the savings there.
posted by treebjen at 11:57 AM on November 20, 2001


Uh, that should be "It."
posted by edlundart at 11:57 AM on November 20, 2001


Guys, FYI: The discount doesn't appear inthe shopping cart, it *only appears* once you get to the final checkout page, before you confirm.
posted by kfury at 11:57 AM on November 20, 2001


If you keep going it appears that it does reflect it in the final checkout.
posted by zangpo at 11:58 AM on November 20, 2001


It worked for me... I know what's gonna happen, the order will get cancelled and we'll each get a nice $25 gift card for our trouble. At least thats what happened last time I got in on one of these...
posted by stew560 at 11:58 AM on November 20, 2001


it worked for me too. you have to get to the last screen to see the total before confirming.
posted by o2b at 12:02 PM on November 20, 2001


i can't wait to get my new camera.
posted by panopticon at 12:04 PM on November 20, 2001


kfury, how dare you self-link on the front page of--oh, yeah, I can sign for that, no problem, thanks, you too.
posted by lbergstr at 12:04 PM on November 20, 2001


I just ordered one... if they don't accept it, oh well, I'll either get a camera bag or a gift card
posted by starvingartist at 12:05 PM on November 20, 2001


I just ordered one, and it looked like it worked. If they cancel it though, I'd fully understand.

Just as an FYI, I changed the URL to the direct amazon page, instead of the self-link to Kevin's entry (with Kevin's amazon code in it, tsk, tsk :).
posted by mathowie at 12:06 PM on November 20, 2001


Worked for me...WHOO!
posted by byort at 12:07 PM on November 20, 2001


Anybody know how good this camera is? I've used minolta before, and that one was very good.
posted by zangpo at 12:07 PM on November 20, 2001


the promotion is no longer on the site.
posted by o2b at 12:08 PM on November 20, 2001


I bought one.

Items: $ 329.98
Shipping & Handling: $ 9.71
Best Value Savings: - $ 289.99
Holiday Shipping Savings: - $ 9.71
------
Total Before Tax: $ 39.99
Estimated Tax: $ 0.00
------
Purchase Total: $ 39.99
posted by perplexed at 12:08 PM on November 20, 2001


That is the funniest damn thing I have seen in a long time. Make sure to let us know how this turns out.
posted by ColdChef at 12:10 PM on November 20, 2001


Heh...I don't have an "Add to Shopping Cart" button.

Weird.
posted by taumeson at 12:11 PM on November 20, 2001


Bought one! Keep us updated on how long this lasts, please! I'm curious to see how this will turn out.
posted by jennyjenny at 12:12 PM on November 20, 2001


It worked for me a few moments ago, but now doesn't work - not because Amazon fixed it but because the Camera Bag appears to be out of stock.
posted by anastasiav at 12:12 PM on November 20, 2001


Ah...that would explain my dilemma also.
posted by taumeson at 12:13 PM on November 20, 2001


omg, that's funny... counting down the minutes 'til I get an email denying my order.
posted by starvingartist at 12:14 PM on November 20, 2001


JUST went outta stock
posted by MarkO at 12:16 PM on November 20, 2001


Unfortunately, the item is no longer available. To think, I just missed out on a bad-ass camera for $40. Keep us updated on whether Amazon honors this deal.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 12:17 PM on November 20, 2001


got my confirmation email.... time to go buy some film. thanks kfury
posted by panopticon at 12:17 PM on November 20, 2001


How was this discovered?
posted by msacheson at 12:18 PM on November 20, 2001


Damnit, it wouldn't let me buy one because my shipping address was in Oz.

I was going to change the shipping address to a US place when this happens.
posted by Neale at 12:25 PM on November 20, 2001


i got a confirmation email. if this puppy ships in the next 24hrs, there's not much amazon can do.
posted by eyeballkid at 12:30 PM on November 20, 2001


Someone needs to rate this item - write a piss take review.
posted by RobertLoch at 12:33 PM on November 20, 2001


hmm.. this sucks.. I'm 20 minutes late. Anyone willing to sell theirs?
posted by tiaka at 12:34 PM on November 20, 2001


Tiaka, you can buy mine (supposing it arrives) for $300. :)
posted by LeiaS at 12:37 PM on November 20, 2001


Heh, it's still in my shopping cart. I'll see if it works.

Nope. Without the bag, it's $289.

I'm willing to buy one too.
posted by Neale at 12:38 PM on November 20, 2001


So, is anyone going to be the one to point out that, at worst, taking advantage of this is no better than stealing, and at best is unethical?

I'm not going to do it, just wondering who is...
posted by mr_crash_davis at 12:40 PM on November 20, 2001


hehe. pitty me, the camera-less. I think all I have is an old advantix point and FLASH. (cries)
posted by tiaka at 12:40 PM on November 20, 2001


Sigh, to quote Rex from Toy Story..."Now I have guilt!"

Is this ethical? On one hand, it's their mistake and I was in the right place at the right time.

On the other hand, it's kinda like keeping the extra change that the cashier mistakenly gives you. It's kinda wrong...any thoughts?
posted by byort at 12:43 PM on November 20, 2001


Dammit, the bag was out of stock!
posted by Modem Ovary at 12:44 PM on November 20, 2001


My boss (a camera buff) was looking for a bag for his Minolta and found the deal. He told two people, and they told two people, and they told tow people, then I told two thousand. ;-)

Oh, and Haughey? I gotta respect you for not putting your Amazon affiliate code on that URL. You're a better man than I.
posted by kfury at 12:45 PM on November 20, 2001


Listen, if you're feeling ANY guilt about your new cheap camera, I'm willing to take either the camera or the saved money off your hands to alleviate your pain. Really. I would do that for you.
posted by Neale at 12:45 PM on November 20, 2001


Awwww, thanks!
posted by byort at 12:46 PM on November 20, 2001


...but my wife needed a camera, anyway. I'll try and bear the guilt (but from what people are saying, it'll probably be a moot point).
posted by byort at 12:48 PM on November 20, 2001


But seriosly, I mean, you are getting this thing almost for free and all, and if you don't really need it. I'm offering $100, which I realise is kinda low, but you know, can't afford much. :)
posted by tiaka at 12:51 PM on November 20, 2001


The time I was actually doing work instead of screwing around on MeFi...

