V3.co.uk has trawled through the biggest and best examples of the wrong information being posted on web sites, leading to more than a few red faces at the companies involved and often among the unhappy shoppers who think they’ve grabbed a bargain only to be foiled once the mistake is realised.
Although most of the entries in our top 10 come from the world of e-commerce, with products being listed online at huge discounts, we’ve also thrown in our favourite examples of general web-based mis-information.
1. Top 30(p)
Amazon starts off the list with its most recent pricing error, although the e-commerce giant makes another appearance later on. Earlier this month, the e-tailer was found to be selling a small number of digital albums for just 29p. Affected artists – who actually saw their sales climb dramatically – included Calvin Harris, James Morrison, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and MGMT - no? Us neither. We could be cynical here and say that 29p seems a pretty fair price for some of the albums, but that would just be too easy a punchline.
2. Say cheese and thank you
Back in 2002, Kodak was the victim of a pricing error on its kodak.com web site, listing a 3.1 megapixel camera for just £100 when it should have cost three times as much - we know, how times change. About 2,000 people hammered the firm's pages, snapping up the snapper at the snip of the price, and Kodak honoured all of the purchases. You won't hear that phrase often during this list.
3. Ay! Ay! Buy!
A pricing error in Dell's South American web site is almost too complicated to explain. Let’s just say that somewhere in the myriad of options involved during the purchasing process it was discovered that buyers could get their hands on something worth £300 for just £77 and leave it at that. Thanks to people sharing the news, sales went up by 66 per cent on the day but the good times ended there. Although it has never been officially stated, it is suggested that Dell left some 15,000 customers empty handed when it refused to honour orders. However, it did offer them discounts against their future purchases.
4. When is a Jarre not a Jarre?
Reminding us not to take most of what we read on the internet at face value is this little gem which occured when composer Maurice Jarre died. Lazy hacks flocked to Wikipedia to help fill out their obituaries. A lot were glad to see a poetic quote attributed to the man and seized on it. Sadly the quote, "One could say my life itself has been one long soundtrack, music was my life, music brought me to life, and music is how I will be remembered long after I leave this life. When I die there will be a final waltz playing in my head that only I can hear," was made up by a 22-year old student as a prank. And who says education is wasted on the young?
5. LCD and the Argosnots
Argos first came to bargain-hunter attention in the last century (1999) when it listed a Nicam digital television for just £2.99 instead of the £299 it was actually worth. Sales were made, none were honoured and apparently no lessons were learned. Four years later, Argos did the same thing with Bush televisions. On this occasion one happy shopper apparently bought almost 100 tellys at just £0.49 a set. You can guess the rest.
6. It's a jungle out there
Amazon once got confused about whether handheld devices, or handheld prices, were supposed to be small and listed two iPaq PDAs on its UK web site at bargain basement prices. Although handhelds were a little heavier those days - this was six years ago - these ones looked set to be a lot lighter on the wallet with their sub-£10 price tag. However, Amazon refused to honour the sales and the firm actually had to close its virtual doors in the UK as it struggled to solve the pricing error.
7. Where in the world?
2003 was a fairly busy year for pricing errors, and it was also a busy year for one Graeme McKenna, who was apparently expecting to do a lot of copying to CD. McKenna managed to buy 2,000 CDs from PC World at the low low low price of £27.75 plus VAT instead of the actual price of £2,080. The company debited his credit card, but on realising its mistake refused to fulfil the order, sending him just the £20 worth of CDs his small investment guaranteed him.
8. Run Foris Run
Tech e-tailer Foris is a slightly less glamourous candidate for inclusion. Although not a high street name like Argos, the firm showed how easy it was to fall into the incorrect pricing trap back in 2002. We all make mistakes over the weekend but on a long Friday night in 2002 the firm was offering Sony Vaio laptops for about £70 and Compaq TFT monitors for just £36.31. Other products were advertised at £0.01 and the firm had to turn off its checkout system in order to stop the flood of orders. None of which it honoured.
9. What's this page about? Cheerleaders and their pets? There is no
technical advice for me here!
Not a pricing error but a web site error nonetheless. This one involved the government's Office for Security and Counter Terrorism site, which earlier this year was hosting a link to a Japanese porn site. Apparently the link was supposed to take visitors to a page with information on a technical advisory board. Yeah, we can't say which option we prefer either.
10. Always bet on Brown
This month the government published MPs' expenses reports online, after bowing to intense public pressure. However, the launch of the information was marred as apparently while uploading the images someone managed to spill black ink over the documents. Making most of the information available unreadable. We don't know whether the government plans to fix this error, but we do live in hope.
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