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Amazon Accidentally Sold $13k Camera Gear for $100 on Prime Day (petapixel.com)
740 points by elijahparker 38 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 503 comments



It’s kind of interesting- the asymmetry of moral expectations and entitlement.

If you accidentally purchased a bag of M&Ms from Amazon for 500 dollars instead of 5, they will let you undo it. On the other hand, if the matter is reversed, Amazon is expected to be a good sport and take the loss — even if the purchase was made in bad faith (ie- knowing Amazon mis-priced it but purchasing it anyways.)

I’m not going to entertain any counter arguments that Amazon deserves this because they treat workers poorly or don’t pay taxes or whatever, those arguments are orthogonal. The same behavior would happen with a company with better public trust and respect. And it’s not like anyone is selling those cameras to donate money to a warehouse worker in need.

I just think it’s amazing how frail people’s morality is, how it goes out the window when certain conditions are met.


> It’s kind of interesting- the asymmetry of moral expectations and entitlement.

First, there is an asymmetry in power too. Amazon can afford to double check or triple check everything if it makes economic sense.

Secondly, companies does not have morals. If you allow big corporations to change prices as they see fit because there is a "mistake". Companies will exploit that to their advantage with psychopathic precision.

You will get your package at home and then you will be informed that the price "was a mistake" and was 10% more expensive. They will print prices in adverts and then say that it was a mistake when people gets to the shop.

Companies are not human beings, as other comments already have said, to involve morality in this issue makes no sense whatsoever.

The real question is: is this an efficient way of improving the consumers well being? If this rules avoid companies of abusing price changes and labeling anything as being a "mistake" and at the same time it encourages better quality on price setting and the "punishment" is not big enough to send all companies to foreclosure. Then it seems a very good deal.

It makes economic sense.


I agree with both you and parent. People are uncomfortably inconsistent. If a certain rule benefits them then they'll favor it ... right until the rule becomes a problem for them or favors their adversary. Normally, I see this when people talk about their politics.

On the other hand, Amazon has an unbelievable amount of power. And I think things would be a lot better if we as a society applied the spider-man rule. With great power. If a small mom and pop makes this sort of mistake, then I'm all for them correcting it and not giving away $13K equipment for $100. Maybe they were doing it maliciously, but because of how small they are the scope of their malice can only affect a small number of people. On the other hand, Amazon has the power of a first world nation state. If they make a mistake, innocently or maliciously, then the scope can affect a lot of people. Yeah, you messed up Amazon. Don't export the cost of failure onto people without the power to fight it. Pay for it yourself with your considerable resources and then resolve the issue with your considerable resources such that you don't make the mistake again.

EDIT: Mom and pop might not have the resources to cover their mistake AND they might not have the resources to reasonably prevent it from happening again. And because of their lack of resources they are also on a level playing field with their customers. So if their customers feel that what was done to them was wrong, then they can reasonably challenge mom and pop in court. On the other hand, if Amazon decides that their customers are going to lose in court, then their customers are going to lose in court.


Do you make a distinction between stealing from a rich person versus a poor person?


I haven't really thought about it in those terms. But YES it turns out I do make a distinction.

The only reason I called the police on the guy who robbed me at gunpoint was because I was concerned that he might also steal from someone who couldn't stand to lose their money AND because he was using lethal force to steal money.

I didn't really enjoy the few weeks of stress that I got from being mugged. But I otherwise didn't hold it against him. He was much more polite than a person with a gun has to be. And I could afford gas at $4 a gallon (as it was at the time) where he couldn't (credit cards showed him immediately going an filling up at a gas station).

If a rich guy had mugged me, I think I would have been a bit more upset about the experience.


Hmm, I was mugged once in Philly, it was nighttime and I was returning back from uni. It wasn't particularly traumatic since it happened so quickly. I went to report it and as I was waiting, there were other people in line with gunshot injuries and people in knife fights and one lady whose boyfriend had stabbed her little dog and other crazy stuff and I was like.. you guys need the police's resources way way more than I do, so I just left w/o reporting.

But I guess the point I was making was that if stealing or taking advantage or someones misfortune is morally wrong in one context, then I don't quite see a principled way out of it, other than layering an assumption-ridden argument about Amazon being bad and therefore deserving of this. As is typical in most corporate environments some engineer/pm/sales dude is probably going to end up being the fall guy. IMHO the only way to "stick it" to Amazon and come out on the moral high-ground is to stop using them. There is a time for civil disobedience, but it is possible for most consumers to avoid shopping with them.


I think if you had actually experienced both situations you would be less shaken by the robbery from a rich person because you might have had less confidence that they would actually shoot you.

This doesn't change the post hoc moral reasoning, but it night have incurred less impact on you.


I'm not sure which point you're trying to make, but I would feel extremely uncomfortable being robbed at gunpoint by a person I knew to be "rich". A rich person has much better odds of getting away with it, or receiving reduced punishment. Also, the rich person has no material need to threaten me at gunpoint, so they have clearly become unhinged and are past the point of rational decision making. A poor person who robs you at gun point just wants your money, they're not actually hoping to shoot people.


Do you make a distinction between stealing a pack of gum and stealing a car?


Depends on the exact nature of your question. If you want to argue on simple moral terms, both are wrong because stealing is stealing. But the "wrongness" of each action can be debated so obviously under most legal systems the punishment is not identical - and that is a related but a different conversation. But note that the punishment for stealing, in most cases, is not dependent on the personal wealth of a victim. I say most because I'm sure some pedant is going to find the odd outlier.


I would, and I imagine most people would. I don't steal, certainly, and would never unless absolutely forced to do so, but if I had to I would definitely chose to steal from someone for whom it would make less of a difference.


Companies are not human beings, as other comments already have said, to involve morality in this issue makes no sense whatsoever.

This argument is wrong, there is no attempt to associate morality with a company. It is the customer and only the customer holding the arguably conflicting believes that errors in favour of customers should not be corrected while errors in favour of the company should be corrected. So you can argue whether those two believes are actually morally conflicting but you can not dismiss this point based on the irrelevant point that one can not apply moral concepts to companies [1].

[1] Which may itself be a matter of dabate, after all one aspect of companies is that they are collections of people working together.


But there is such an attempt of anthropomorphisation, when you say the company is "expected to be a good sport".

You don't say a herd of cows ought to be a good sport. A crying baby ought to be a good sport. That tree is being mean, casting shade. The anthill ought to return my sugar.

That is why there is no conflict. Because they are not the same morally and thus not expected to be treated the same.


I think one as to be more careful here. At a first level the company plays no role, it is just the customer expecting that mistakes are handled differently depending on who benefits. Replace Amazon with a private person you are intending to buy a used car from, would you still expect that mistakes - say a miscommunication of the price or miscounting of the money - in your favour are handled differently than mistakes in the sellers favour? And we assume no bad faith here, if the seller intentionally raises the price once you have taken a day off and driven a significant distance to complete the trade in the hope that you will pay the higher price in order to not have wasted your time, that is an entirely different story. Personally I would probably not do it, but I think it would be perfectly fine to sue the seller to get the initially agreed on price.

Expecting Amazon to be a good sport only makes sense after you have decided that mistakes should not be handled differently depending on who benefits and that you are therefore not entitled to keep your amazing deal. Then you can start to appeal to being a good sport, or the benefits for the public perception of Amazon, or whatnot to explain why Amazon should honor the deal. But this also brings up question like why would you not be a good sport in case of a mistake in favour of Amazon? Note that I do not want to imply any answers here, I just want to point out which kinds of questions one might have to consider.


C2C and B2C transactions can be, and in many places are, regulated differently.


This argument cuts both ways. If Amazon isn't a moral entity, then there's also no moral violation if they screw you over.


What you will find, one day, is that morality is just the name we give to the system of similar humans dealing with one another.

Everything else is attempts to extrapolate from that.

Many things that are punished if an animal does to a human, are accepted by the billions if humans do to animals.

Many times an adult has a responsibilty a child does not.

The Amazon example is one of the latter kind.

Besides morality there are legal systems. As you get more and more kinds of things, it is expedient to represent corporations as legal entities, but often they are held to a higher standard than just random people. Since a corporation can employ many people and machines, to prepare every sale, they are held to a higher standard for transactions, taxes, reporting, quality of product delivered, and so on. They also have deeper pockets and can take the hit.


It's good to know that you've got morality all figured out :)

I don't see any reason why it should be ok for people to knowingly rip Amazon off. There are worse things (by far) that someone can do, but there's no real justification for doing it.


Right, and it's not morally wrong for a mosquito to bite you, and no one would say that the bug "should have known better", but we do our best to prevent it anyway. Both entities will go precisely as far as we allow them to.


When companies like Amazon do things that are morally wrong, you never see people making this claim that moral concepts don't apply to companies. They only say it when it's convenient for them (i.e., when they want to take advantage of Amazon rather than vice versa).

To compare a company's actions to those of a mosquito strikes me as quite silly. Amazon is run by people who make conscious choices and who are responsible for their actions.


>When companies like Amazon do things that are morally wrong, you never see people making this claim that moral concepts don't apply to companies.

I see this all the time on HN.


> When companies like Amazon do things that are morally wrong

Companies don't "do things". The managers (and ultimately Bezos as the top manager) are the moral actors here. "Amazon" is just shortcut name for all the people that work there, this set is ever changing.


Also, that comparison is made specifically because companies have no morality and so if we want them to behave in any sort of way approximating our morals, they must be regulated to do so. Those comments are advocating a change in the way companies are treated in order to get them to behave in a more expected manner.


I don't follow. People also need to be regulated in order to behave morally. Companies are run by people and it's entirely possible for companies to take moral stands or deliberately decide to do the right thing even when it's not the most profitable thing. It might not happen as often as we'd like, but it certainly does happen.


> This argument cuts both ways. If Amazon isn't a moral entity, then there's also no moral violation if they screw you over.

In that case, it's not a moral violation if they screw you over, but it's not a moral violation if you end them for screwing you over either. The mosquito isn't violating morals when it bites me, but I'd still have no problem eliminating them all from my backyard if i could do it in a reasonable manner. Not many people claim it is immoral for me to swat the mosquito.


Sure, maybe it's all about power and there's no real difference between right and wrong.