I don't know if I'd compare it to the cashier giving you the wrong change, Byort. I think it's more like find that the entire stock of something in the supermarket was ticketed wrong...

Either way, kudos to you guys who may have gotten yourself a nice new camera on Amazon. Color me green.
posted by jerseygirl at 12:52 PM on November 20, 2001


You folks sell your self-respect cheap.
posted by Holden at 12:52 PM on November 20, 2001


"Shipping Soon: We are preparing these items for shipment and can no longer change shipping and billing options for them. "

Thanks for the heads up! Hope it comes!

Cheers.
posted by phatboy at 12:56 PM on November 20, 2001


I think (speaking as an individual here) that AMZN will honor anything once it's been shipped, other than that, they may call things back. Yes, I work at Amazon, but I have no direct contact with the folks who do that sort of work. (I'm in the community group).
posted by kokogiak at 1:21 PM on November 20, 2001


self-respect? je ne comprends pas.
posted by o2b at 1:28 PM on November 20, 2001


...it's kinda like keeping the extra change that the cashier mistakenly gives you. It's kinda wrong...any thoughts?

That's really wrong: most cashiers have shortages taken out of their pay.
posted by Carol Anne at 1:52 PM on November 20, 2001


I'd respect myself much more if I'd gotten there in time and had a nifty new slr on the cheap...
posted by jpoulos at 2:03 PM on November 20, 2001


I guess you can kinda think of it as taking money from one of the companies who was responsible for the dotcom bubble and ensuing collapse. I'm stealing the camera for all my laid off friends! The hate sleeping till noon!
posted by panopticon at 2:04 PM on November 20, 2001


I don' know. During my four years as a slave for Target, the law stated that a company can't garnish an employee's wages for any shorts in the till.

They can fire you if it happens once too often. Something which one of Amazon's coders/designers/copy boys might be sweating about right now.
posted by jamesstegall at 2:06 PM on November 20, 2001


That's really wrong: most cashiers have shortages taken out of their pay.

Really? I worked in retail for 10 years and never saw that happen, probably because it's illegal to do so.

This example is a little different, though. This is a retailer selling an item for the advertised price. You say that the price is outrageous and therefore must be wrong and I should feel guilty. I say, I got a deal for the advertised price. Not that I need that kind of reasoning to make myself feel better. I could care less either way. I get a cheap camera if this works out.
posted by eyeballkid at 2:09 PM on November 20, 2001


Minolta SLR Gadget Bag with Shoulder Strap
...
Amazon.com Sales Rank: 135
posted by willem at 2:32 PM on November 20, 2001 [1 favorite]


I only put my credit card application in today so I'm assuming I may well miss out on this offer -- keep the spirit though -- post back to the thread if you actually get your cameras. Reminds me of the time WH Smith's website was selling the Buffy DVD boxset for a quarter of the price. Missed out on that one too ... you you mark my words ... all of you ... my time will come .... oh yes it will .... bwah-hah-hah-hah-haaah ......
posted by feelinglistless at 2:35 PM on November 20, 2001


Lame. While it might not seem like a big deal amazon is a great store but one that's still struggling, and knowingly getting in on this 'deal' is tantamount to stealing, and don't give me any of this 'well it's their mistake' rubbish, each of you has to take responsibility for your own actions.

Freeloaders, the bunch of you.
posted by zeoslap at 2:40 PM on November 20, 2001


Yes. Can people not be putting their Amazon codes in MeFi links? It's rather ... shameless.

Note that all you need to have a working link to a product is the part up to the end of the ISBN or ASIN code. If you insist on not giving all the profits to Jeff Bezos, why not make it a donation? I suggest replacing your "joeschmoe" code at the end with "acluA", which goes to the ACLU -- somebody we'll be needing over the next few years.

Thanks.

posted by dhartung at 2:44 PM on November 20, 2001


rubbish, each of you has to take responsibility for your own actions.

Including Amazon.
posted by eyeballkid at 2:47 PM on November 20, 2001 [2 favorites]


Eyeball with the quick backhand...
posted by ColdChef at 2:49 PM on November 20, 2001


The Tragedy of the Commons

If you don't want to read all that, here's the abridged version: I could care less either way. I get a cheap camera if this works out.
posted by Shadowkeeper at 3:03 PM on November 20, 2001


no better than stealing

Dude, it's way better than stealing! Stealing is a big hassle, all the running, the hassles with returns...
posted by NortonDC at 3:03 PM on November 20, 2001 [1 favorite]


Shadowkeeper: Thanks for the link. Now I know that in some form of spider-webbing cause and effect I have just started the ball rolling on the ruin of our entire social order and the destruction of our planet as well. All in a days work, I guess.

Hey, look, I can still cancel it... if you decide you want to beg for mercy. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
posted by eyeballkid at 3:16 PM on November 20, 2001


Wait. Is Amazon one of the bad corporations or not? I can't keep these things straight. If they're good and kind, it is wrong to take advantage of them. If they are bad, it is our moral duty to hasten their demise. Damn, this site confuses me sometimes!
posted by kindall at 3:19 PM on November 20, 2001


Oops! I blew it above, by saying cashiers are docked for till shortages. Twenty years ago in northern Michigan, when I worked as a bookkeeper, the restaurants did just that. I'm glad to hear things have changed.
posted by Carol Anne at 3:44 PM on November 20, 2001


Astounding. I can't take a moral argument seriously from any of you who jumped at the opportunity to take advantage of an honest mistake. I don't want to hear ever again about greedy corporations or crooked politicians. You people just showed that you're willing to turn a blind eye when it is to your benefit. How does that make you any different from those you rail against?
posted by marknau at 3:45 PM on November 20, 2001


marknau: Harrumph! Harrumph!
posted by msacheson at 3:48 PM on November 20, 2001


We have cameras.
posted by NortonDC at 3:48 PM on November 20, 2001 [136 favorites]


Mark, I suppose you've carefully noted who turned a blind eye and who didn't, so that you won't tar us all with the "you people" brush when you get self-righteous later. Or, wait, I get it! That's just rhetoric! Never mind.
posted by rodii at 3:52 PM on November 20, 2001


"You people" refers back to the earlier subject, "you who jumped at the opportunity," which is obvious to anyone who is not grasping for a way to minimize the immorality of what was done so gleefully here. It is entirely obvious that not everyone is involved, rodii.

