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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This doesn't change the post hoc moral reasoning, but it night have incurred less impact on you.
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 .
 Which may itself be a matter of dabate, after all one aspect of companies is that they are collections of people working together.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I see this all the time on HN.
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.
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.
I just don't see why that kind of nihilism suddenly becomes more plausible than usual when you're buying something from Amazon.
Amazon's "mistake" looks like bait and switch, or any number of other scams. I'm under the impression they usually cancel said orders.
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.
> 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..
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.
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 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.
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.
> 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).
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.
Unrealised profits are very much different than physical cash.
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.
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.
>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.
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.
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Is society human being? Is nation a human being?
If not then is it moral to deceive and cheat them too?
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 ...
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).
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 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...
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Waste is one of a very short list of categories that are considered something no one wants:
That's actually true though, they do have such a duty.
It helps to read things before you link to then....
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.
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:
> 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.
 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.
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.
So the correct translation from Jewish tradition is thou shall not kidnap.
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.
"you" refers to the actor, not the victim. In that context, it also does not specify that it must be restituted to the victim.
But that is sort of a relativist position, most people talk about morality like it’s some absolute truth.
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.)
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'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.
Isn't that usually the case for the seller as well, i.e. obvious pricing errors allow the seller to void the contract?
Not sure about other countries.
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.
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?
But you're better than that, aren't you? Not being like most people. And just had to tell us about it
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.
You can cancel an order before it ships, and you can return items, can't you?
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.
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.
How many lifetime hours do you think you've spent doing this , and how much money have you saved?
And it's a heck of a lot less time than I spend on HackerNews. :-D
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.
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.
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.
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.
>> 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.
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'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?
The difference is that it is not an obvious error, but a strategy.
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.
Note that the customer also has a 14 day window to return their (unopened) bag of M&Ms when ordered online.
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)
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.
Morally the customer isn’t always right, but you sell more when you protect them from their own mistakes as well as yours.
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 would be less concerned about who paid for it, and more concerned on who would receive an effect as a result.
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 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.
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.
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.
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?
edit2: Less abstract, there is also a real life example, some women who scammed ISIS by posing as to be wives on the internet.
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.
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.
Almost as if one is an organisation worth literally billions and the other is an individual who has to worry about money every month.
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.
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)
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  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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Amazon is expected to be a good sport and take the loss
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.
The relative value of $500 for an individual is orders of magnitude higher than $13k for Amazon.
There is absolutely no relevant moral equivalency here.
(Funnily enough, the pricing mistake did manage to get the product to be the #1 best seller.)
> It’s kind of interesting- the asymmetry of moral expectations and entitlement.
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.
A smaller vendor would probably not have the luxury of that option.
If Amazon wants to market its self as a respected retailer they will act the way customers expect a respected retailer to act.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 
- 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.
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.
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.
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".
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".
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.
This actually hit the spotlight recently in Spain as Dell advertised 1000-1800€ laptops for 29-35€ on their site. 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.
 In Spanish: https://www.eldiario.es/tecnologia/portatiles-Dell-clientes-...
I wonder how much an advertisement campaign with this amount of buzz usually costs.
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.
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.
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.
 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.
> 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.
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.
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.
Source: Amazon employee.
Kind of like a raffle but without having to get all the lawyers involved to make sure you comply with raffle laws.
Ah yes, finally someone will be talking about Amazon and Prime Day.
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).
 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-...
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And the money essentially goes to their customers rather than an advertising agency.
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.
> 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.