I just don't see why that kind of nihilism suddenly becomes more plausible than usual when you're buying something from Amazon.


Yes, but it is undesirable. Which is why we have legal and financial incentives and regulations, to force corporations to behave.


If you make a mistake, you cancel it with a standard return policy.

Amazon's "mistake" looks like bait and switch, or any number of other scams. I'm under the impression they usually cancel said orders.


When you start going down this line of arguments, then you also have to take into account the abuse of return policies, ordering and wearing clothes once before returning them, ordering several similar items while intending to only keep the one you like the most, and that sort of thing. Also Amazon could easily add - in case it does not already exist - a policy to its terms and conditions that explicitly states that orders can be canceled in case of errors, at least as far as laws allow such policies. But there are certainly already some policies targeting fraudulent orders and whatnot.


> abuse of return policies, ordering and wearing clothes once before returning them, ordering several similar items while intending to only keep the one you like the most

How is this considered abuse at all? The EU even mandates a 14 day return window for online shopping since you don't get to try stuff on or see the item like you would in a physical store.


I am totally in favor of this 14 day return policy, there are good reasons why it exists. But behind every law there is also an intention and the intention behind this law was certainly not to allow you to order an expensive suit or dress, wear it at one event, and then return it without ever having had the intention to keep it. At the very best this is an gray area and it certainly is abuse because it is against the intention of the law.


A friend of my wife is a studio photographer (in the US) and she was banned from several high end stores because she used to buy tons of clothes for a model shoot, and then return them when done. Occasionally she would keep one or two items she liked. I would tend to agree that this is abuse. I think now she rents them ...

> How is this considered abuse at all? The EU even mandates a 14 day return window for online shopping since you don't get to try stuff on or see the item like you would in a physical store.

Hmm, I think the product must be unused and unworn for you to return it. I might be misremembering though..


> First, there is an asymmetry in power too. Amazon can afford to double check or triple check everything if it makes economic sense.

There's an asymmetry because Amazon can "afford" to double check everything? How? They lists millions of items. You're only in the market for a few. They're good at inventory management, but the scale is crazy which is why this mispricing is happening. Besides, I don't see why them "being able to afford" checking has to do with someone exploiting a mispricing, from a moral sense. Are you punishing them for not doing so and creating a financial incentive to be more prudent? Seems like a stretch.

> You will get your package at home and then you will be informed that the price "was a mistake" and was 10% more expensive. They will print prices in adverts and then say that it was a mistake when people gets to the shop.

It's ironic that many people still believe the narrative that corporations are evil and would screw over their customers at any chance while at the same time living through the greatest upheaval of popular consumer brands in history. Amazon wouldn't do that not because of benevolence or legal reasons, but because its not in their interest to upset and screw over repeat customers for 10% and the operational headache of somehow retrieving your item. Also considering that Amazon receives billions from Prime and that would likely drive down subscriptions. Some companies practice deceptive advertising, but these are the companies that are primarily losing favor to new more honest competitors due to the competition.


> There's an asymmetry because Amazon can "afford" to double check everything? How?

Well, Amazon shows you the percent discount. I can't imagine that there are too many items over, let's say, $1000 that are at a 90% discount at any given time. Seems easy enough to flag those for manual review, especially if they are being sold by Amazon directly.


I'm not sure that the fact that corporations sometimes fails disproves that they are evil or proves that they will not screw their customer's over. As an analogy: criminals often go to jail but that doesn't disprove that criminals exist or prove that they won't victimize people.

I'm also not sure that I agree that more deceptive companies are failing in favor of more honest ones. It seems to me that many modern business models make use of questionable strategies such as dark patterns, regulatory capture, and vendor lock-in.

Perhaps the greater point is not whether a corporation would take advantage in a specific situation. Rather the larger point could be that, due to their size and distributed nature, global corporations are not accountable in the way that individuals or local businesses are.


> There's an asymmetry because Amazon can "afford" to double check everything? How?

When you sell on Amazon and for some reason don't want to sell something out of your inventory by changing the price from $10 to $999999, Amazon will put a "possible pricing error" alert next to it in your dashboard.

Not sure if they do it when the price is too low. Either way it's super easy to detect by comparing to the item's price from other sellers.

It's very easy to introduce errors since most products are batch imported with a clunky spreadsheet, or the API.


I agree with some of your sentiment, but this argument isn't cut-n-dried.

> It's ironic that many people still believe the narrative that corporations are evil and would screw over their customers at any chance...Amazon wouldn't do that not because of benevolence or legal reasons, but because its not in their interest

That is not a counter-argument for them not being evil -- that's could be more along the line of lawful evil (pragmatically evil). If it is in their interest to screw people over and they don't is more a counter-example of not being evil.

I don't think all corporation are evil. I think corporations should be judged on their behavior towards people. If they carry out evil actions they are evil (or at least part of them is). If they carry out good actions then they are probably not evil (maybe it's just that interests align with being good).


Repeat after me: Amazon is not a person. Why aren't you arguing against the daily electrocution of toasters?


Amazon is a corporation, essentially a legal structure meant to encompass a group of investors. Investors range from its founder Jeff Bezos to small investors holding Amazon shares in pension funds and 401ks. You too can buy one share of Amazon for ~$2000 or invest in a low cost ETF that would own Amazon. The value of the stock is driven partly by expectation of future earnings. If Amazon were to lose future earnings relative to what investors believe they will receive, the stock price will likely go down.

On the extreme lets say that Amazon stock goes to $0, it would reduce the wealth of the world by about $1 trillion in stock valuation. That means that $1 trillion disappears from people's accounts (with ~$100 billion disappearing from Bezos' account). This would be wealth destruction no different from simultaneously reaching into every person's wallet and removing some amount of cash and burning it.

The whole "[corp] is not a person so [immoral act] is okay" is not productive.


>This would be wealth destruction no different from simultaneously reaching into every person's wallet and removing some amount of cash and burning it.

Unrealised profits are very much different than physical cash.


I own the stock and can sell it for $2000. If the value of the stock drops to $0 and I can no longer get $2000 for the stock, it would be no different than me losing $2000 cash


If I have $0.50 cash and someone reaches into my wallet and takes it, is that any different to if I've got a lottery ticket with an expected value of $0.50, and the draw occurs and its value drops to $0 when it doesn't win?

Some would say that in the first case it's morally wrong to steal my cash, whereas in the latter case I consented to the risk of my ticket losing when I purchased it; and therefore performing a lottery draw is not an immoral act.


Yes, if the Amazon model doesn't work out and you lose value, that's not immoral. It just happened like your lottery. If the value decreases from people stealing from Amazon then it is the same as going in your wallet and taking the cash.


How is this "stealing", if Amazon advertised the price they sold the product at?


Except you did't have $2000 cash because you invested it in Amazon, whose value dropped to $0.


Cash is simply the physical form that the government has deemed legal tender that must be accepted for payment. In the case of countries like 1920s Weimar Republic, that cash can lose value due to hyperinflation in currency trading markets.


/r/iamverysmart


You'd still own the stock even if it was valued at $0. You didn't lose anything.


If Amazon stock goes to $0, all that says is that literally nobody wants to buy Amazon stock.

You still own your shares. You were not robbed, your gamble did not pay off.

Also, for this to happen, Amazon would have to be very very very bad at doing its job, which is to sell products for a profit. A company that is that bad at doing its one job has no god-given right to remain liquid.


I don't think Amazon's stock going to $0 would necessarily entail wealth destruction. The money doesn't just disappear, people who have sold at the high have profited. Wealth destruction only happens when credit is involved.


If you're confused by the downvotes, it's because the stock market is not a zero-sum game. This is a common misconception about equities. The stock market can both create and destroy wealth because it is not a zero-sum game.


I'm not an expert and I would love for someone to tell me I'm wrong. Having said that I think what I wrote in the previous post is wrong, Amazon going to $0 would clearly entail some wealth destruction, namely at least the amount that was raised in the IPO and any further issuing of stock (options not included since they only dilute). But besides that any temporary increase in the stock's value, is not equivalent to each stockholder getting an equivalent amount of cash (which was what the OP claimed and what I assumed he meant with wealth creation/destruction) just as a decrease in the stock price is not the same as an overall decrease in money in the population. Some people sell at a high or at any price above the price of the IPO/ price at which money was raised, which captures some of the temporary increase, any loss that includes the money that was actually raised by Amazon would be actual wealth destruction (cash losses), but I don't see how the rest of those losses would also correspond to actual cash losses.


>if the purchase was made in bad faith (ie- knowing Amazon mis-priced it but purchasing it anyways.)

>The same behavior would happen with a company with better public trust and respect. And it’s not like anyone is selling those cameras to donate money to a warehouse worker in need.

>I just think it’s amazing how frail people’s morality is, how it goes out the window when certain conditions are met.

The parent wasn't talking about companies, they were talking about us people and how morality is shit these days. As to your focus in companies, they derive their morality from the people that run them. What's shit for the goose is shit for the gander.

People taking the high road makes a better world.


> how morality is shit these days.

This sort of implies morality was better in the past. Do you believe that?

I am not suggesting today's morality is good but it seems like an improvement over the history of humanity to me.


Touche and great question. It probably seems worse today due to the ability for news and information to travel so far and fast. Just like it's easier to hear about ALL the bad news stories... kidnappings, murders, shootings, flesh eating bacteria, etc. Even though the rates are the same or possibly even lower today, the [noise] volume is easier to be heard.


That is my impression as well.


Shit begets shit. If you're buying from a local mom and pop where the owners are part of your community it's far less likely you would take advantage of the situation.

People still return wallets full of money. How are they morally bankrupt?

Amazon is an example of unfettered capitalism, and are seen differently in the eyes of the consumer. Right or wrong, people just don't care about a megacorps well being (and I don't blame them).


What is unfettered capitalism? The "unfettered" part leads me to believe this is a pejorative. Wikipedia redirects to economic liberalism, which is just free markets in opposition to planned economies. Is there anyone even remotely serious who thinks planned economies are superior? Is there a planned economy in the world that isn't in tattered ruins, impoverishing its people in the most hideous and evil fashion, while literally stealing its pittance of wealth for a few dozen autocrats in charge of the government?