BUT: If the discussion was about how to, say, pull off a lucrative scam against retired folks, everyone would have been saying "shame" and "I can't believe this idiot is posting this here." What are the community standards being upheld in this thread?
posted by marknau at 4:03 PM on November 20, 2001


Stealing is a crime. Accepting Amazon's terms is not a crime.

So there is no legal angle for criticism.

If you require moral justification, then clearly you are forgetting that Amazon is considered a villain in open source circles for it's patent shenanigans (one-click, for example).

So there is moral justification available for sticking it to Amazon, and no legal justification is required.
posted by NortonDC at 4:12 PM on November 20, 2001


How does that make you any different from those you rail against?

We have cameras.


laughlaughlaughlaughlaugh! *Marquis falls off his chair.*
posted by Marquis at 4:13 PM on November 20, 2001 [2 favorites]


I can't take a moral argument seriously from any of you who jumped at the opportunity to take advantage of an honest mistake.

This fallacy of argumentation is known as an ad hominem attack, specifically, ad hominem tu quoque, "[noting] that a person does not practice what he preaches."
posted by lbergstr at 4:55 PM on November 20, 2001


Why, that's Calvinism!
posted by kindall at 4:58 PM on November 20, 2001


Tu quoque only comes up if I am rebutting some argument by means of attacking the arguer. I am not. I am pointing out, quite rightly, that a person loses moral standing by committing immoral acts. This is NOT a fallacy. Jim Baker loses moral standing via infidelity, for example.

I cannot say that Jim Baker's arguments are invalid because of his immorality, but I can certainly say that I do not take him seriously. I can also question Jim when he says "I'm strongly against indifelity." by bringing up his prior behavior. None of this is tu quoque.
posted by marknau at 5:13 PM on November 20, 2001


murknau, I understand that you may be inclined to take moral outrage less seriously coming from a thief. I just wanted to point out that no one sacrificed the right to make moral arguments today.
posted by lbergstr at 5:20 PM on November 20, 2001


murknau marknau; sorry.
posted by lbergstr at 5:22 PM on November 20, 2001


i saw this thread very late, and read/scanned all 75 comments waiting for someone to suggest that the whole thing's some sort of publicity stunt, designed to incite tivo-like hoopla among the masses...

i didn't see it.

is it outside the realm of possibility (excusing for the sake of argument the whole fuzzy-math angle of such a scheme)?
posted by Sapphireblue at 5:57 PM on November 20, 2001


erm, i was just able to add both items to my cart and it worked just fine with the discount. this is still working as of 8:57PM EST. i'm a bit curious as to why it shows my estimated ship date as january 2nd though...
posted by iceblink at 5:58 PM on November 20, 2001


is it outside the realm of possibility [that this is a publicity stunt]?

I'd say so. It's not as if there are any Internet shoppers who are unaware of Amazon.
posted by kindall at 6:00 PM on November 20, 2001


erm, i was just able to add both items to my cart and it worked just fine with the discount. this is still working as of 8:57PM EST. i'm a bit curious as to why it shows my estimated ship date as january 2nd though...

It was down for most of the day, and as of about 45 minutes ago, they put it up again. It's been up and down repeatedly in the last half hour, in which time I'm sure many more people have put in orders.

Whether or not people receive these things has yet to be determined, though a co-worker of mine got a confirmation that the one he ordered first shipped with next day shipping already..
posted by valerie at 6:21 PM on November 20, 2001


You want a moral comparison? Have you ever been to a swap-meet, a car boot sale, a trash 'n treasure, a white elephant stall, a garage sale -- or whatever an amateur secondhand sale is called near you? Ever pickup something real cheap? Ever paid A$2 for a Nintendo Game and Watch that you later sold on eBay for A$52? A$25 for 13 PC Engine games that you sold for A$150 plus a 32X valued at A$90? How about A$20 for a N64 plus game and 2nd controller when you'd be looking at A$90-A$110 normally? I have and it's called trading, possibly bargaining or haggling. It's not your responsibility to make sure that the other party hasn't made a mistake when pricing their item. Good luck to anyone able to take advantage of this oversight.
posted by krisjohn at 6:23 PM on November 20, 2001


Important Message
This order has been cancelled.

Aww...
posted by lbergstr at 6:31 PM on November 20, 2001


On the controversy regarding the legality / ethics of this purchase:


The way I see it, which is only the way I see it, (but I'm no lawyer so take my advice at your own (soul's) peril) is that this is certainly not legal, nor is it unethical. Here's why:



When you buy something, you're entering into a contract. The company fucked up. It happens sometimes -- say a store mis-marks products at .99 cents instead of .99 dollars. You can actually buy the product for 1/100th of what it costs. And the store is bound to sell it to you, because of laws against bait-n-switch and false advertising (especially if it's on the sign outside). I think the actual product has to be labeled incorrectly, and not just the ads in the newspaper (hence the "we're not responsible for misprints in this ad" copy at the bottom).


Now, in the digital age, where I, or more correctly, kfury, can tell thousands of people about the mistake in seconds, things *seem* to change. Because instead of getting burnt once and changing the sign (or site), MeFi photo buffs buy the entire lot of products in the warehouse in a matter of a couple of hours.


But that's life, I say. Everybody's got to be careful.


