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Amazon Accidentally Sold $13k Camera Gear for $100 on Prime Day (petapixel.com)
740 points by elijahparker 65 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 503 comments

> Others also reported that they successfully price matched gear at retailers such as Best Buy and Walmart.

Wow, this is incredible if true. Not just as a sign of how much these traditional retailers will stick to their promises, but also how the ostensible safeguards of brick-and-mortar/human-touch can still be subverted by algorithmic error. I've never worked at retail but if I saw such a drastic reduction I'd call my manager.

I'm not sure how far and wide the show Nathan For You reaches, but there's a fantastic episode where he proposes a local electronics store mark TVs down to $1 in order to buy up new inventory from Best Buy for his own store using their price match policy.

Rather than trying to explain it poorly, I highly recommend everyone watch this clip from the show:


Never seen the show before, but enjoyed the clip - thank you. Very curious how it turned out.

Despite being not at all the kind of show I normally watch, I found this to be one of the greatest shows I've ever seen. It's funny, and brilliant in its observations of human nature.

Highly, highly recommended.

Never tried it but I’ve considered just editing the DOM to make Amazon page show the price I want.

When I've price matched before the associate pulled up the website on her computer to prevent this.

At a minimum I expect that they would double check the price on their own browsers so I don't think your approach would work.

When I was working at Best Buy at least, the register wouldn't let you price match if it fell below a certain margin. If that's still the policy, that means that managers were likely involved, and very likely approving the price match.

I guess that's going to inspire some serious good will in those customers, but geeze, that's a $12,000 loss in the day's profit. Is it worth it?

It's not those customers they care about. It's the additional million people who will see the news and scour the deals next year hoping for the same.

Isn't that a good thing? A "price match" with a bunch of exclusions isn't really a price match.

But price matching is predicated on realistic economic competition, not we'll-match-it-no-matter-what-based-on-principle. There are already exceptions based on only dealing with "major online retailers" – i.e. retailers that operate on making stable revenue/profit from selling things – as well as disqualifying certain kind of discounts, like clearances and Black Friday prices. And in any case, Best Buy's qualifying requirements [0] make an exception for "pricing errors".

[0] https://www.bestbuy.com/site/customer-service/price-match-gu...

One of the things they "fixed" was requiring it to be sold by Amazon or Fulfilled By Amazon. A few years ago there was a little racket in creating an Amazon seller account, "selling" things at stupid discounts (which you neither had nor intended to fulfill), go into Best Buy and say "Look, half that price on Amazon, match it!".

> One of the things they "fixed" was requiring it to be sold by Amazon or Fulfilled By Amazon.

As of the last time I heard their policy (within a couple of years, from floor/cash register staff), Fulfilled By Amazon doesn't cut it -- they will price match only if Amazon is the vendor.

Huh, it's crazy that they do this at all.

How do they check this kind of thing? Do they ask the buyer to display the Amazon page on their smartphone if it's just a small discount? Or do they always check on their own devices? (Amazon reportedly sometimes displays different prices for different accounts.)

In my experience, if you need a retail clerk to do something for you and the first person turns you down, you can often just go to a different clerk (if possible in a different shop) and try your luck again. (I've done this 1) to get my phone company to change my phone number despite not quite fulfilling the requirements 2) to get an MP3 file of a store's theme song.)

Now I believe trying to fake an Amazon page in order to get a price-matching discount is most likely fraud, but it still seems like some people who aren't fraudsters in general (e.g. teenagers) would be trying this kind of thing.

My price-matching experience is — consistently — that a manager is called over to okay a displayed competitor's price on my phone, and the manager simply gives the okay without questioning or validating. I've never had a competitor's price cross-checked.

Based on this, I think I could cheat at least slightly if I were immoral.

I wonder why so many people use price matching?

Why not buy it direct from the cheaper place?

There might be some added benefits or preferences e.g. extended warranty, insurance, physical location, loyalty towards a brand or accrued in kind via a scheme or membership etc.

Any Nathan For You fans here?

But an online store that makes a pricing error and then potentially reverts it without shipping the goods shouldn't necessarily be priced matched by other retailers. 99.3% discount isn't reasonable...

Some businesses are built around that.


Automation FTW!

A previous similar incident became a legendary in-joke over at MetaFilter 18 years ago:

Astounding. I can't take a moral argument seriously from any of you who jumped at the opportunity to take advantage of an honest mistake. I don't want to hear ever again about greedy corporations or crooked politicians. You people just showed that you're willing to turn a blind eye when it is to your benefit. How does that make you any different from those you rail against?posted by marknau at 6:45 PM on November 20, 2001 [4 favorites +] [!]