China's economy is planned to a significant extent and doesn't match that description. Of course, it is not a textbook example of a planned economy, but neither is the economy of any Western country a textbook example of a laissez-faire free market economy. The US economy, for example, is significantly distorted by an enormous amount of planned 'defense' spending. Real economies tend to be complex and have a mix of features.


By unfettered capitalism I just mean a system where you end up with disparities of 500x, massive multinationals, and horrible behaviour by many (yesterday we had an article about Cargill for example) that's too hidden or abstract for most of society to fully realize. I believe it's unsustainable and will inevitably come crashing down.

Personally I'm in favour of worker coops with a capped pay disparity between the least and most valued workers (like 8x).

I'm not advocating for planned economies or a Chinese or Russian approach (power in the hands of the few).


>a system where you end up with disparities of 500x, massive multinationals, and horrible behaviour by many

That's not unfettered capitalism though. That's captured markets via regulation and laws picking winners and protecting incumbents. That's due to corporatism... when corporations, via imaginary person-hood, are given the same rights as humans. What I label as corporatism.


Well whatever you want to call it, it's what we've got. Pure free market can't work because of externalities (dumping chemicals upstream of your town), so we have regulation, and yeah it gets captured.

I think people would get more value out of work if they had a stake and a voice, instead of being peons for a super rich board of investors. I suspect we'd make longer term decisions, instead of cutting corners. We elect our leaders (antipathy aside), why can't democracy extend to the workplace? It can and does work already, so let's have more of it. More experiments, more critical thinking about the way things are. Subsidize co-ops the same as incorporations (or just get rid of subsidies entirely) so it's an even playing field.


I keep seeing "capitalism" leveled at Amazon as a pejorative when people seem to mean "consumerism."


This was not a price "mistake"!

This was a well executed marketing campaign - they are looking to see how much ROI they will get on such marketing move. By the next prime day there will be millions more people logged in - looking for super deals!!!!

Do you really think they dont have a complex system in place that would flag this huge price discrepancy 100x before the product ships out? I dont think so.


> companies doesn't have morals

Call it whatever you want, the way big companies like Amazon operate has moral implications and, therefore, Amazon has a moral. The fact that is isn't a single living organism but a sum of many doesn't mean it has no morals whatsoever.

I do understand your line of thinking - how do we create a law that can't be exploited? Because, after all, we expect it to be exploited at some point.

Although in my country the rules are the same (the lowest announced price has to be honored) there was a issue a few years ago that a product was announced at a much lower price. A judge ruled in favor of the seller. I don't really recall the details but I think the ruling was based on the fact that the law was supposed to avoid sellers exploiting buyers, but the announced price was a clear mistake.

Common sense above all, I guess.


> You will get your package at home and then you will be informed that the price "was a mistake" and was 10% more expensive

Don't seem very likely. When word gets out (and it will) they'll lose customers that are much more valuable than that extra 10% they just got from you.


"Companies are not human beings, as other comments already have said, to involve morality in this issue makes no sense whatsoever."

Is society human being? Is nation a human being?

If not then is it moral to deceive and cheat them too?


It means just that it makes no sense to answer that question based on human morals ... doesn't mean the answer is set in stone.

It specifically doesn't mean that one non-human entity should be treated the same as all other non-human entities.

For instance an argument could be made that it can be moral to cheat the State, but not Society. It's not an argument I want to discuss now, but the point is, you can use ethics and come to different conclusions about entities that are not human beings ...


Companies are people. They fight very hard for that label in the courts (USA)


"Companies are not human beings"

I beg to differ...

Corporate personhood is the legal notion that a corporation, separately from its associated human beings (like owners, managers, or employees), has at least some of the legal rights and responsibilities enjoyed by natural persons (physical humans).


"Human beings" =/="personhood".


Corporations are people.


That's true. But that doesn't mean they're "human beings". A corporation doesn't have blood or skin or a physical human body. Again, based on our definitions here, "Human being" =/= "Person/Personhood"


>It’s kind of interesting- the asymmetry of moral expectations and entitlement

Not really. Non symmetric things (a behemoth of a company and individual regular Joe/Jane customers) shouldn't be treated symmetrically in the first place.

Screw the company, all power to the consumer makes a lot of sense morally.

>I just think it’s amazing how frail people’s morality is, how it goes out the window when certain conditions are met.

I think it makes total sense for morality to adapt to circumstances, and not be some rigid changeless set of rules that one enforces like a Vulcan.

Else it would be like Anatole France's description of the law:

"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread".

Now that's injustice -- having a fixed "morality" that treats everyone the same for the same transgression.

And, of course, if it was a little store down the corner, people would have had different sympathies, if old Roger there made a pricing mistake. They'd be much more in favor of the former than of the consumer who benefited from it...


> If you accidentally purchased a bag of M&Ms from Amazon for 500 dollars instead of 5, they will let you undo it.

Of course, and they do it out of self-interest. On one hand, 495 dollars are not worth losing a client for life. More importantly, it is not in their interest to scare people away from using their service. The story could spread and cause significant damage to their reputation.

> On the other hand, if the matter is reversed, Amazon is expected to be a good sport and take the loss

Yes, because the situation is asymmetrical. Amazon is afraid of losing customers, but customers are not afraid of losing Amazon.

> I just think it’s amazing how frail people’s morality is, how it goes out the window when certain conditions are met.

I don't think that the majority of people nowadays believes that "the system" is fair. Most people perceive the game as rigged in favor of the rich and powerful, so they feel no moral obligation towards them.

But you are right, human beings are depressingly flawed. Many people will steal or take an unfair advantage if they know they won't be caught. The customer taking advantage of a mistake to receive an unfair deal and Amazon not paying taxes are more or less the same behavior.


> The customer taking advantage of a mistake to receive an unfair deal and Amazon not paying taxes are more or less the same behavior.

This is the key insight. The customer takes advantage of Amazons' inability to deal with its highly complex and huge pricing system of millions of articles without occasionally making fatal errors, while Amazon is taking advantage of the world's population's inability to deal with the highly complex tax rule interplay between many different countries which still want to interface with each other (= do trade) and thus occasionally create loopholes that can be exploited. The latter is impossible for the consumer due to scale (there's millions of consumers paying tiny amounts of taxes each, exploiting loopholes doesn't scale down that much), and the former is impossible for Amazon due to its scale (there's just one Amazon with a giant cash flow, to exploit a pricing failure of another online store in a way that makes a difference to this cash flow is impossible for several reasons, most importantly that there is no other online store large enough).


> The customer taking advantage of a mistake to receive an unfair deal and Amazon not paying taxes are more or less the same behavior.

Disagree. Amazon are forced and obligated to use legal tax avoidance strategies to be competitive and to fulfill their fiduciary duty.

You might say that tax avoidance isn't in the spirit of the law but then why don't lawmakers implement mitigations for it? Because they don't want to, they want to preserve the possibility of tax avoidance to appease corporations. So to me that means that tax avoidance actually is in the spirit of the law as it stands currently.


> Amazon are forced and obligated to use legal tax avoidance strategies to be competitive and to fulfil their fiduciary duty

Any precedent where shareholders have successfully sued a company for failing to exploit legal tax avoidance strategies would be appreciated. Otherwise, "forced and obligated" feels a bit of a stretch.


Forced because of their competitors. Obligated for legal reasons.


Neither is true. Corporations are not fiduciaries for their shareholders and they do not have a fiduciary obligation to maximize shareholder value or even to protect their shareholders' investments.

The board of a corporation is tasked with protecting the shareholders' investments by overseeing the selection of a CEO and corporate structural issues. And that's it.


> The board of a corporation is tasked with protecting the shareholders' investments by overseeing the selection of a CEO and corporate structural issues. And that's it.

Right. So they have a duty to select a CEO who doesn't enable the unnecessary waste of corporate money on optional taxes.


> So they have a duty to select a CEO who doesn't enable the unnecessary waste of corporate money on optional taxes.

Waste is one of a very short list of categories that are considered something no one wants: https://medium.com/bull-market/there-is-no-effective-fiducia...


No, that's exactly wrong. They don't have a duty to minimize waste, otherwise they would have a duty to not award golden parachutes or large executive compensation packages or even to pay themselves more than a few hundred bucks a year.


> otherwise they would have a duty to not award golden parachutes or large executive compensation packages

That's actually true though, they do have such a duty.

http://www.shareholderoppression.com/excessive-compensation


That only applies to approving their own excessive compensation..

It helps to read things before you link to then....


I don't believe the asymmetry here is because of morals or entitlement.

Amazon is the one that advertizes the price. Once it's advertised and a transaction has been completed, that's a contract. That contract includes the possibility of returns because they compete in the retail space, where there is an asymmetry in that the company has had ample opportunity to evaluate the product and price it accordingly, but the customer doesn't otherwise have much to evaluate on. If Amazon does this at such an astronomical scale that they don't notice a big price discrepancy, that's the cost of operating such an astronomical scale. They still made the contract - and it was even their lawyers who wrote the contract and spend hours poring over it. If I order truck loads of landscaping material to be delivered to my house and I later learn that it wasn't such a great price, you better believe I'm now stuck with that material and the bill.

I actually had a similar event happen in a real-world retail store. They were advertising frozen chickens for an absurdly low price. I checked with an employee that the price listed was not a mistake - they said it was correct. I grabbed a manager, and checked that the price listed was not a mistake - they said it was correct. I took 2 cart loads of frozen chickens to the front of the store - and they didn't notice the price was absurdly low until I had already swiped my credit card and the cashier was telling me the total. By the time she grabbed a manager, the transaction was complete, and the same manager who confirmed the price now told me it was a mistake. Fuck them - they listed the price, I checked, I finalized the transaction.


> They still made the contract - and it was even their lawyers who wrote the contract and spend hours poring over it. If I order truck loads of landscaping material to be delivered to my house and I later learn that it wasn't such a great price, you better believe I'm now stuck with that material and the bill.

At first, I thought you were talking about the general social or implied contract between a retailer and consumer, in the general sense. But if you're talking about the explicitly written contract that the lawyers wrote, which is the Conditions of Use, then the allowance for pricing mistakes is right there in the "Pricing" section of the contract, including a description of what happens in such events:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?ie=UTF8...