On a side note, I thought that Amazon had code that was checking sku's or prices or buying patterns or other stuff so that they could identify these mistakes quicker. Does anybody know about this? Did I imagine it?
posted by zpousman at 6:31 PM on November 20, 2001


Did anyone happen to take a screen shot of the offer?
posted by arielmeadow at 6:31 PM on November 20, 2001


this has been a sad example of how humans will try to get away with cheating other humans if the opportunity arises.
posted by kv at 6:48 PM on November 20, 2001


Boy am I glad I'm not a human.
posted by Kafkaesque at 6:57 PM on November 20, 2001 [1 favorite]


To me, it seems like Amazon and the other pure-play retailers basically opted to let computers and a few programmers save them the hassle and costs of hiring real live people who can make more sensible judgments about how to price and sell items. it's a great model and it scales nicely, but stuff like this happens sometimes. there are trade-offs.

whether or not Amazon is villainous, they made choices about how to sell their products and those choices were driven by market forces. systematically this "honest mistake" happened because Amazon exists to make money off of other people, and to maximize the money they can make for their shareholders, as distinguished from their customers. I, in turn, would like to minimize the money they make off of me, bargain shopping and cherry picking.

This was a bargain, albeit one that will have negative profit consequences for Amazon, the company that laid off a lot of my friends. No human will lose personal money because I [maybe] got a cheap camera, and that is my baseline definition of stealing.
posted by jessamyn at 7:09 PM on November 20, 2001 [1 favorite]


When an offer gets so hot, so quickly, you'd think that someone at Amazon would've taken notice. (Within an hour of introduction it was #135 on the sales rankings. That's pretty astronomical.) They didn't. They still haven't, some, uh, 7 hours later? Not only did it behoove Amazon to check, double check and triple check the offer before it went live, it could (and should) have been dealt with as soon as the sales trend became obvious.

By not doing so, even now, when the company is aware of the irregularity -- note the cancelled order notice that lbergstr got -- they gave their tacit approval to customers taking advantage of their pricing glitch. There were literally hundreds (if not thousands) of opportunities for the company to take notice of their error and make it right, they did not. So where is the advantage?
posted by Dreama at 7:11 PM on November 20, 2001


My mom and I were at this Starbucks in Westport, CT. They were having a sale, and we found some decent mugs that were orignally priced at $6.99 but were now available for $0.99 each. So we bought 6 of those and a few other ones which were $4.99. Now the cashier rang up one of the $4.99 ones as a $0.99 one. We noticed the error and offered to pay the balance, but they refused to accept it. They said it was their error and they are not allowed to accept the balance. Point I am trying to make is that some companies do accept their mistakes and go with the policy that the customer is always right. Starbucks is not usualy thought of as that kind of a company but they are. So maybe Amazon will write the cost of these cameras as running cost or something.
posted by riffola at 7:31 PM on November 20, 2001


Doh missed lbergstr's post

Well Amazon should've honoured the orders and written off the cost as Operational cost or something.
posted by riffola at 7:41 PM on November 20, 2001


Hmmm, it was up again a few minutes ago, but when I tried to check out it didn't work. Perhaps it'll keep working periodically.
posted by MegoSteve at 7:46 PM on November 20, 2001


If you know that someone is making an honest mistake, and you take advantage of that for your own personal gain, you are not the type of person I want to associate with.

Geez. You guys are lame! Would you do the same thing to your grandparents?
posted by hitsman at 7:47 PM on November 20, 2001


Yeah, it seems to be on and off. I tried to sign up about 15 minutes ago and it didn't work, but about five minutes ago it went through just fine. So who knows what is going on down in Amazon Central Command? Do they have a place like that? Can you see them all scrambling around there right now, trying to get some web designer to take the thing off the site? The picture kinda cracks me up.
posted by donkeymon at 7:50 PM on November 20, 2001


Not only did it behoove Amazon to check, double check and triple check the offer before it went live, it could (and should) have been dealt with as soon as the sales trend became obvious.

Do you understand how many items and transactions they must process? Monitoring trends is not trivial, I'm sure.

What if it was a mom and pop shop? Would you walk up to the counter and try to pass off such a deal face to face? What if the shopowner was a friend of your family? Just because a company is a different size and the transaction is conducted electronically shouldn't affect the basic moral decision.
posted by hitsman at 7:53 PM on November 20, 2001


We covered morality already. Easy arguments are available for Amazon deserving it.
posted by NortonDC at 8:08 PM on November 20, 2001


Do you understand how many items and transactions they must process?

I might not understand how many transactions Amazon handles, hitsman, but certainly Amazon does. They calculated the risk, weighing the cost of hiring people to check their ads for accuracy, and obviously decided to cut corners in order to save money. As far as I'm concerned, these mistakes are the cost of Amazon doing business the way they choose... badly.
posted by MegoSteve at 8:08 PM on November 20, 2001


This example may not be totally applicable here.

I collect books, for pleasure and rarely for profit. I have purchased many books for very low prices. I never once tried to trick someone.

I recently purchased a book that dates from the mid 1600's. I paid about $200 dollars for it and could have easily turned around right away and sold it in an auction for $400-500. I took the book to a friend for a few minor repairs. When he peered under the end papers, one of them appears to be from a Shakespeare folio. It will take a bit more checking but I now have a book valued at much more. Even if I never sell the book am I morally obliged to back to the dealer and pay him more money?
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 8:17 PM on November 20, 2001


If any of you are Christians who stole from Amazon.com, you should be ashamed of yourselves. You are all going to hell.
posted by UrbanFigaro at 8:23 PM on November 20, 2001 [1 favorite]


So where is the moral line about these things? If a company puts out a $10 off every order of $20 coupon, and you use it over and over and over because the company hasn't coded it so you can't, is that wrong?
posted by gspira at 8:48 PM on November 20, 2001