We have cameras.posted by NortonDC at 6:48 PM on November 20, 2001 [164 favorites +] [!]


Wow, I remember that one!

I was just thinking recently it's hard to believe Mefi turned 20 years old this summer, and then I realized MY site turns 20 years old this fall... I know people feel old when their kids get old, but damn, having a website turn twenty just makes me feel old.

Ten more years and you won't be able to trust it any more.


1 million times this ^^^^.

Although the deal is amazing, it's even more amazing how quickly people seem to turn a blind eye to take advantage.

It reminds me a bit of the various insurance systems here in the Netherlands. People complain about the high insurance fees, yet they claim as much damage as possible and even commit fraud in order to get the most out of it. Which of course, in turn, increases insurance fees again.

Thanks greed!

Most people don't have a problem with bad behavior if it's justified.

A good portion of my income goes to pay taxes, yet Amazon hardly pays anything comparatively. If they actually paid proportionate taxes maybe my tax rate wouldn't be so high. Getting a good deal through an error is only stealing back some value that was already stolen from me.

It's not the best justification, but I could come up with a dozen more. The play field is so drastically tilted towards the big players that almost everyone at some point feels like they were cheated by the system, and so people don't feel bad cheating the system.

Can you change your quote block formatting? It’s essentially impossible to read on mobile.

Fine here, Safari on iOS.

It has been edited since then. They were using a code block.

Site best viewed with Internet Explorer 8^W^W^W Apple Safari

In California, at least, Amazon does not need to honor erroneous prices. Per CA Civ Code § 7103 (2018): https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displayText.x...

  7103. Improper pricing on the shelf or on the item due to unintentional error shall not constitute a violation of this division.

That seems practically necessary for point-of-sale systems because a store mixup is pretty indistinguishable from an accidental (or deliberate) customer mixup (possibly by a previous customer). It hardly implies that the same thing needs to be true for an online store.

My guess is they could request the item back, and if they really wanted to, put a negative balance on your account effectively banning you from Amazon without a return. Whether or not they would sue you or win and collect is a different story.

All of this is assuming this was not an intentional PR test by Amazon for Prime day. One would presume that that is possible.

As I understand this if it lands on your doorstep and wasn't reclaimed by UPS/FedEx/USPS prior to that there's nothing they can do. They can ask you to send it back, but you don't have to. If they made the transaction and it's in your hands they can't put you in the red for the difference.

Correct. Now, I highly doubt they'd do it, but Amazon could take some action such as banning you from their services until you return the item. At which point do you want to own the item more than using Amazon? Could be a tough choice for some.

Though I still don't think they'd do that.

You aren't guaranteed the ability to unwind the deal after delivery so that's only fair that they can't either.

Amazon would be within their rights to refuse to honor such purchases. I also don't think it's ethical to take advantage of such mistakes. What if it was you who accidentally listed your house for $60,000 rather than $600,000? What if you accidentally included an extra 0 on the check you wrote?

I really don't understand the morality of an average HN user.

There was a post a few days ago about Spotifree (which mutes your ads), and everyone took it as a personal offense, every possible negative word was said about the person who made it, and the people that use it are lowlives who don't deserve anything in life if they won't cough up $10.

But now when it's Amazon losing thousands of dollars per product, it's okay because stealing from someone rich is acceptable and they should just eat their losses and move on. Do you understand that if you scale Amazon down to Spotifies size, their losses are way heftier?

I've also learned that stealing is justified if it's a machine error. So by that logic, if the receipt machine malfunctions in a store and prints out some large number, you would pay it?

There is no "average HN user." Some people on HN hate ads, and some people on HN write ad software for a living. Some people on HN own a business and sympathize with Amazon over lost profits. Others can't afford nice camera equipment and (maybe) would prefer a society where wealth is more evenly distributed.

I personally think that this is moral. I think that capitalism is inherently immoral so it's not immoral to "steal" from giant corporations. I consider myself a very moral person (you have to take morality very seriously if you disagree with the people around you about moral issues) but this doesn't bother me.

Do you mind when people steal from you?

Yes, and I think it's wrong to steal from people

Stealing from corporations is stealing from people. Otherwise, I could justify stealing hubcaps from your car as stealing from the car, not you, so it's ok.

Besides, if you have a moral code that specifies who it is ok to steal from, you'll need to accept another's moral code that says it's ok to steal from you.

This is obviously false if you think about it for like a minute.

> Stealing from corporations is stealing from people.

Sure, whatever. It's still not immoral. I also think it's okay to steal slaves from plantations. "But stealing from plantations is stealing from people!" Sure, whatever, it's still not immoral.