> With respect to items sold by Amazon, we cannot confirm the price of an item until you order. Despite our best efforts, a small number of the items in our catalog may be mispriced. If the correct price of an item sold by Amazon 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. Other merchants may follow different policies in the event of a mispriced item.


And that seems perfectly reasonable to me[1]. One of the main examples in the article actually shows they got to the point of shipping, and I'm not seeing a whole lot of outrage at any response (or even a response) from Amazon.

[1] edit: and I'll admit I hadn't actually read the contract myself. I do when (a) I think there's actually a reasonable chance I'll walk away from the transaction rather than just risk losing $15 because I'm not satisfied, and (b) when the company bears some cost due to the complexity of the contract - like when they're standing there waiting for me to say I've read and understood it. I think it's problematic that almost no one reads what they're agreeing to, and everyone knows that, and we're all just okay with it. No idea how we fix that, but so long as we're talking about asymmetries in these transactions, the effort companies put into these contracts that they know perfectly well almost no one is reading scares me more than handling of price discrepancies.


I had basically the same thing happen to me several years ago, but on hamburger; $1.49/lb for 5 lb? Nope - $1.49 each!

After a cartload at one store; went to another - same. It was system-wide. So I went to a couple more over the next couple of days (I had a large chest freezer at the time).

Finally, about the third day in the discrepancy was noticed and the signs/system changed.

Best "mistake deal" I've gotten so far - but nothing like this camera deal at Amazon.


Different strokes. I'm sure they were hoping you were one type of person, but willing to take the loss if you weren't.


Amazon is a professional seller, they should know better. Buyers are not professionals, they shouldn't have to. Depending on the country this is even enshrined in law (e.g. customer protection laws against accidental buying).


He's talking about it from the moral standpoint. Most customers will be able to tell that something is off when camera gear is that cheap.


Amazon is not a person, it's a company. Attributing moral to a transaction with non-person entities is frail itself. Does moral even apply here? What does it mean?


Interesting to compare this to religious morals: "Thou shall not steal" has nothing to do with the the victim, only the actor. In secular morality, things are more nuanced and the wealth/likeness/actions of the victim help determine how "bad" the act was. Amazon being large/rich changes things compared to a small m&p shop. See also: Jack and the Beanstalk, Robin Hood.


Interestingly, when I see the wikipedia page, the Jewish interpretation is nothing to do with stealing property, but by stealing person(kidnapping).

So the correct translation from Jewish tradition is thou shall not kidnap.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thou_shalt_not_steal


> Nevertheless, this commandment has come to be interpreted, especially in non-Jewish traditions, as the unauthorized taking of private property (stealing or theft), which is a wrongful action already prohibited elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible that does not ordinarily incur the death penalty.


> "Thou shall not steal" has nothing to do with the the victim, only the actor.

But in the context in which "Thou shalt not steal" was written, the punishment had to do with the victim: If you stole something, you had to pay back at least twice as much.


> If you stole something, you had to pay back at least twice as much.

"you" refers to the actor, not the victim. In that context, it also does not specify that it must be restituted to the victim.


I’m not the op but if you take morality to be an emotional thing then it does work: people (and primates) have an intrinsic sense of fairness.

But that is sort of a relativist position, most people talk about morality like it’s some absolute truth.


I bet you'd be ready to apply moral concepts to Amazon if Amazon deliberately ripped you off.


There is no attempt to apply moral concepts to a company, it is the customer holding the believe that some errors should be corrected while others should not. The fact that Amazon is a company and the debate about whether moral concepts can be applied to such entities is therefore irrelevant in this case.


Someone is responsible for that listing and the pricing it receives. The company operates collectively, but there is ultimately a human behind each sale. OP seems to be interested in the morality surrounding the treatment of the people involved, not the legal entity they’ve invented.


But it still a big difference at the end; if the customer lose money, that's money he or she cannot spend for himself/herself. Whereas on Amazon's side, all of the employees' wages will remain identical. The people at that company won't be impacted, just treasury of the company is. That's where the disctinction is important.


In some cases, yes, but to the extent that third parties sell on Amazon you could easily have a Chinese sole proprietor shoot himself in the foot. The concept carries up to multiple employees, it’s just diluted. Does dilution affect morality? I don’t know. I kind of suspect not though.


> The company operates collectively, but there is ultimately a human behind each sale.

Yes and no. Companies are "greater than sum of its parts" beings. Trading with "Roy's Used Camera Gear" sole proprietorship is essentially dealing with Roy himself. I'd say morality and basic human decency strongly applies on both sides here. A megacorporation of Amazon size? There you're dealing with an amoral artificial intelligence that uses humans as brain cells and bureaucracy as brain activity. This being does not follow any moral principles, and will happily screw you over whenever it's profitable for them.

Humans are involved in every activity of a corporation the way our neurons are involved in thinking; you don't say that neuron #24262934 is stupid because all it keeps thinking about is kitties. That neuron only conveys signals, and the thought originates and evolves across many of them. This also implies one is not absolved from moral responsibility to individual agents of a corporation. It's not the fault of a sales representative or a helpdesk clerk that the corporation made decisions that hurt you, much like it's not a single neuron's fault that your brain keeps thinking about cats.

Same thing in other words: a market entity seems to have two aspects - the human aspect, and the "emergent" aspect that's manifestation of market pressures incentivizing members of that entity. The human aspect is in scope of moral considerations, the market-emergent aspect isn't. As a company grows in size, the human aspect diminishes while the market aspect takes over.

(Note that this is a perspective I'm currently entertaining, but I haven't thought it through as thoroughly as I'd like. It seems to be a correct intuition, but it may have inconsistencies that I haven't realized yet.)


That's not necessarily true. There's nothing to say that this wasn't an intentional stunt to push Prime Day to the front of various deal websites by selling camera equipment to professionals as a loss leader.

The size of Amazon is such that they can afford to bleed heavily from selling mid range pro camera equipment at a significant loss whilst recouping the profit from all the incidental purchases and traffic that the attention brought.

I'm not saying that this is what happened, but marketing budgets run into the millions (especially for a highly promoted yearly event like Prime Day) and dropping a few hundred thousand on a scheme like this isn't so outrageous.


It goes both ways, something too cheap will also get you no sympathy when it ends up being fake or a knockoff. On a moral standpoint I think it evens out.


> Most customers will be able to tell that something is off when camera gear is that cheap.

It's Amazon, I expect them not to make any mistake. Theses prices are crazy, but they advertise Prime Day as a day of crazy deals.


I don't think there's really that much morally decadent in taking advantage of the mistakes one of the richest companies and quite morally dubious companies on the planet.


> Depending on the country this is even enshrined in law (e.g. customer protection laws against accidental buying).

Isn't that usually the case for the seller as well, i.e. obvious pricing errors allow the seller to void the contract?


As far as I know in Switzerland this is symmetrical and an error on one party's side that is considered to be "obvious" to the other party makes it possible for the disadvantaged party to void the contract.

Not sure about other countries.


On the other hand...

Who doesn't have a story of being 'screwed over' by some company or other – usually many stories? Who hasn't had their share of bad customer service interactions?

It's not because companies are evil. Maybe some are – but it's an inherent asymmetry that when you are one customer out of anywhere from thousands to (in Amazon's case) hundreds of millions, you're not going to get personalized attention. You have to deal with their system, whatever it is, and if their system screws up, it probably hurts you more than it hurts them.

Speaking of Amazon in particular, I've heard they have quite good customer service. But I was still pretty disappointed a few months ago to learn firsthand that the "guaranteed delivery" they keep promising just means that if they miss it, you can get a free month of Prime. Not even automatically; you have to spend the time to contact customer service. Now, I've ordered a ton of packages from Amazon and they've almost always been very reliable; overall I'm a highly satisfied customer. My package that got lost wasn't even important! But they said "guaranteed", and when I learned that that basically meant nothing, I felt kind of screwed over.

So when, for once, it's Amazon that gets screwed over by the little guy... to me it feels karmic.


> I’m not going to entertain any counter arguments that Amazon deserves this (...)

> I just think it’s amazing how frail people’s morality is, how it goes out the window when certain conditions are met.

The condition in this case being you dismissing large parts of that morality because they are supposedly "orthogonal" (to you).

Of course it's going to seem frail to you, if you decide beforehand you will ignore any reasoning behind a moral position.

I'm willing to say it, I don't care about their loss because they are a huge multi national corporation that makes billions. Not a person, but one of those weird gigantic business machines that share our planet now. That's such an incredibly huge power differential between you and another entity, anyone pretending they apply the same moral reasoning to both is truly deluding themselves.

BTW, deluding yourself is for instance, anthropomorphizing an entity made of paper and laws, to "be a good sport" or not. Ridiculous, what does that even mean? You realize this makes about as much sense as being angry at your coffee machine if it breaks? Yes it happens, yes people do it, but no it's not to be taken seriously.

But ultimately what it comes down to is whether Amazon is legally required to fulfill these orders. Because you can give a corporation a legal code, but not a moral code.

If they are not, then that's fine, it's not like the customers had a specific right to buy a $13k camera for $100.

But really you just wrote this to feel good about yourself?

> I just think it’s amazing how frail people’s morality is, how it goes out the window when certain conditions are met.

But you're better than that, aren't you? Not being like most people. And just had to tell us about it


> If you accidentally purchased a bag of M&Ms from Amazon for 500 dollars instead of 5, they will let you undo it.

[citation needed]

Audible (part of Amazon) started billing me silently for a subscription I did not use, for several years, after I had used a free trial. When I discovered it and canceled the subscription, I could see how around the time the free trial was converted to a running paid subscription, they had also stopped emailing me about anything. My card was automatically charged in the middle of each month, for a relatively small amount, and the bank statement did not make it clear that it was for Audible - all clearly designed to make me not notice what was going on. It worked. All in all, they charged me hundreds of dollars for nothing.

Were they a good sport about it? No, I had to sit on the phone for half an hour to talk to someone with very poor English skills, and got only the last payment back.


> [citation needed]

You can cancel an order before it ships, and you can return items, can't you?


Oh crap, this comment reminded me that Amazon billed me again for Prime membership, after I canceled twice, once on their website, and once more through a customer support agent when I got billed after the first cancellation. I really need to contact them again.