I remember a friend of mine, shopkeeper in Naples in Italy, who announced to a group of American tourists who had just come off the tour bus for a short rest and were wandering around in his wines shop, that he had decided to offer them bottles of wine for $ 5 which he typically sold for US $ 30. He told then it was some sort of a clearance sale. He sold about 100 bottles. When they had all left, and the tour bus was well on its way, he throw out the remaining 25 bottles. All 125 bottles were rancid. Moral of the story: make sure you check the cameras when you get them to make sure they aren't the rancid lot.
posted by Voyageman at 8:50 PM on November 20, 2001


Well, the scale issue works both ways. At a mom and pop shop, they would expect that the register would be off from pennies being lost or given out, and they would expect some shrinkage from things getting lost, and they would deal with lots of inventory difficulties due to their small scale. By the same token, Amazon has to expect to lose some money from glitches like this that slip through the cracks. It is part of the landscape of doing business at this scale.
Whether or not it is right to take advantage of it is another question altogether, and one I think has already been covered, at least to my satisfaction.
posted by donkeymon at 9:15 PM on November 20, 2001


What if it was a mom and pop shop? Would you walk up to the counter and try to pass off such a deal face to face?

Ever find something in a pawnshop or thrift store that's an incredible deal and buy it immediately? Ever turn around and sell it on eBay for a huge profit? Heck, there are people who do that for a living now. I know one person who's made thousands of dollars that way and I was inspired enough to give it a try; I raked in several hundred.
posted by kindall at 9:16 PM on November 20, 2001


Within 30 days of receipt of your shipment (including gifts), you may return any of the following items to Amazon.com, for any reason, for a full refund (we'll also refund the shipping cost if the return is a result of our error):

...Any item from our Electronics store or other stores in new condition with original packaging and accessories


Rancid wine included. Though, rancid whine from people that didn't get in on the deal doesn't seem to be covered.
posted by perplexed at 9:17 PM on November 20, 2001


this was one of the funniest posts i've read in a while.. it's a shame i didn't come in here earlier to partake in the jacking. er- shame! shame on all of you.

How does that make you any different from those you rail against?

We have cameras.


now that was hilarious.
posted by lotsofno at 9:22 PM on November 20, 2001 [1 favorite]


Easy arguments are available for Amazon deserving it.

Only for people who desperately want to rationalize their unethical actions. "They deserve it" doesn't even pass the laugh test. Just as I have no right to steal from you just because you did something unethical today.

They calculated the risk, weighing the cost

Yes, just as stores take into account the balance between shoplifting theft vs. tighter security. It does not make shoplifting any less immoral.

a Shakespeare folio. It will take a bit more checking but I now have a book valued at much more.

The dealer voluntarily executed the deal, so you're fine. The true analog to this situation would be you convincing the book dealer's assistant that a newly-recieved book he's stocking is only worth $5 when you know it's really a first-edition worth $500.

Amazon set up an automatic process so that it could execute business. Taking advantage of a honest mistake in that process is dishonest. People knew that Amazon wouldn't agree to this transaction normally. That's why we have quotes like "We'll see how long this lasts." It's like emptying an ATM on the fritz.

No human will lose personal money because I [maybe] got a cheap camera, and that is my baseline definition of stealing.

Pure rationalization. The politician who gives a dirty back-door deal worth $1 million to a buddy can use similar rationalizations, from "It's not coming from any actual people, its coming from the treasury." to "$1 million isn't all that much PER PERSON, it's like less than a penny per taxpayer."

THEFT IS THEFT.
posted by marknau at 9:23 PM on November 20, 2001


not to mention that shoplifting increases prices in general, so all future customers eventually have to pay for the theft.
posted by kv at 9:41 PM on November 20, 2001


Uhoh. looks like they deleted my order.
posted by panopticon at 9:42 PM on November 20, 2001


Marknau (or should I call you Jeff Bezos?), Amazon voluntarily executed these deals when they put this offer on their site and accepted customer orders. Amazon set up an automatic process in order to save them from having to employ people that would process and review each transaction, knowing full well that occasionally these things would happen. This isn't shoplifting or even shrinkage; it's their own shortsightedness.

The true analog to this situation would be you convincing the book dealer's assistant that a newly-recieved book he's stocking is only worth $5 when you know it's really a first-edition worth $500.

That isn't a true analogy at all. Customers are not convincing Amazon's computers to charge them $40 for a $300 camera. A better analogy would be if I were to own a business, misprice an item, and then leave my mom in charge for the day, who rang it up at that price. If I were running the register, I might catch the mistake, but ultimately, the mistake is mine, not my mother's for putting the transaction through, and certainly not the customer's, even if he does know he's getting a deal.

I would agree that Amazon probably won't be too happy to put these transactions through, and it wouldn't surprise me if they cancel all of them; however, calling it an immoral choice on the part of a consumer who takes advantage of this opportunity is fallacious. I am not morally obligated to look out for Amazon's best financial interests in a business transaction, any more than Amazon is morally obligated to look out for mine.
posted by MegoSteve at 9:57 PM on November 20, 2001


Yes I know it was unethical, but I didn't think it would actually work.

FWIW, it appears it didn't work, and I expect Amazon will catch some heat for it (not from me though, I knew it shouldn't have worked).

Although I got an order confirmation email minutes after I "bought" it, it never showed up on my recent orders page. If I visited either product page (the camera or the bag), I saw a special "you ordered this on November 20th, view your orders here" message at the top. Eventually at some point in the afternoon, that message disappeared.

Now there seems to be no trace of the order, but I just logged in and I suddenly see the camera and bag are in my shopping cart, unpurchased.

Yes, Amazon made an error, and I took advantage of it, but I'm surprised Amazon didn't send an email explaining the situation. Instead it seems they deleted the orders and rolled them back to the status before checkout.
posted by mathowie at 10:02 PM on November 20, 2001


If anyone missed this, here was the page offering the order (screenshot)

Here's what it looked like when you began checkout (screenshot)

And here's the last checkout page, showing the corrected price (screenshot)
posted by mathowie at 10:29 PM on November 20, 2001


From their purchasing terms page:
Despite our best efforts, a small number of the more than 4.7 million items in our catalog are mispriced. Rest assured, however, that we verify prices as part of our shipping procedures.