> Besides, if you have a moral code that specifies who it is ok to steal from, you'll need to accept another's moral code that says it's ok to steal from you.

Total non-sequitur. Let's try this: Marxists think that capitalism is stealing from workers. You think that it's moral. Therefore, if you have a moral code that says that it's okay to steal from workers, you'll need to accept another's moral code that says it's okay to steal from you. Makes sense, right? No.

It's awfully coincidental that your concept of legitimate ownership just so happens to align with the concept given to your by legal and cultural authorities. It's almost like you haven't actually bothered to think about it for yourself. Can you give me an example of a kind of ownership that you think is illegitimate?

Well if I listed a house for $60,000 instead of $600,000, but I owned $1 trillion of houses and was selling several hundred of them every single second of the day, then sure there isn't anything wrong with buying one for $60K.

More comparable, if you write code for high speed trading algorithms and something goes wrong, nobody will roll back your transactions. This is a matter of size and connections though, but usually you've automated losses with no going back. Amazon seems to be somewhere in between.

> nobody will roll back your transactions

Yes they will: https://www.nasdaqtrader.com/Trader.aspx?id=ClearlyErroneous

Not if it's a OTC transaction like FX markets. I worked in FX industry and there have been several occasions where due to pricing engine error or trading platform error one party was able to profit.

If you reap the rewards of automation, you also accept its risks.

So if you listed your car on Craigslist for $150 instead of the $15,000 you intended you’d honor the offer and not explain to buyers what had happened?

Did an algorithm you wrote adjust the price and deliver the car without you manually approving the purchase?

An algorithm on their end could have modified the price without you manually approving it.

I solved this problem by not automatically shipping a $600,000 house without a signed contract and proof of financing.

Or this whole thing was a stunt. And a successful one that cost less than any equivalent in paid ads.

Honestly amazon would be better off honoring it. It’s a drop in the bucket and good publicity for prime.

Yes, Amazon would be. That doesn't make what the customer did ethical.

Your opinion doesn't even make sense. You are literally saying it's unethical for a customer to buy something at the price which Amazon is selling it for? Because it might cause Amazon to lose money?

You do realize businesses regularly sell products at a loss right? So at what point does the loss become so large that its unethical for the customer to buy it?

What's unethical about buying something for the listed price?

edit: rephrased for clarity

What if you accidentally paid extra to a bank, supermarket, paying back your friend, whomever and the recipient thought "Wow, great, I ain't tellin' -I get to keep that, that's awesome!"

I worked at a movie theater during college and people didn't really get in trouble if your till was under. But if it was over it was a instant strike.

What’s unethical about taking advantage of another human who made a mistake?

I can't tell whether this is a serious question, or not.

This is not some over-burdened shop owner on the corner. I doubt any people were involved in setting these prices. Some algorithm messed up somewhere in a company for which this is a rounding error.

Does ethical analysis only rely on who made the mistake and not who suffers the consequence?

As I understand every corporation, passes on the cost the customer and aims for some specific number as a margin, if their costs increase either they increase productivity of their worker, or implement cost cutting measures, or pass the cost down to customers.

Lots of people think, Amazon's loss results in Bezoz getting a haircut on his paycheck.

What if Amazon starts asking for more productivity from its warehouse workers then buying something at Amazon's loss is directly tied to how they treat their workers.

What if is the right phrase. You assume they are only looking for a specific margin, which they have to optimize for. They already optimizing to maximize the total profit. If there is a productivity increase of the workforce possible they take it unless the conditions get so bad, that a lack of workforce or lawsuits result in higher losses. Same goes for a price increase, if the number of sold products shrinks less then the additional margin per products its a reasonable thing to do.

That piracy/fraud/costly mistakes increase the overall cost for consumers just doesnt happen, no large company in their right mind has additional profit potential lying around that they just dont take because they dont need to. What happens is that at some point the market segment becomes no longer profitable and companies leave that segment entirely.

I agree. But you have to admit it is unethical.

People justify stealing $16 million from the government because it is just a rounding error every day :)

>> "But you have to admit it is unethical."

No, I don't. Buying something for the listed price is perfectly ethical.

Your ethics are different. That's okay. People have different perspectives. My ethics don't require me to pay more than the asking price. I'll tip people who undercharge to the point that it's harmful to them (like albums on Bandcamp), but Amazon will be fine.

>> "People justify stealing $16 million from the government because it is just a rounding error every day :)"

I don't have the slightest idea what you're referring to here, but buying something for the price it's listed at is in no way stealing.