FWIW Audible emails me every month to tell me have a new credit available. Possibly put in place after your experience; but it seems more like just "keeping people engaged in our service" is a better way to sustain subscriptions than hoping people forget about it.

And, not to victim-blame here, but I can't quite understand your response to mysterious charges that appear on your card every month. I try to understand where each and every transaction comes from; and if I were to get one I didn't understand several in a row, I'd call the credit card company to contest the charge / get the merchant blocked / get a new credit card.


> FWIW Audible emails me every month to tell me have a new credit available.

Perhaps you actually use your Audible account? As I said, they emailed me during the trial, then stopped. They know a certain percentage of users will be unaware of the charges, and they likely prefer to keep it that way.

> not to victim-blame here

Thanks, but you did just that anyway. I know I could have been more careful. I was responding to a comment claiming that Amazon is forgiving when a customer accidentally spends 100’s of dollars they didn’t mean to, which, given what happened to me, simply isn’t true.

Good on you for reviewing each and every transaction, but I have no reason to believe that most people do that.


Not sure how Audible works, all I know is I seem to have a never ending supply of free credits. Been using it for years, every time I finish a book they give me more free credits to buy the next book.


You seriously review every single transaction on all of your credit cards?

How many lifetime hours do you think you've spent doing this , and how much money have you saved?


Yes? I'm a USian living in the UK, so I've got 2 "active" credit cards and 2 "active" bank accounts. When I get my monthly statement, I take 2-3 minutes to skim through the transactions. That's 10-15 minutes per month. Given that a bogus transaction could be in the thousands, I think that's a sensible precaution. In addition to catching any unexpected transactions, it gives me a quick overview of how much I've spent this month and on what, so I can maybe factor that in to how much I spend in the next month.

And it's a heck of a lot less time than I spend on HackerNews. :-D


Yes, of course. I keep my receipts, and when my statement comes in I compare one to the other. That plus everything else I do that could qualify as "accounting" (except tax returns) comes in at probably less than half an hour per month, and saved me a couple of hundred dollars when someone stole my credit card number (plus however much more they would have taken if I hadn't cancelled the card when I found out).


Nope, but I do note in an app every time I make a transaction, and on which account it was charged to.

At the end of the statement month, I can compare totals, and if they match, I don't need to review anything else.

Maintaining any kind of budget requires tracking spending, so this isn't really a big deal if you practice any kind of proactive financial management.


It sounds like you are saying you essentially keep your own personal ledger of every charge you make, and then reconcile the total against the statement each month.

When I did this using MS Money or Quicken years ago, it took so much time to reconcile each month that I eventually gave up. And that was with automatically downloading transactions!

The idea that you could do this in a notes app and actually end up with an exactly matching total in app with the statement, where you don’t have to go back and review each transaction to figure out what you missed, is entirely implausible to me. First of all because the sheer number of scheduled recurring charges which may not be a fixed amount, second because the sheer number of quick charges that are run in a day where I am not stopping to open an app and record the total, third because my wife has a card on the same statement and even still sometimes borrows mine, forth of all because things like Amazon charges aren’t always totaled correctly when you first checkout (“estimated taxes”) and even then the total price on the invoice can be split across multiple charges, fifth of all because of various refunds which might occur due to a return made by someone else in the family for a purchase from a previous month, and similarly for orders placed on one day which aren’t shipped and charged until a future statement.

It’s an absolutely huge deal to precisely track your spending so well that the total balance in your personal tracker exactly matches your statement such that you don’t have to look at every charge on the statement and mentally account for it. It’s literally a multi-billion dollar problem and market opportunity.


It's honestly trivial for me. I use a budgeting app (YNAB) that downloads transactions daily, and spend maybe 15 minutes a week total on it. I don't even record most transactions on the fly, but I know where we've used our cards and 95% of transactions I can quickly verify as correct.

That said, the frequent download is a crucial part. If I had to do this on a monthly basis it would be much harder because I'd have to put in an hour of work all at once.


You seem to be operating under the impression that we as a society have the same expectations of people and of corporations. Let me be very clear: we do not. Corporations are allowed to operate at the pleasure of the people; I was going to say that they're effectively second-class citizens but they're not citizens, they're just a tool that we allow to exist. Because of that we put more burdens on them than we do on people.

As to the matter at hand specifically: one of those extra burdens we put on corporations vs what we put on people is: errors on the part of a corporation are not tolerable under any circumstances.

There are many such examples of extra burdens: I (this is EU-wide) can return stuff I buy online within 14 days of buying it without giving any reason, just because I feel like it and the seller pays the shipping. Why? Because as a society we decided that we have that right.


The prices will reflect the percentage of people who use this right -- and this is also valuable information to the seller.


Morality has no place when dealing with a corporation. Legality is the only thing that counts.

>> If you accidentally purchased a bag of M&Ms from Amazon for 500 dollars instead of 5, they will let you undo it

If it is technically possible, then it is the seller's mistake and the customer deserves a refund. The seller may choose to not undo. The customer may choose to sue them. It is a PR nightmare in today's world. It is illegal.

>> On the other hand, if the matter is reversed, Amazon is expected to be a good sport and take the loss — even if the purchase was made in bad faith (ie- knowing Amazon mis-priced it but purchasing it anyways.)

If it is technically possible, and if the customer has not hacked the system in any way, it is the seller's mistake. The customer should not care. Once the sale is made, it is legally over. The seller has no legal way of recovering the money from the customer. The seller should have verified the prices.


> Once the sale is made, it is legally over.

No the sale isn't the final step, delivery of the product is. In this case, Amazon has not delivered the product therefore the transaction is not complete.

To borrow from a sibling post, the chickens in his cart could be considered delivered and paid for making it legally untenable to reverse the transaction.


I rent cars from a rental company that seems to have a pricing mistake and the prices are $0 for a week's car rental. Sometimes at busy periods, the price goes up to $0.25.

I've been doing it for 3 years now, and every time the member of staff at the desk looks at the price and goes "whoa - that's a good deal!".

There's no fake names, hacking, or free trials involved - anyone can get the deal by clicking the right buttons on their website. I would guess they have a very complex pricing database, and the boss said "we aren't competitive, reduce all prices by $10 per day", and that left some prices at or below zero...

Is it morally wrong? How is it different from my neighbour lending me a car for free?


It’s very different. The rental company knows that you do this, you have showed employees this, and they chose not to change the falling price algorithm.

The difference is that it is not an obvious error, but a strategy.


Rental car companies frequently resort to personalized pricing. I've been in situations where just by using a different country TLD to make your reservation you could get a 2x price difference. Same car, same options, everything. So, good for you that you get a good deal out of this.


To give some idea of scale, is that a smaller company, or a nationwide chain? Could you say which country?


Amazon is famously the company that sells you counterfeit crap only to point at some anonymous third party.


In the Netherlands, two similar cases went to court and judges have ruled that the selling party does not have to deliver in such a case. Dutch sources here:

https://www.rechtspraak.nl/Organisatie-en-contact/Organisati...

https://www.techzine.nl/nieuws/42639/otto-hoeft-goedkope-lcd...


This is also formalized in Dutch law. A consumer is entitled to the list price, unless there has been a "obvious" mistake. The classical example is an item being listed for €5,99 instead of €599,-


I know we're talking about what the actual law is, but interestingly in that classical example you state, making a product cost 599 is clearly to take advantage of the average person's cognitive weaknesses in thinking of 599 as significantly less than 600.

If they made the prices a round number like 600 as a rule then it would be much more obvious, and probably they would be less likely to make the mistake of making it 100x less than they intended. Bad luck for them.

I wonder how much less they would have made over a year if they made all products that were x.99 be x+1. I'm sure that effect has been measured by these companies at some stage, and that's why they continue to do it.

I don't have a lot of sympathy for any company that makes such a mistake, as the consumers aren't repaid the difference due to their price fiddling, and I'm willing to bet the instances in which a company makes a mistake add up to less than the extra money spent by consumers having their innate biases exploited into paying all those extra cents all day every day.


Thanks, I was wondering and half-expected such a thing to be the case in NL.

Note that the customer also has a 14 day window to return their (unopened) bag of M&Ms when ordered online.


> If you accidentally purchased a bag of M&Ms from Amazon for 500 dollars instead of 5, they will let you undo it.

It's just good PR for Amazon to undo it

Also, as pointed out by other commenters the asymmetry might also be related to the asymmetry in financial resources between the parties involved.

A lot of shops will not honour deals like this, maybe even Amazon in the past (I could well be remembering this wrongly and not be Amazon but other online retailers)


Computer parts often get priced erroneously low. People manage to order them, but I’ve never heard of someone not having their order canceled.


It is just asymmetry of power.

We all would condemn someone who was stealing from poor(relatively speaking), while stealing from rich isn't frowned upon that much.

This is nothing new, nothing related to Amazon itself. Just part of human nature.


Is it really about morals? I see it more as a service that makes people chose your site over the competition. It basically boils down to “the customer is always right”, doesn’t it?

Morally the customer isn’t always right, but you sell more when you protect them from their own mistakes as well as yours.


> Morally the customer isn’t always right

The customer isn't always right regardless of metric. That saying is just a distilled version of "treat your customers right even when they're wrong and you will gain more than you lose". But it's a choice the shop makes, it's not a law. And many customers (try to) abuse it.


I think it’s also proportional though. Like this amount of money isn’t even pennies to Amazon and I think people recognize that. If this was something much crazier, a mistake that could put Amazon out of business in the same way a financial mistake to an individual could make them homeless, I think at least more people second guess what they are doing.


You know that you or me need to pay for those costs(losses) somehow?


We are aleardy paying /have already paid for those. The margin Amazon makes is (way) bigger than the losses they just had. So all the previous buyers that gave Amazon money and contributed to those margins "paid" for those cost, I think.


Dollars don’t really maintain identity when they are grouped into accounts and later withdrawn. There are different ways to do accounting, fifo, lifo etc, it’s mostly a construction ( though it is necessary to be consistent), not exactly “real”.

I would be less concerned about who paid for it, and more concerned on who would receive an effect as a result.


Your use of the term “morality” here seems to ignore that it is moral to honor contracts.

The contract between amazon and the customer is and should be asymmetrical.

One example is, as a customer, I can return most items for a complete refund within a time period. Amazon isn’t expected to come take my stuff back from my house if they aren’t happy.