If an item's correct price is lower than our stated price, we charge the lower amount and ship you the item.

If an item's correct price is higher than our stated price, we will, at our discretion, either contact you for instructions before shipping or cancel your order and notify you of such cancellation.

After we have received your order, we will also inform you by e-mail if any items in your order prove to be unavailable.
So they covered their ass properly here and no one got a single cheap camera.
posted by mathowie at 10:39 PM on November 20, 2001


Rationalize it however you want, everyone who participated in this so-called ?deal? knew that they were deliberately exploiting an oversight in programming. If you were to discover a flaw in a Web server's security, would that behoove you to ? or leave you ethically exempt ? download or modify the contents accessed via said vulnerability?

No. No, it doesn't, and if you believe it does, your morality is questionable indeed.

Here's hoping that Amazon follows BlueLight.com's lead.
posted by Danelope at 10:50 PM on November 20, 2001


i think it might be time to unleash a six-pack of metafilter whoopass on amazon for canceling our orders. Since they don't supply an email address, here is their email help page.

Searching through news.com yields disappointing results: Apparently, they did honor a few price glitches once, but then another time they flat out canceled the orders. Then there was the time that people complained to the FTC, but I couldn't find a follow-up.
posted by panopticon at 10:53 PM on November 20, 2001


Yes I know it was unethical, but I didn't think it would actually work.

Matt ...

I have to disagree with you on this point (and I guess with all the earlier comments that speak to this as unethical and immoral). Publicly traded companies exist for one purpose, and that is to satisfy (maximize) their fiduciary obligations to their shareholders. As such, corporations operate amorally. Any overlap with prevailing ethical standards happens because doing otherwise would put them at a competetive disadvantage. But in general, if a company believes it can get away with what we might think of as less than ethical practices - by god they'll give it a shot. Amazon is a great case in point. Does anyone remember their dynamic pricing strategies?

But I believe it was Adam Smith who spoke about the "invisible hand" of market forces. What makes capitalism work is the assumption that the consumer is operating just the same way - not in any moral sense - but simply putting his dollars where the best deal is. And everyone who tried to buy a camera bag today - with that great promotion which included the free camera - was simply working within the tried and proven free-market system.

Anyone who didn't proudly go down to Amazon and plunk down their forty dollars for the camera bag should be ashamed of themselves. They were throwing a wrench into the well-oiled cogs of the free market. And if anything in this whole sad debacle is unethical, that is ... trying to disrupt free enterpise in this time when our economy is so precariously poised.

God bless the webbies who mispost prices on Amazon and God bless the wise consumer who then steps in to do his/her duty (buy! buy! buy!)!
posted by dclatfel at 11:11 PM on November 20, 2001 [1 favorite]


A bunch of us got worked up into a money-grubbing hee-haw when we saw this and quickly tried to get our two cents out of the deal (we only got one camera scanned and receipted before it went out of stock, darn). And I work there. For some reason, the moral twinnings of my ethical harp were not making any music as I pressed that "Place Your Order" button and envisioned the lovely camera in hand (and I needed a bag too, for my digital). If this is truly unethical, I've been conditioned out of that particular reaction. But I guess this is already a dead horse and none of us will be taking a nice old fashioned non-digital picture of it.
posted by mockerybird at 11:29 PM on November 20, 2001


Follow the logic of "they voluntarily offered it so they should honor it", and consider the following:

1. You go to a grocery store that manually puts price stickers on all its offerings. (They can't afford to buy those overcharging scanners). However, the clerk missed stickering one of the steak packages. What are the store's obligations? Give away the steak for free to any shopper who brings it to a checkout? They "voluntarily executed these deals when they put this offer in their store". I don't think so. Would it be moral to just pick up the steak and walk out of the store with it? I don't think what the camera shoppers knowingly did is that far off.

2. Consider you're at a CD store. The CD store knowingly doesn't hire security to monitor its customers for shoplifting. It doesn't pay large sums of money to electronically tag all of its inventory so that a beeper goes off if you exit without paying. Does this mean that customers who find ways of exploiting this loophole in security are free to do so? Is the store obligated to honor their loophole exploitation? Don't think so.

3. Last night, I left my window unlocked. If someone climbs in and takes my computer, are they not morally accountable, since I was responsible for the loophole? Uh, whatever.
posted by hitsman at 12:24 AM on November 21, 2001


Publicly traded companies exist for one purpose, and that is to satisfy (maximize) their fiduciary obligations to their shareholders. As such, corporations operate amorally.

Does that make those who work for a publicly traded company amoral? Or just the executives? Or is it the shareholders? And if shareholding is amoral, how about pension holding? Is the amorality diluted along the way or is it that, as marknau state earlier, theft is theft? The nice thing about amorality is that it's always something that someone else does, waiting in the wings to justify your every move.
posted by dlewis at 2:06 AM on November 21, 2001


hitsman: bad analogies. Stealing steaks, cds or computers is morally and legally wrong. Buying a camera bag is legal, even if you intended to get a camera for free by 'mistake'.

As far as not putting prices on groceries go: there's an understanding that if an item is on display in a store without a price tag, that doesn't always mean it's free. Whereas Amazon specifically said 'buy the bag and get the camera as a gift with your purchase' (see mathowie's first screen shot).
posted by eoz at 2:07 AM on November 21, 2001


They've cancelled a friend's order, so I'm thinking that they won't honour this scam, and let's face it, you are scamming the company by taking advantage of a mispricing -- any justifications sound like so much hot air. And now you don't even have a camera.

Anyhow, I won't put myself on some ethical high horse, 'cause I know I would have probably done the same thing, but I know I would definitely feel a little twinge of guilt. Probably less because I was dealing with a "faceless" corporation; I'm sure the more that corporation resembled another person, the more noticeable that twinge would be.
posted by Big Fat Tycoon at 4:26 AM on November 21, 2001


And now you don't even have a camera.

True. But we do have NortonDC's comment. And for that, it was probably worth it.
posted by dlewis at 4:36 AM on November 21, 2001


dlewis--aw, shucks. You make me blush.