In previous e-commerce mistakes, negative prices were listed.

If amazon listed -$16M as the cost of the camera and put it in your bank, would it be unethical to accept that?

> No, I don't. Buying something for the listed price is perfectly ethical.

Till you don't know the price listed was an error on their part, but now you know so it's unethical.

Has Amazon released a statement? We don't know that it was an error until they do. It's not unusual for a company like Amazon to sell things far below cost to conquer a market. This level of discount is out of the ordinary, but you don't really know until they say or someone says Amazon cancelled the order or asked for it back.

Maybe that sounds like rationalization to you. Let's go back to the article...

>> "Other members spoke to Amazon customer service about their order and were told that the order would indeed ship."

That doesn't sound like a company that made a mistake. And even if it is...

>> "While many Slickdeals members remarked that the orders would almost certainly be canceled by Amazon, the retail giant does have a history of honoring some pricing errors — even those that are significant."

Where's the lack of ethics? Amazon could stop it if they wanted to. Taking a deal Amazon offered and hasn't rescinded is about as pristine as it gets, mistake or not.

When dealing with a retail establishment (as opposed to a private sale), they should have controls in place to correct such mistakes before the sale is finalized. The key point here is that the error passed through enough people/systems acting as representatives of the seller that I can consider the organization as a whole to approve of the sale.

If a cashier accidentally gives me a $10 instead of a $1, that’s unethical to keep. But in this situation, the error started at the advertising stage and persisted through totaling the order, processing payment, and fulfilling for delivery several hours later, all steps at which, in a traditional business, someone could have flagged the error. At this point, it’s their intentional lack of safeguards rather than unintentional mistake that’s at fault and I have no moral qualms about that.

>they should have controls in place to correct such mistakes before the sale is finalized.

If they start bricking devices remotely (to protect against these pricing errors), would you support it?

...No? What part of my statement gave you that idea?

Just because I believe they should have controls in place, doesn’t mean I approve of any control scheme they may think of— that would be absurdity. For example, I also wouldn’t approve of them hiring thieves to get their erroneously-priced merchandise back.

I'm interested in finding out more about your final statement. Care to explain?

I would say that if amazon asked you to send it back and you refused, that would be unethical. If they don’t complain then it’s fine. Who exactly is hurt by this transaction?

By your insanely stupid logic, buying anything is unethical. Do you understand how markets work? Clearly not. Has Amazon even admitted it was a mistake and not a marketing ploy as others have suggested? No. So how do you know they didn't intend to sell at these prices? There's nothing unethical going on here only incredible misunderstanding and uninformed assumptions on your part. Maybe you should think twice next time before labeling things unethical when you clearly do not have the full facts.

If you owned a trillion dollar empire of similar homes, no, I don't think it's unethical to buy the house.

> I also don't think it's ethical to take advantage of such mistakes.

I don't think it's the customer's responsibility to decide whether an advertised price is genuine or a mistake.

I’d say that goes double for Amazon who can’t be bothered to check if the thing in their inventory is genuine.

Totally agree with you there. If I were on the other side of something like this it would SUUCK! But you know people, even honest ones find it hard to resist “sticking it to the man”, i.e. the one with advantage, the baddie. Many rationalizations will be made. “It’s peanuts to them”, etc.

A father and son were walking down the street. The father tips his hat to a woman they pass.

The son asks: "Father, why did you tip your hat to her? She's a prostitute, not a lady."

The father replies: "Son, you are correct, she is no lady. But I am a gentleman."

In many countries prostitution is as legal as software development. I think we should refrain from these jokes, especially since most do it out of a lack of alternative careers and to feed families.

I read it completely the opposite. The son looks down at the prostitute, but the father sees humanity in her and does not judge and treats her as a fellow person with dignity.

But the father says she is no lady

The father says that her status does not determine his behavior as a gentleman.

To belabor the point, being an ethical person is not contingent on ethical behavior by the other party.

Most actually do it because of human trafficking, violence, drugs, mafia, etc.

As much as I agree with the point you're making, there's nothing wrong with being a prostitute.

I guess we found the common ground in the USA; pulling one over on Amazon to the tune of $10,000. Years of virtue signalling rendered moot by the shot at getting something unearned at the expense of somebody else. There is hope yet.

How is it unearned? They offer to pay the price, and if the transaction goes through, they get the product. This is exactly what businesses do when they offer the lowest possible wages to workers. There is zero difference.

If a businessperson does it, they are shrewd. If a customer does it, they are unethical.

Am I listing a $600K house for $60K while I have many many millions in the bank? Not the biggest deal. Otherwise using that sort of example as a comparison makes little sense.