One reason for that is the buyer and seller in this case have a massive information asymmetry such that commerce might be impossible without the contractual asymmetry.

This is enough to explain the difference in expectations without wandering too far philosophically.


I've had an Amazon (Marketplace) order cancelled on me, which was due to a pricing error (£500 instead of £1000), and there's nothing I can do about it.

I kind of expected it as it was too good to be true, but what annoyed me was that it took them a week to cancel it.


> If you accidentally purchased a bag of M&Ms from Amazon for 500 dollars instead of 5, they will let you undo it. On the other hand, if the matter is reversed, Amazon is expected to be a good sport and take the loss

Your "reverse" is not the inverse situation, which is what you should be really comparing against.

The real question you need to ask is what people would do in Amazon's shoes. The answer to that is far less clear to me.


This reminds me of a quandary we found ourselves in when my company first started selling on the Amazon Marketplace.

We produce & sell art prints. We had just signed a new supplier of images (a well-known auction house) who decided to release the rights to photographs of all the items they've sold over the past 50-100 years. Great! New images that the world has probably never seen. It's always good to get a new range in, especially when it comes with an established name.

So we pipe in their data feed into our system. And out it goes in the Amazon data feed without a hitch. But we hadn't yet eyeballed the data or images.

Long story short, we ended up selling things like a "Pure silver antique tea pot. circa 1890" "French hand-sewn wedding dress. Turn of the century" "Two wooden panels found in Syrian tomb 1200A.D. with gold leaf detail" etc. £19.95 each!! The list goes on.

In the beginning customers were quite understanding as long we cancelled the order with an explanation before it shipped. But a few "antiques" were indeed printed and sent to customers. Rolled up in a brown cardboard tube. Disappointing to say the least.


I think the underlying question is, is it unethical to act morally towards immorally acting people? Not immoral actions in the past but continuing behavior? Especially once unethical actors count on you still acting morally towards them?

Amazon is maximizing profits at all cost, why should my actions towards them not be influenced by their behavior?

edit: It gets interesting once you take it one step further, is it ethical to act ethically towards unethical actors? Or more specific, are you obliged to steal Hitlers wallet?

http://www.aeromental.net/2012/04/05/the-book-with-the-quest...

edit2: Less abstract, there is also a real life example, some women who scammed ISIS by posing as to be wives on the internet.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/11775228/Three...


>asymmetry of moral expectations and entitlement.

What does morality have anything to do with the market expectation of "When I shop with firm X I want to have a good experience"?

If a consumer has to always second guess whether or not a seller will try to clawback their goods because they miscalculated their asking price, that's a horrible consumer experience. If I want to contract with a firm (say a credit provider such as a credit card network) that will defend me if I signal I'm going to default on a payment because I'm unhappy with a price, the market can sort those needs, desires, actions properly.

I'm pretty sure the free advertising Amazon is getting from this "gaff" (Was it a gaff? was it guerilla marketing?) and the customer loyalty they gain if they provide "When you shop with the Amazon firm you have a great experience" will be worth it.

Markets don't survive because they adhere to a mosaic of subjective beliefs about morality, they survive because people uphold their commitments.


The simple conclusion is that there were never any morals involved. There was only greed and selfishness, that in some cases just so happened to be justifiable as moral.

Of course, I believe that consumers should have good (but reasonable) protection, as consumers are usually the weaker end of the transaction, with the least knowledge and capacity, and due to an evil customer being able to do far less harm than an evil company. However, one side isn't any more moral than the other.

My only problem with this incident was that I didn't get a chance to get in on it... Instead of having to make excuses for myself as to why upgrading to full-frame can wait a few years as it's too expensive, I could just have done it now. One thing is getting a good deal, but getting something today that would otherwise only be possible in the future is something entirely different. You cannot set a price on gaining time.


how it goes out the window when certain conditions are met.

Almost as if one is an organisation worth literally billions and the other is an individual who has to worry about money every month.


The opposite sort of thing happens on Airbnb. Most Airbnbs have/had strict cancellation policies, but if they screw up and you are out of accommodations last minute you can get a refund of what you would have paid, or at best alternate accommodations.


Amazon is expected to be a good sport and take the loss — even if the purchase was made in bad faith

Expected? Are they? Most sentiment on this sort of event seems to be something like, "will it show up? we'll see", and when it does get canceled it's "shucks :)"

I can understand some of the feelings, in part it's just fantastical to observe these powerful systems screw up. I once incredulously ordered an item I wanted, priced at $0.00, and was shocked to see it arrive at my doorstep (I corrected the retailer and paid)


The price of the goods is negligible. Amazon just got the best PR with this. Millions more people will be spending millions of hours sifting through deals any time there's some kind of Deal Day.


I disagree with you, but also with many of the answers that disagree with you.

My stance is that the reason you are allowed to get refunds is to maintain an healthy consumer ecosystem and disincentivize online scams.

I agree that it is not a morally good choice to take advantage of a obvious mistake (even if consideration of who gets damaged by this is relevant and non trivial) and in this sense I agree that there is a moral asymmetry in consumer-company relations that is not entirely morally justified.

On the other hand from a legal standpoint I believe this is how it should be.


"If you accidentally purchased a bag of M&Ms from Amazon for 500 dollars" - Uber accidentally overcharged people for their taxi rides, and people are outraged [1].

Will Amazon pay the full price to the original manufacturer (in this case Sony)? I feel like there's a parallel to be made with media piracy in here somewhere. If you could steal a magic Mars bar [2] that didn't deprive someone else of it, why should you still pay for it?

I'm not sure that taking advantage of a glitch like this for cheap physical items is ethical, but I can't really express why. I have no such issues with people using Sci-hub, because Elsevier doesn't pay researchers anything. For music my views are very grey - even though piracy does deprive the artist of income today, I would never have discovered many of my favourite bands if I hadn't been able to listen to their music for free (on the radio or from other sources), and I've tried to compensate for their loss by going to hundreds of concerts, buying T-shirts, and supporting the original artist. When Apple takes a 30% cut and the record company takes 65%, the original artist doesn't stand to lose or gain much through record sales, so it doesn't feel "as wrong". Hardware is a lot more finite though, and I would want to be sure the engineers are actually getting paid before taking a deal that seems like someone is getting ripped off.

[1] https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-49031165

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6vgkDbMcZc


Amazon is expected to be good sports and take the loss exactly because that is their business strategy. Their mission statement is something like, "we seek to become Earth's most customer centric company." If they didn't have a relaxed refund policy, they wouldn't have the reputation they currently enjoy.

Contrary to what you've said, they do have public trust: just in the form of "Amazon does right by the customer." It's trust, not morality, that forms these expectations.

For the trustworthy customers who are equally concerned about their reputation, they wouldn't dare "cheat the system" by exploiting a pricing glitch. For them, there is symmetry of expectations.

The asymmetry only happens for customers who do not care about their reputation for being trustworthy. This can go the other way as well: an unscrupulous company who takes advantage of naive and trusting customers.


And I am a loyal customer due to that strategy. I had a month in which I had to cancel my credit cards, and my AWS account went unpaid. I knew it would be an entire month before I could put another card on the account due to stupidity at my bank.

I called them up and the rep not only let the account continue to operate unpaid, he waived the payment for the month. I have never, ever seen such customer service. AWS might be expensive, it might have a clunky interface and IAM might be a pain in the ass. But I know that I can trust them to keep my business running no matter what.


It doesn't need to be Amazon: had such mistake been made by a small law-abiding worker-rights-observant webshop, people would still find moral arguments to justify "it's their right".

I despise Amazon as the next man, and would have loved to take advantage of the mistake; but, on double standards, this subthread is king.


I think its probably hard to feel bad gouging amazon on the price of camera equiptment when they do the same on a daily basis as a policy. By the time you consider their complex tax evasion schemes, you'll have already clicked buy. Treat people how you expect to be treated and all that...


I don't see any moral issue until Amazon indicates it made a mistake and is actually asking for the return of the goods or for more money. I haven't seen them do that. Maybe their intention was to provide a great deal to their customers.

Even if it was unintentional the relative cost to Amazon is tiny and but the relative cost to any individual customer could be quite large. What you can afford to pay is not absolute so damage caused is not equivalent between an individual and a billion dollar corporation.

In life and money there are no moral absolutes and treating all corporations and individuals the same is not necessary. For me, immoral actions are those with the potential to cause harm, and I don't see equivalent harm in your two examples.


I don't know about other countries, but where I live you are allowed to return any product you bought online within 30 days of your purchase. It's not about morals, it's about the laws that give different privileges and responsibilities to different actors.


That's not true. If you read the SlickDeals forum thread, most people expected Amazon to cancel all these orders. But it looks like they just didn't. And neither did they ask the buyers to return the items.


The counter argument that you are not entertaining is precisely the argument that you should entertain. This behavior is called tit for tat and it is often the optimal strategy in many game theory situations. There are some evidence that people behave according to tit for tat, that is they are more likely to take advantage of an actor that has previously acted in bad faith.

I don’t think this is a demonstration of how frail people’s morality is. But rather yet another demonstration that peoples morality can be explained in big part by game theory.


  Amazon is expected to be a good sport and take the loss
In several cases of mine, they just canceled the order. They certainly let FBO resellers flake on "errors". I've bought items that were priced low, bought the entire inventory, then found the order "cancelled" as "out of stock"... only to find the reseller list the exact same item in the same quantity with a new Amazon product number (but the same UPC) at a higher price. I pointed this out to Amazon, who insisted this was fine.


A mega corporation with billions of dollars and thousands of workers is going to be held to different moral standard than a single person buying a camera lens. Clearly society doesn't judge 4 year olds to the same moral standard as 50 year old men. You'd laugh at a 50 year old man crying over spilling his juice ... but not a 4 year old. So why should we judge individuals to the same moral standards as mega-corporations?

The relative value of $500 for an individual is orders of magnitude higher than $13k for Amazon.


A while ago I ordered a 10TB backup drive for $80, knowing it was a pricing mistake. Amazon cancelled the order and gave me a $20 gift card. I believe whether or not the retailer has to honour pricing mistakes depends which country you live in (I'm in UK). Annoyingly, the $20 gift card wasn't applied automatically to the next purchase, as it was supposed to (maybe because it only applies to USA Amazon?)