>Easy arguments are available for Amazon deserving it.

Only for people who desperately want to rationalize their unethical actions. "They deserve it" doesn't even pass the laugh test. Just as I have no right to steal from you just because you did something unethical today.


This is totally baseless. It is not stealing. Stealing is a crime, accepting Amazon's offer is not.

And apart from legal issues, the moral justification is still very real: Amazon is considered villainous by many, so any legal means of hurting Amazon and making their collpase more likely would be considered a blow for Good by holders of that opinion.

Personally, I don't see any need for moral justification. Amazon made an offer, a bunch of people accepted it. Amazon initiated, it's their responsibility to watch out for their interests, and their responsibility to live up to their agreements.
posted by NortonDC at 5:46 AM on November 21, 2001


If any of you are Christians who stole from Amazon.com, you should be ashamed of yourselves. You are all going to hell.

whew. *wipes sweat off brow* it's a good thing i'm not christian.
posted by iceblink at 6:25 AM on November 21, 2001


dlewis: I think you're conflating amoral with immoral, your point notwithstanding.
posted by walrus at 6:28 AM on November 21, 2001


here you go, for the non-christians... you still deserve forgiveness ....He giveth and taketh away.
posted by Voyageman at 6:44 AM on November 21, 2001


Thanks walrus - you are in fact, absolutely right. I was confusing amoral with immoral. Through sheer luck it would appear my point is still semantically well formed. Thanks also for prompting me to look up the word conflated, which until now I had confused with the word inflated :)
posted by dlewis at 6:56 AM on November 21, 2001


FYI: since this thread is public knowledge, having been posted on Fark yesterday, and debate continues on the ethics of this shopping spree, I took the liberty of e-mailing this link to the New York Times Magazine's Ethicist, Randy Cohen. (By the way, I agree with both his rulings in "Shower Away.")
posted by Carol Anne at 7:50 AM on November 21, 2001


I guess this expands that rule which a (former) NY head of HR kept spewing about never saying (phone call), writing (email) and now posting and commenting anything that you would not want to appear on the front page of the New York Times.
posted by Voyageman at 8:27 AM on November 21, 2001


What about this guy? The bank is not responsible for any mistake. You made the rules.
posted by Zootoon at 8:39 AM on November 21, 2001


As far as not putting prices on groceries go: there's an understanding that if an item is on display in a store without a price tag, that doesn't always mean it's free.

There was a similar understanding in this case. Everyone here knows it was a mistake on Amazon's part and that they would not consent to such an exchange if confronted directly with it.
posted by hitsman at 9:15 AM on November 21, 2001


Don't think it'll make the front page of the NY Times, but I got a quick reply.

To: Randy Cohen (the Ethicist): I don't know if you are familiar with the participatory weblog Metafilter, but there's an interesting thread right now that's right up the alley of the Ethicist. I didn't participate in this shopping event, by the way. I don't need this camera; I don't want to be on Amazon.com's shit list; and, most important of all, I wouldn't feel comfortable doing this. (signed) Carol Anne

To Carol Anne: Thanks for sending this. It is interesting, and I've dealt with this kind of question before. My line: Amazon does indeed have to honor its offer. And if you the customer have good reason to believe that the offer was made in error, it is dishonorable to exploit it. If you saw someone drop his wallet, you'd return it, not slip it into your pocket. So your instincts are good, although your reasons are different from mine; I didn't even know Amazon had a shit list. (signed) Randy Cohen
posted by Carol Anne at 9:26 AM on November 21, 2001 [2 favorites]


the word conflated, which until now I had confused with the word inflated

It's a great word ... I always think "co-inflated" by the way. Gives me a strange mental image ...

if you the customer have good reason to believe that the offer was made in error, it is dishonorable to exploit it

Spot on. I'm wondering (as a side-question) with what reference point other agnostics/atheists define their moral systems? I'm quite partial to the golden rule, personally.
posted by walrus at 10:07 AM on November 21, 2001


Last night, I left my window unlocked. If someone climbs in and takes my computer, are they not morally accountable, since I was responsible for the loophole?

Did you post a notice on a Web site? "Tonight my window is unlocked; if you are the first person through it, you may take my computer."

If you did, yes, then the entire responsibility lies with you. You have made what amounts to an offer, and you can't fault someone who takes you up on it, even if they "should" know that getting a computer for free is a hell of a bargain.
posted by kindall at 10:26 AM on November 21, 2001


So, next time one of you accidentally leaves your wallet or purse sitting on the sidewalk, I'll just have to assume you knew what you were doing when you left it there and intended it to be a gift to me. Thanks!
posted by eas98 at 10:47 AM on November 21, 2001


Let's try another analogy. Let's say that there's a blind woman on a street corner selling phone cards for use in a nearby pay phone (such as I sometimes saw during my time in South America). You approach her and ask to buy a card; she holds up a $10 card and says "One dollar, please".

Now, she has made an offer. She may also have made a mistake, but you don't really know -- presumably there's some way for the blind to distinguish these cards from one another, so maybe she's just offering you a deal for some reason.

Do you:

a) give her a dollar and take the card without ever questioning the legitimacy of the transaction? or
b) Ask her if this deal is on the up and up first?

I think (I could be wrong) that everyone here would first ask the woman if she had made a mistake. And if they knew she had made a mistake, they certainly wouldn't take her up on her offer.

Now: From a moral standpoint, how is accepting this Amazon "offer" any different?
posted by Shadowkeeper at 10:51 AM on November 21, 2001


"I'm wondering (as a side-question) with what reference point other agnostics/atheists define their moral systems?"

Golden rule works for me, as well as a bit of (related) logic -- don't do anything that could come back to bite you in the ass.

However, not being tied down by an ancient book of rules leaves quite a bit of flexibility in my morals. I adjust them constantly to fit varying situations. There are more exceptions than there are rules, probably. It's rather interesting, too, because when I'm presented with some kind of moral dilemma, I'm forced to actually debate it with myself, rather than giving it a quick WWJD and moving on.