Of course if someone has no savings and lives paycheck to paycheck and lists their house, their only asset, for $540K less than it’s worth, it’s an awful situation. But that’s sort of ridiculous to consider, no?

> What if you accidentally included an extra 0 on the check you wrote?

Regarding this particular example, I would hope the bank and/or other party would read the text and notice the discrepancy...

The numerals are a mere convenience. A bank is required to honor the spelled out amount, because that is what is legally binding. But to the parent's point, presumably you owed a certain amount before paying, so if you overpaid, you have a credit due. Either way, the terms of the contract remain the same.

Are you sure this is the law? You advertise something for a price, the item is paid for, invoiced and delivered. At what point does such a law kick in? If I sell something 5% can I claim it was a mistake? What about 25%, 50%? Where is that line?

In my ethical framework it is more than fine to take advantage of a mistake by one of the largest companies in the world. They'll take advantage of you if given the chance.

At what size company would your ethics require you to reverse course and treat them the way you would like to be treated if you had made the mistake?

Whose mistakes is it ok to take advantage from? It's hard to draw a bright line to split the continuum that goes from, say, the neighborhood nonprofit shop that employs homeless and disabled people from the community, all the way to a ruthless global mega corporation such as Amazon, but that doesn't mean that one's ethics are crooked if it draws a distinction between cases where it's OK and cases where it's wrong.

Is it your contention that a neighborhood nonprofit cannot be run ruthlessly? Do you contend that all of Amazon‘s employees are unethical? what about union pension funds that invest in Amazon-are they unethical?

Neither of these things. I am certainly not arguing that Amazon is unethical. Only that it can be ethical for people to make different decisions about when to take advantage of someone else's mistake on a case-by-case basis, based on the circumstances involved, without being required to produce a bright-line test valid in all possible hypothetical situations, as you seemed to imply. I'm just of the opinion that it's important to accept nuance and common sense in ethics, even if it means that sometimes dilemmas will arise that cannot be resolved easily. I'm also rather convinced that no human moral system exists without such dilemmas anyways. But the existence of dilemmas does not mean that every case is a dilemma, and it can be ok to make different decisions in different actual cases without having an answer to every hypothetical case in between.

It's also worth digging into "the mistake" here, because it's very likely that no human made this mistake (and can be punished for it internally). Rather the larger system (machine or beast) that is Amazon created a pricing system that created this price. You can either take advantage of it or not. So the real question of applying the principle of reciprocity here is ... what is the entity making the mistake and being exploited?

Would you like to live in a world where Amazon creates systems that exploit the market but individual consumers feel moral responsibility to turn a blind eye to the opportunities created by the mistakes that that system makes because they project their own humanity onto the system and apply the golden rule?

I'll take this one. At the point where the loss would create a cash crunch that would materially affect any of the company's employees (e.g. layoffs, company goes out of business, etc.)

If the company is Amazon-sized you are taking profits away from Amazon shareholders due to a mistake in the algorithms that drive Amazon's profits, which is nothing if not fair.

It's worse than that. "Given", hell, they have whole teams of people lobbying and marketing and scheming to create such chances.

That’s just simply not true.

Corporations are owned by regular people, especially the larger they are. Their shares are in retirement accounts and college funds, etc. That must count for something?

Not only is this mistake immaterial to Amazon's bottom line in the first place, it is even less material to Amazon's stock price (which is almost entirely predicated on the future), and retirement accounts / college funds diversify enough that there is a lot of dilution happening here. I'm having a hard time picturing a retiree or future student as a victim...

600k is different than 13k. People were buying it at the advertised price, and a few camera losses is almost nothing financially to Amazon

Actually, if you read the article, one item was $13K. That item could have been ordered a number of times for $100.

I once screwed up my tax return and paid the IRS too much. I did not know I'd made an error until I received a check from the IRS for the overage.

Are you suggesting that customers that acknowledge the mistake to send a check to Amazon?

I would rephrase that as "what kind of person do you want to be?"

One that saves money on good deals

They will cancel majority of the purchases. However, if you were smart, you'd have chosen 1 day shipping and have received the item.

Me? I was not smart and did not select 1 day shipping so it looks like my order will most likely be canceled once Amazon deals with this...

Nah, the blowback they'd get from not honoring the purchasing would be terrible. More generally, Amazon are one of the few companies who understand that short term losses can lead to long-term goodwill and profit.

So anyway, my prediction is that they will do nothing about your purchase.

Eh, no one is going to stop using Amazon if Amazon didn't honor 2k camera for $94.