(Funnily enough, the pricing mistake did manage to get the product to be the #1 best seller.)


Amazon is a limited liability corporation. It can lose money and go bankrupt without an ability to recover debts from the actual people running it.

There is absolutely no relevant moral equivalency here.


Amazon has high millions to billions of dollars to throw around. A consumer does not. There’s no asymmetry when you consider dollar value proportionality.


I think you're giving people too much credit, I doubt the people were thinking about Amazons HR policies, or any moral or otherwise nuanced socio-economic arguments. That's not to say they're horrible people, well.. maybe just a little greedy and/or without any shame. I know a lot of people that are very religious (or non-religious but 'principled') who will still lie on their resume. Its just a human thing I guess..


    > It’s kind of interesting- the asymmetry of moral expectations and entitlement.
Amazon made a relatively small mistake considering their scale. It's OK. They can mitigate this by stopping orders that haven't shipped.

For the items that did ship, they can contact the buyers and ask nicely for them to return the items, perhaps in exchange for an amazon gift card.

I don't think it's reasonable to put consumer "morality" in question here.


This has nothing to do with morality. It is purely economic. Amazon makes a decision whether they can afford to absorb this mistake, and gain brownie/internet/karma/customer-service/loyalty points, or that they cannot afford to absorb and in that case they will simply not honor the mistake.

A smaller vendor would probably not have the luxury of that option.

Economics, really.


It's not about "moral expectations". When customers buy from a respected retailer they expect pricing mistakes in the customer's favour to be honoured because it is an industry norm among respected retailers.

If Amazon wants to market its self as a respected retailer they will act the way customers expect a respected retailer to act.


The asymmetry stems from the fact that all parties are self interested.

Amazon seem to have decided to suck up this loss because it feels it's in their interest to do so.

We as onlookers in this situation can empathise with the lucky purchasers but our empathy would pretty quickly dry up if we discovered that this mistake would result in a cost to us.


We have laws about truth in advertising so that people don't get shafted by these big companies. Sure, they could say it was a mistake, but then they might have to fight it... and it really is a drop in the bucket for them. Amazon still made billions in revenue each of those days.


I think who you're purchasing from does make a lot of difference though and it is not necessarily an orthogonal topic in morality.

I'd imagine a lot less people would take advantage of this pricing error against a mom and pop store than a multinational corporation like amazon.


I've purchased products and handed over money and still not honoured for a price claimed to be a mistake. Latest example 40g of marijuana priced at $1/g. They ended up shipping a quarter ounce instead, 20% of the original deal.


Being able to cancel is formalized in Amazon's terms and condition, not a courtesy.


I’m pretty sure everyone expects them to cancel these orders. The reason this is getting so much attention is because they actually honored the price, at least for some customers. Nobody forced them to do that.


And in so doing earned many times that value in free advertising and feel good stories about how great they are.

Coincidence?


I am not sure why I should feel any morality about a company failing to price things properly. They are a professional company after all not a mom-and-pop operation. Caveat Emptor can be a two way street.


Your comment reminded me of my time as a mortgage broker back in 2006. Borrowers it seemed knew more about the lax loan products but once things went south people screamed they had no idea.


The asymmetry comes from the value of the outcomes. For Amazon, a multi-billion dollar corporation, the mistake is negligible. For a photographer, it may be the deal of a lifetime.


The only reason they will "let you undo it" (buying something for $500 instead of $5) is because goodwill is hard to buy and doesn't cost them anything in this case. It isn't like the company is "being moral" or anything like that, it's just marketing. Same with eating the cost here. They might have some legal recourse to get the items back or the money, but at the of the day, some amazon analysts are doing a math problem and trying to determine if they will lose more money (from bad press) than they will by just eating the cost. Morality doesn't come into either of these situations.


I think a small doubt remains that’s a clever ad for prime day. And that makes it okay from a moral standpoint.


I don’t think it is a pr / marketing stunt.

1. They would have used a cute price eg the prime day date.

2. They would later claim intentionally as to not seem incompetent.

3. They would pick a more relatable or mainstream product that has a optimal pr spin. Like a family friendly, or youth demographic. Not sure what the best example would be. A gaming pc or outdoor patio kit, something other than a 10k camera lens for photo nerds.


How would we differentiate a genuinely huge discount from a mis-priced sale ? Ethically both parties are obliged to cancel the deal if the transaction doesn't incentivise both parties . But big players look at these as a good PR rather than mistake since the losses might be a fraction of what they are spending for marketing


accidentally? I don't think so. Just take a look at this thread and the other hundred of sites where this news was on the first page... n x (13k-0.1k) is much less than the amount of money necessary for a such advertising campaign


I would argue that this is just a product of capitalistic logic in action. You see an opportunity and want to profit as this is how you are SUPPOSED to play the game.

Look at all the things that Amazon is trying to do to make a profit...

Not the least of it listening with microphones in peoples home to private conversations in the hope of training more powerful AI systems and making a few more sells of toilet paper on the way. Or Uber breaking the law in multiple places. Not to mention everyones favorite... FB...

If these players are „permitted“ to do those things, it‘s just a normal consequence that the small person is trying everything they can to profit in return.

Capitalism (at least as practiced today) is not a moral system. We live in a capitalistic society. Thus, our society is not moral. I am not really surprised and don‘t really feel like it‘s super useful to just blame the people for a more systemic issue.


For me, this is really the answer. It’s a fair move in the realm of the game being played, especially considering the big player. I don’t think the move is always fair with any match up in capitalism, but for this scenario it works on a moral level.


I got in on this! I got a Sony A7R II and a 24-70 2.8 II I'd always wanted but could never justify the purchase of. ($~3k value for $200)

A few observations:

- Despite the extraordinary deal we got, my friends (who also made a purchase) and I all have our joy offset by a feeling of regret that we didn't order more. Greed!

- Despite the fact that I couldn't justify the purchase before I owned them, I now definitely don't want to sell the gear. A clear cut case of the Endowment Effect in action [0]

- A lot of people saying the orders are going to be cancelled -- seeing as I currently have both body and lens in possession, I find that unlikely.

0. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endowment_effect


In the Netherlands this also happened some times on webshops.

And everytime a judge ruled people had to bring the goods back or should pay the full amount.

The reason is that it is very clear for the buyer it is a mistake. And almost all webshops have a legal notice about wrong or false prices.


If I remember correctly, in these cases (bunk beds and televisions) the orders were never fulfilled. The court ruled that a sales contract is not binding if the buyer can reasonably suspect that the price shown is so absurdly low that an error on the side of the seller is apparent.

That is, you can try to order the item, but the seller has no legal obligation of fulfilling it if they can proof beyond reasonable doubt that a mistake was made, and can return the money instead.


> The court ruled that a sales contract is not binding if the buyer can reasonably suspect that the price shown is so absurdly low that an error on the side of the seller is apparent.

How can you prove something like that in court in this camera case?

For example, let's say you were just getting into photography and were window shopping by browsing around Amazon's site.

You run into a camera that has a 4.7 average rating with 3,000+ reviews and the example pictures that people were posting look great to you. You have no idea about camera specs but you see it for $149, so you buy it. That doesn't seem too unrealistic, especially not when phones cost $1,000. You could totally think "oh, well $150 for just a camera sounds about right".


>How can you prove something like that in court in this camera case?

Go look at the screenshots in the article it shows the prime savings at checkout:

>Prime Savings -$1,204.52

That is a pretty clear indication that "wow, this is astronomically discounted" which should reasonably clue any adult with their full mental faculties in to "something strange is going on here".


I have Steam sales offering me games with 90% off, Groupon offering me 88% off a gym membership, and a local perpetually-going-out-of-business menswear shop offering me 90% off everything. Amazon themselves advertise used books priced from £0.01!

Admittedly, many camera enthusiasts probably knew the market rate for this sort of equipment - but the fact something has a 90% discount doesn't automatically prove it's mispriced.


Software which is infinitely reproducible for (effectively) free once it is made, is a lot different than high end lenses and very complicated cameras with costly electronics and worked optical glass.


Am I missing something here? A $1200 markdown isn't impossibly large.


It's a 1200$ markdown on a 1300$ item.


Because you can infer that the "-99%" near the price is weird.


The a6000 is normally $550 and was marked down to $95. That's not a big enough discount to infer it was a price mistake. Especially not when Amazon advertises this as one of the biggest discount days of the year.


And it's quite possible that a Dutch court would rule different in that particular case.


This is because (at least in many shops in the EU) ordering does imply a sale, no contract has been made, it is only a notion of intent (which if you read the T&C in the order confirmation you'll find pretty often). The contract is only made when the company ships it, thus agreeing to the sale.


Actually the contract is in place when the order is confirmed. At least from EU webshops it's common to receive two mails, one for order received, another for order confirmed (potentially hours or even days later).

This actually hit the spotlight recently in Spain as Dell advertised 1000-1800€ laptops for 29-35€ on their site[0]. Many people bought, received the first AND the second email around 5h later.

If it wasn't for that second email, they could cancel the order no questions asked, but actually someone on their side said "yep, this order looks fine" and clicked confirm. Consumer associations are hitting Dell with all their force.

[0] In Spanish: https://www.eldiario.es/tecnologia/portatiles-Dell-clientes-...


My god Dell's webshop is a steaming pile of fun. I've only had to deal with being unable to order months on end - this sounds much more friendly!


Not friendly, they canceled the orders, breaching their own contract and the law doing so. They went past the "no backsies" point in the transaction and they actually backed out.


With Amazon having big ads saying "massive discounts on prime day", I as a buyer might well consider $3000 down to $100 is in fact a massive discount rather than a mistake.


I think that if Amazon does ship these (and it seems some already did) it's actually pretty neat advertisement for them. Any publicity is good publicity, right?

I wonder how much an advertisement campaign with this amount of buzz usually costs.


Absolutely. It is a tiny fraction with significant publicity effect. It's even here on HN discussion.


Yes but it has more costs involved than just this.

For example the statistics of the brands Sony and Canon are now wrong and the budget of advertising is still as it was yesterday. So the bookkeepers have a lot of exta work to get this straight.


They won't even notice that. Data collection at this scale is anyway not 100% accurate. Especially for marketing purposes.