Not that I have anything against that, mind you... I've found that any "real" Christian (to use their own words) who follows the spirit of The Book will tend to come to reasonable solutions anyway. I may not believe in the Bible, but there's a lot of good lessons to be learned from the stories in it regardless.

Yay for thread hijacking.
posted by CrayDrygu at 11:02 AM on November 21, 2001


Yay for thread hijacking

Eek ... not my intention. Was trying to make a subtle point, more like. Thanks for your observation though ... me too ;)
posted by walrus at 11:16 AM on November 21, 2001


walrus, which part of the golden rule depends upon belief in supernatural beings?
posted by NortonDC at 12:08 PM on November 21, 2001


None of it. Your point?
posted by walrus at 12:11 PM on November 21, 2001


I can't believe anyone is attempting to conflate Amazon's price flub with leaving your window open at night. Really, take a pill.

Would you do this if it were your grandparents?

No, but I'd do it to Jeff Bezos.

As for "morality": capitalism is inherently amoral. The sole intent of capitalism is to maximize and consolidate wealth, in whatever form it takes (cash, stocks, real estate, tangible assets, etc.). Publicly-traded companies are legally required to make as much money as possible. That's it. If a publicly-traded company does something that is "morally right" and yet reduces shareholder profits, the shareholders can sue. So yes, everyone who works for a publicly-traded company is, by default, participating in an amoral enterprise.
posted by solistrato at 12:14 PM on November 21, 2001


Did I misread your post? It sounded like you're saying the golden rule isn't available to agnostics or atheists.
posted by NortonDC at 12:16 PM on November 21, 2001


I should qualify (and then shut up). Religious morality is by deference to a divine entity. Without such an absolute reference point, I find myself in a dilemma. The golden rule seems self-evident to me, but I sometimes wonder if everyone feels the same way, and why exceptions occur. Just thinking aloud.
posted by walrus at 12:16 PM on November 21, 2001


most of the rules involving advertising price exist to protect the consumer. My guess is that as more and more transactions become automated there will be protections put in place for the seller. Pretty logical. Pretty fair. Little bugs like this will come and go and will generally be covered by the fine print. Especially since there will be no product shipped most likely.

stealing...i don't think so. Just a little pothole in the information superhighway thingy i read about.

If it was possible to make the transaction, and then cancel it and have the Full price of the camera refunded to your credit card, then That would be stealing.
posted by th3ph17 at 12:27 PM on November 21, 2001


Many atheists rely on things like Kant's categorical imperative. Paraphrased, this rule has you assume that if you do something, everyone will do it, and to evaluate whether such a society would be desirable. This is a slightly different question from the "golden rule," which asks you to imagine whether you'd like the action to happen to you.

In this specific case, the categorical imperative leads you to the conclusion that the worst that will happen in the long run is that people will learn to be extremely careful to post correct pricing in their Web stores and to give themselves an "out" for the occasional mistake (e.g. "we reserve the right to cancel orders in cases of obvious pricing error"). Both of which Amazon already does. It is difficult to view this as a bad result.

Looking at the same situation from a "golden rule standpoint," if I made a stupid pricing mistake and a bunch of people took me up on it and I lost a lot of money, it would be hard to imagine I would like that result in the short term, but in the long term it would probably be good for me to learn to be more careful, and I should be thankful for the lesson.
posted by kindall at 12:30 PM on November 21, 2001 [1 favorite]


I've been in the position of making a mistake in the workplace where I could've really screwed up but for my strategy of begging and explaining how I'd made a price error. I felt awful that I'd made a mistake but really angry when I realized people were trying to get a bargain - even after I'd spelt out my job was on the line because of a clerical mistake I'd made. There was no bait 'n switch involved. I'd made a mistake because I was tired. I learnt a lot about humanity that day. There are a lot of understanding folks out there, but also a lot of scumbags.
posted by skinsuit at 5:04 PM on November 21, 2001


Two thoughts come to mind. Who's to say what is "obviously" a mistake and what is not? This past year I personally was able to partake in some pretty insane dotcom sales. Many of these upstarts were practically giving things away in the hopes of attracting a loyal following. Buy.com was one of them, and so was Mercata.com (too bad the latter went bust so soon.) In any event, with rebates and referral credit and Flooz and Mercata$, I was able to score a cheap TiVo, digital camera, and tons of other goodies. Not one of them was gained dishonestly nor through a "mistake" that I know of. I was under no other obligation to these stores, so I moved on to the next great deal. Ironically enough, Buy.com now features a Mistake of the Day for deal-hunters.

Recently I was able to score a free DirecTiVo from Circuit City, since they dropped the price to $99 two days before a Philips $100 rebate ended. I *presume* they were supposed to wait for the rebate to end, but in that small sliver of time, I was able to get the reduced price and still qualify for a rebate. What am I supposed to do there -- conscientiously object to sending in the rebate coupon? Insist that Circuit City charge me the old $199 price?

Please; this ain't theft, it's just being a savvy, well-informed shopper.

On the other hand, once a store is "obligated" to honor a mistake, it sets a dangerous precedent. What's to stop a customer from swapping price tags, and blaming the "mistake" on the store? Most store print disclaimers in the catalogs and Sunday inserts, too -- lest they get in a bind due to some careless copywriter/printer.

If Amazon.com let people order the product, and the automated system let it go through, then I don't think any customer has done anything wrong -- ethically or otherwise. Unfortunately for the deal-hunters, Amazon.com is savvy, and caught their mistake before it was too late.

What would be wrong is if these deal-hunters raised some kind of stink, crying, "You advertised that price, you gotta honor it!" I mean, please people... we're all human.
posted by Fofer at 8:45 PM on November 21, 2001


In the interests of having a complete record: I ended up getting $10 off my next purchase. Definitely more than I deserved.
posted by lbergstr at 10:16 AM on November 23, 2001


I'm so glad I ordered three times...
posted by kfury at 7:04 PM on November 25, 2001


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