You're right. A few years ago Air Canada accidentally priced an $8000 flight pass for $99 or some low number. I bought two, as did hundreds of other people. Air Canada canceled them all and yet I still look up Air Canada prices every time I need to fly.

Eh, no one is going to stop using Amazon if Amazon didn't honor 2k camera for $94.

Probably, but people might be disinclined to pay attention to prime day next year. It's definitely lost a lot of its luster now that Amazon mostly hawks their own cheap crap that nobody's that interested in.

Me? I could see this easily being an accident that someone decided to let ride. Maybe they cancel a few orders, but I doubt they'd cancel most or all of them.

Well most of the people found these deals are the ones who will understand it.

They'll almost certainly cancel it. Pricing errors like this happen all the time on Amazon, there are whole websites/subreddits dedicated to finding them. Usually they just cancel it the next day and maybe give you a $10 gift card.

Sometimes you get lucky and get the item, but the media's advertisement of this will probably exponentially increase the chance of getting your order canceled, unless Amazon has some crazy PR strategy.

Seems some are beginning to receive their gear.

Is that still happening? Do you have recent links of people getting gift card/credit regularly? Amazon seems to have stopped doing that largely for some time now.

80 of those orders are over a million dollars.

They're probably cancelling it. And very few people will give them "blowback" for not giving stuff away for free when the people "buying" it must have known.

Hold out hope. It gives excellent publicity to Prime day and their brand if they don't cancel them - why ruin that with potentially bad publicity, etc. over what probably amounts to a few hundred thousand dollars, which they can easily afford to cover.

Technically Amazon Canada but back in the day they mispriced Lisp in Small Pieces for really cheap and then cancelled almost every order.

I only bought a copy that actually arrived of that book last year to make up for it. Need to finish plowing through it at some point, the part I read is so good.

Because they have done it quite a few times in the past.

Amazon has made this mistake in past too and it seems they are unable to solve it.

I think Amazon might start asking manufacturers to add remote bricking ability, so that when mistakes like this happens, Amazon remotely bricks the device before even customer gets to open it and then Amazon sends them an email, "it seems the device we sent you at unbelievably low price was broken before even reaching your door, if you return it you would receive a $20 gift card" )

Intentionally bricking an already sold item so the customer has to return it? There is no way Amazon will implement something even close to that. It’s also probably illegal.

Sale itself was a result of an error tho.

That’s a ridiculous solution. Many of those products can’t go online by themselves, that $13,000 lens can’t and most the cameras talk to a phone only, not the internet, and that’s even if people use that feature. I don’t why Sony, Canon or others would even consider this when no other retailer has this issue.

I’m not sure the bad publicity is worth it. People will who read the press about it, will doubt the real deals are real and not order them (e.g. 50% off, which is big saving, but still happens). Amazon is big company with a lot of good engineers, seems like they should be able to solve this problem.

I like the comment suggesting articles like that being banned. That lens has been one of my dreams for years now for birding. Though 800mm is kinda ridiculous and probably impossible to hand hold.

I did nearly get lucky like this some years back when Walmart $100 gift cards were on sale for $10. All my orders were cancelled. It seems like several of these Amazon orders have been delivered.

>>Though 800mm is kinda ridiculous and probably impossible to hand hold

If you have a bit of DIY spirit - You can get a decent 4" Newtonian telescope, porro prism and an intermediate lens and adapter to play around with and see if you like it for much cheaper - roughly $1200

Bonus: For $45 you can get a solar filter and take snazzy photos of partial eclipses.

Yes! I looked into some mirror lens options too trying to get the price down more. It turns out that doing a zoom/crop on the computer afterwards gives me the same or better results apparently. I haven't thought about a telescope though that would be sweet for pictures of nests.

Yeah normally I don't care about this or that hot deal, but as a fellow birder seeing the 800mm was a gut punch. (I don't think anyone handholds that one, at least not long)

I've been kicking around ideas on how to save up for one of those L lenses. At $20 a month it would take me about 7 years to save up for the 100-400 model. Maybe getting something used from a lens rental service might be a better shot.

If you're on a tight budget a past-generation model is the most bang for your buck, perhaps the 400mm f/5.6 or an older 300mm f/2.8 plus a teleconverter. I had a 100-400 for a while and I wound up shooting exclusively at 400mm, so it was kind of a waste of weight & cost.

Also, glass is more important than body, but you might be able to get more stops for your money with an updated body, e.g. if your current body is only good to 400 or 800 ISO. IMO on a budget you should get the best f/5.6 setup you can and then look for a body with high ISO.