On the flip side if their data collection is that good they can see who was on the fence to purchase high-end gear for photo shooting, but bought the deal. That can lead to opening new demographics or targeting them with features people want from top models. Only having full information, you could argue which option is better.

I definitely hope that they don't have data at this level.


> And everytime a judge ruled people had to bring the goods back or should pay the full amount.

This is slightly different from what I remember, so can you link me an example?

Last time I checked, the webshop must fulfill the order, unless the price is obviously wrong, and the webshop cannot force a return for something the customer has already recieved and paid for.



Ah, I see. So, in short, you can be forced to return an order, but that is only because the order was not made with a "legal" price [0], so no legal transaction has taken place, and all that happened was you sending the webshop money without cause, and they mistakenly sending you a product, which both must be returned upon request by the other party.

[0] a "legal" price is a price which the customer would expect for such a product. But in a shop advertising "up to 60% off", a 50% off TV would still be legal price, even if it is a price error.


Yes. It is a little more complicated than I posted earlier, but the point is that not all parties agreed on the arrangement so there was no arrangement.


I don't see anything here where it says people had to bring back TVs. Seems like orders were unilaterally cancelled by the seller.


Grats on the lucky score!

> A lot of people saying the orders are going to be cancelled -- seeing as I currently have both body and lens in possession, I find that unlikely.

Gotta agree that it's unlikely for these orders to be cancelled. Seems like Amazon.com's got a lot of cash (without checking, but I assume?), so they can probably afford it. Instead, the smart move would seem to be to play this up hard -- perhaps, for example, pushing a few stories in advance of the next Prime Day about this mistake, driving more sales as folks hope to enjoy a similar lucky break.

I mean, overall, seems like a nice feel-good story.


There were stories of other mispriced deals that folks got where the order was cancelled. So I imagine it’s simply a matter of what Amazon caught in time vs not.


A camera I ordered just shipped, so I think they are just eating the cost.


Only if its in your hand. They have ways.


To redirect a UPS shipment after a card has already been charged? Not even in pending - the charge has cleared at this point?


Yes, technically the person or company who is shipping with UPS (or FedEx for that matter) can redirect shipments. Sometimes it's expensive, sometimes not so much. Regular folks receiving do not have as much control.

I've never done it personally but when I worked at Polk Audio way back in the day they had a special application that interfaced with UPS and they could reroute things already in route. I don't know what the limits are, etc, but seems doable.

Having said that I doubt they'll do it once it's out the door.


Your card being charged doesn't really matter. If they wanted to they could totally redirect the package and reverse the charge. Amazon does tons of refunds every day like that, they don't hurt the company's standing with the payment processing companies like chargebacks do.


Excellent point - what better way of advertising than to let some stories leak to mass tech media that you may hit a lottery, and if you do, Amazon won't take it away?


>- A lot of people saying the orders are going to be cancelled -- seeing as I currently have both body and lens in possession, I find that unlikely.

Just as a counterview; I've ordered other types of equipment on prime day that had pricing errors and I was later informed Amazon would not fullfill the order and got a 20$ gift code.


I've had the same situation and reward, but just on a normal non prime day.


I've had mispriced orders cancelled with no gift voucher in return. Just a "mistakes happen" email.


No. Amazon is not going to send you a legal notice to return this. Amazon wants to be the customer centric company and this act is to prove that they own the mistake and the customer is the king.

Source: Amazon employee.


This attitude is exactly why I feel safe buying from amazon and will continue to do so. If they were sending lawyers over a few bucks like Nintendo regularly does, they would have landed on my blacklist, just like Nintendo did. This attitude is imho one of the most important assets of amazon and they'd be stupid to throw it away over peanuts.


Damn! I got the A6000 for $100, but I wish I got the A7R instead :( I guess that falls under observation 1


Don't be disappointed! The A6000 is a fantastic camera, even for the $500 I purchased it for two years ago.


I just bought one two weeks ago.... I could've gotten it so much cheaper, or gotten a better camera haha


Hey, if you're feeling bad about it, I'll be happy to get it from you at $200


You are one hell of a lucky guy !!


Sounds to me like someone at Amazon is good at marketing. Let a few things go for an insane deal, knowing it will hit the front page of every blog. Then reap the rush of next years prime day with people scouring the site for pricing "errors". Pretty cheap and effective marketing.

Kind of like a raffle but without having to get all the lawyers involved to make sure you comply with raffle laws.


> Sounds to me like someone at Amazon is good at marketing.

Ah yes, finally someone will be talking about Amazon and Prime Day.


To me is the first time i hear about it.


I personally first heard about the Prime Day strike, figured it had to be some sort of sell-day mania in the middle of summer. Anyway, tactics like this one have been carried out by the biggest webshop in my country for a few years now. The first time it happened most of us thought it was a genuine mistake, the following iteration though revealed the move for what it really was: pure marketing.


The problem here is though, barely anyone has heard about this story and Prime Day is now over. I just sent this article to three photography friends, one of which works at a camera store, and none of them had heard about it yet.

The only way this deal was discovered it seems, is by careful watchers on slickdeals as well, so I'm going to lean towards this being a legitimate pricing error and not some attempt and sneakily generating PR.

The intentional PR being generated here will be Amazon going "fine, let's eat the loss and show that we put our customers first" instead of going "nope, cancel delivery and don't ship any more, then start requesting voluntary retrieval on the ones that have delivered!" which many companies would have to do but Amazon will likely lose less by letting customers keep them than they net in minutes (if not tens of seconds depending on how many actually shipped).


I still do not know what it is :/


Its one of those gimmick sale days like "Black Friday", "Cyber Monday", "Back to School Blowout", etc. The only difference is the sales have historically just been on junk[1] rather than desirable items.

[1] Unless you are the type who needs a 55 gallons jug of lube. https://observer.com/2015/07/at-1k-55-gallon-bottle-of-lube-...


Cheap cameras and lube... what a time to be alive


I didn't know this exists and I'm an amazon customer since 2001 or so.


Not everybody recognizes the corporate holidays. Their loss I say, those 7/11 lines are long as it is!


Or someone on slickdeals is good at marketing because that's what half the article talks about.

I'm surprised Amazon honored such a big price mistake. A few weeks ago, some Western Digital drives were priced incorrectly. About half off. Everyone got cancelations. And yes, I heard about it on front page of slickdeals...


As a dev for Slickdeals, I can tell you this was not planned on our side haha.

Once the deal was caught by one of our mods, the site went into a frenzy. Unfortunately I was AFK during the deal, but this will go down as one of the best price mistakes of the year if not the best.


IIRC in the WD drive case the drives were on backorder so Amazon had a longer time window for cancellations.

Similar things have happened on past Prime Days / Black Fridays, I remember some smartphones (Moto?) being sold for under $3 - some were canceled, but some shipped before Amazon managed to cancel them.


Even when literally losing thousands of dollars to honor a price advertised to customers, HN manages to spin's Amazon's actions as somehow duplicitous.


Oh no, Amazon's profit margin!

Being less flip: it's a massive corporation, which by default don't really care about consumers happiness directly, just that which is necessary for us to part with our many. I find it hard to have sympathy for said corporation -- especially considering the power that they now wield over modern western society.

And it wouldn't be the first time a corporation is duplicitous, that's for sure. I don't personally think this was done on purpose, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was.


Having just spent time overnight dealing with customer pain I can assure that we do care about customer happiness and talk about it every day.


If you feel like you need to defend them from the accusation that they're doing marketing, it means they're really good at marketing.


I lost some pennies in my couch one time and I didn't go looking for them or even really regret their loss. This would be analogous to this situation, if Amazon had lost 100s of thousands of dollars.


You are HN as well. Don't be so dismissive.


Thousands of dollars for probably hundreds of millions made in the next few years because of this one simple trick.

This is actually quite a common tactic I've seen other ecommerce stores do around Black Friday. It's also highly illegal, but I guess the companies don't worry too much about it because they don't think the gov agencies can prove it was anything but a mistake. Some companies repeat this trick every 3 years or so. And yes, they do get a ton of media for it every single time.


I see it more as people rationalizing their own decision to take advantage of such an obvious mistake.


How much is the total press worth?


It's most likely a mistake this year. Used to work for an online retailer. With my experience, at any moment there's always several items with really terrible pricing mistakes that we probably have to honor.


This is my guess. Prime Day loses its allure if word gets out that the low prices aren’t being honored, so they eat it.

My wife is a buyer for B&M retail, pricing issues like this happen a lot. In her space, it’d probably take a week to fix.


Happen a few years ago at our local Walmart, a solar kit (panel, battery and invertor) for $999.99 was priced at $99.99 - even the cash registers showed that price. I found out about them when one of the guys at work bought two of them. By the time I arrive at the store later that day all the kits were gone and the price was corrected on the store's computer too.


Or some employees had some fun as part of the Amazon protests.


My first thought was “next year i have to dig into all of amazon’s offering to find such ‘mistakes’”. It immediately had the effect of gaining me as a new customer. Excellent marketing indeed!


I was thinking this exactly. How much would that kind of advertising cost?

And the money essentially goes to their customers rather than an advertising agency.


Exactly. The funny thing is: It's basically the same thing as the "prime day" itself.

Provide stuff at a price point no one can compete - do this just good enough to hook people and keep the thought in their heads to buy at your place.

Not totally reasonable when thinking it through but that's just marketing of people who know how the human psyche works.

@amzn marketing: well done.


Ding! Ding! Ding! This feels like the right explanation. And if not, I am going to use it for future marketing efforts.


The Klein effect strikes again!

> I need to coin a term for this concept, I see it on every Hacker News thread once it reaches a certain size. It is the attribution of the topic to some nefarious intention of a dude in marketing. Once you start noticing it you can't unsee.

> Intel fires their CEO? It's a PR stunt.

> Startup abandons Europe due to GDPR? PR STUNT!

> AlphaZero beats professionals at Dota 2? You guessed it, it's just PR for oligarchy parent Alphabet.

> I see this so often now it's becoming humorous. As if some how this being all about PR explains everything. It doesn't explain anything! Although I'm sure Bill over in marketing loves that he has subsumed the historical role of deity in explaining the unknown.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17499447


My thought exactly, especially since they didn't cancel it.


Astute assessment.


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