With same day shipping the first few people can get lucky. Anyone living near a Amazon fullfilment center should keep a look out for such deals.

IANAL. Any U.S.-based lawyers out here?

I believe a listed price is an "invitation to treat" which means a retailer can charge whatever they like regardless of listed price (whether in a physical or online store), but at what point can't an online retailer cancel/back-out of a transaction? Let's say the merchant and buyer are both California-based for simplicity. Would it be legally similar to "theft by discovery" (e.g., taking money falling out from an overturned armored truck) for accepting goods sold at an excessive, erroneous discount? Or would it require proving intent on part of the buyer that the price was a serious mistake they deliberately acted in bad-faith to exploit?

Let's say the (over-simplified) phases of a transaction are:

1. Agreed - Buyer clicks "Buy".

2. Paid - Payment is posted.

3. Shipped out - The product leaves the custody of the merchant.

4. Received - Customer receives the product.

I'm also not a lawyer, but they have the ability to correct the error right up until it's delivered to you - every online retailer has something like that in their T&Cs. There's been plenty of cases where retailers have cancelled order and refunded any moneys paid and customers have had no recourse to enforce the contract.

After you've got the goods in your hands - well, there's likely a lot less they can do about it.

Some resources for the US here: https://smallbusiness.chron.com/company-advertising-price-wr...

Changing the price after the fact, or demanding you return it - well... That could end up with them in a whole lot of hot water themselves.

2007ish time, I found a TV ok Best Buy for $35 which was originally maybe $1500. It was through one of these deal sites(may have just been Slickdeals). I ordered it. A day later, they cancelled the order saying they have the right to cancel any order they wish. I didn’t say anything back.

I remember something similar happened at Best Buy 15 years ago with a high end nvidia card. I bought one, but Best Buy obviously chose not to fulfill on the glitch. I wasn't surprised or disappointed. I was surprised at how many people felt entitled to it, though. The number of calls to boycott Best Buy over it seemed insane.

I wonder how many people will feel entitled to Amazon honoring this glitch.

I thought there were advertising laws that required stores to honor their flyers, but I don't know how that translated to the online world.

The idea was, print a "price glitch", people come into stores, "so sorry that was a mistake", people still buy stuff... Then laws were enacted.

I don't know either, but I know I didn't get my video card and got refunded.

I doubt they will cancel the orders. Amazon lives by customer service. They seem to just write off their mistakes directly from revenue. I learned this when I was scammed for a $5000 and Amazon let the scammer keep, refunded me and closed the issue in one fell swoop.

This probably plays into the antitrust issues.

Amazon is so big that they can drop probably $200,000+ In revenue in exchange for news articles like this one and to let users know Amazon always takes their side.

Say a new non-unicorn competitor joins the e-commerce space. They can't afford to burn money like Amazon can, so disputes are treated on a case-by-case basis with investigating sometimes taking weeks before choosing whether or not to side with and refund the customer or not. This causes:

1. People don't think this competitor cares about them/sides with them as much as Amazon does since support cases take a long time 2. People get angry when eventually they don't get their refund (since Amazon will courtesy refund long time prime customers often with no questions asked) and post about it online [with a warped story in their favor]

Suddenly people stop buying from this company because there isn't a 99.5% chance that the company will refund any future fraud or mishaps. Why take the chance buying from them if Amazon is known to always do whatever it takes to keep you happy?

This is a prime example of how eBay works as well. Maybe this has recently changed, but as a seller, ebay is commonly known to always side with the buyer in disputes unless the seller can prove the buyer's claim wrong. This is largely to prevent eBay from receiving a name of a service where you can get scammed easily (whether or not this has achieved the desired effect is another story).

> Suddenly people stop buying from this company because there isn't a 99.5% chance that the company will refund any future fraud or mishaps.

In this scenario one company offers a better product via a better customer experience. Simply being able to offer a better product because of scale is now enough to get people talking about antitrust issues. Not everything is an antitrust issue. It's really starting to grate on me that it's impossible these days for a title to have "Amazon" in it and nobody to be down in the comment section grinding an axe about trust-busting. Is it an antitrust issue that Amazon can hire better lawyers if they get sued? Is it an antitrust issue that Amazon can afford to staff enough customer support employees to process all of their complaints in a timely manner?

This complaint is closely related to the idea that selling a product at below-cost is anticompetitive, and that does have basis in antitrust law.

The idea that customer service can be a "product" run at a loss to gain an unfair advantage is at least a little compelling. I don't know if it has merit but it's an interesting question.

As it is/was with oil, the only real issues are when they're used to harm the consumer after the companies that under-sold their product later sells their product for much more or otherwise harms the consumer.



> It's really starting to grate on me that it's impossible these days for a title to have "Amazon" in it and nobody to be down in the comment section grinding an axe about trust-busting

How do walk right into text book examples of modern antitrust issues and get mad people notice?

No, of course none of the strawmen are the issue, it's their vertical and horizontal sizes that break the theoretical math of competitive markets and the use of their weight to enforce their hegemonic authoritarianism on/against municipalities and small businesses.

They'll definitely cancel the orders. I once got a coupon from them for 50% off my first Prime Now order, and tried to buy $1000 worth of electronics for $500. They just canceled it and didn't even let me keep the coupon.

I canceled my prime subscription, but they charged me anyway..

I called and got a refund, but I also told them I wanted a $25 'convenience fee' --

They paid it.

Now that sounds like a made up story

Completely true.

The issue was that the prime was a $99 charge and I just paid rent. Their $99 made my account go negative and I got an overdraft fee.

So I told Amazon I wanted a convenice fee for my time having to call them and to pay me the overdraft fee.

The guy put me on hold for a few minutes - then came back and agreed. and I got my $99 plus $25 that I asked for.

Seems like relatively cheap viral marketing for Prime Day, honestly.

No it happened to me before where I ordered a 10TB drive for $60 when going rate was somewhere around $350 at that time. I only ordered one and then they canceled and gave me $20 gift card.

That used to be the case, but Amazon is no longer as customer centric as it used to be. Still a heck of a lot better than Google, but that isn't saying much.

Source: received an incorrect item from Amazon (women's briefs instead of a set of pens!), later told that the pens I'd ordered were now out of stock so I was just S.O.L.

Did they refund the money?

Amazon is less customer-friendly than ever before. They refused to adjust a TV I purchased 7 days ago to the Prime Day pricing which was $400 off. The only solution according to them was to purchase another TV at the Prime pricing and return the original. That's unfriendly to the customer, it's unfriendly to the planet, and it's unfriendly to Amazon's bottom line. An all-around disaster.

Not trying to pick a fight, I'm genuinely curious- why should Amazon be expected to do that? Even with their attitude for good customer service, if you purchased an item a week ago why should they give you money now because it is on sale? Prime day isn't exactly a secret, I would say the fair argument here is that you wanted a TV in a hurry and weren't interested in waiting for the sale. Otherwise, should they also refund me 60% of the 2k I spent 2 years ago on my last desktop PC?

If it's still within the return window for the product, it seems perfectly reasonable to honor the discount. Amazon would actually save money by doing this, because they're not incurring the costs of the additional delivery or return.

They should do it because they'd have to do it anyway, just with a lot of nonsense in between with shipping, if the customer insists and does the return.

The difference with your 2 year old PC is that nobody has a 2 year return window.

It's standard practice in retail that price adjustments are made if a price cut happens within the return period of the purchase.

This starts to make sense to me after reading the sister comments. Within the return period, environmentally it does make sense (CO2 costs of shipping a large TV aren't negligible). I may not be savvy enough, if I see an item I bought on sale I don't think "I should return this and buy the same item" but it does make perfect sense to do so.

If i see an item I bought on sale I think "damn, I missed out", but a rational consumer (economics sense) would think "I should return this and buy another". I just approached the question from my typical viewpoint, which is "you buy it, you own it" and not expecting any additional customer support.

That, and social anxiety means I would be far more comfortable paying the extra $400 than bugging an associate for a refund.

Amazon always had an official "we don't price match" policy. The price matching they did was always unofficial, but it's long gone now.

Some credit cards have price protection so if you paid with one of those, take advantage of it, it's really pretty easy!

Wow.. that's odd. I remember when they changed their price matching policy to no longer price match, but I thought TV's were still eligible, but I guess now even that's changed..

Were they both sold by the same vendor?

My favorite ecommerce glitch was a guitar center coupon for $50 off being usable an unlimited number of times. I didn't push my luck and only applied it a few times. Surprisingly they honored it and I got a bunch of miscellaneous guitar accessories for free.

Back in the 1998 there was one website that let you enter negative values into the quantities to zero out the cost of other items. I notified them quickly and they let my order though as a way of saying 'thanks'.

Did this once for credit card rewards redemption along with another glitch allowing one to set the amount of rewards that would be deducted and made out with 20k in gift cards. Lasted a few weeks then died.

When Bing launched, they had a deal that you get 15% off retailer orders if you buy an item after landing on that page from the Bing search results.

Ebay was one of their partners. I Bing'ed "1oz gold coin," clicked into Ebay listings, and bought a bunch of gold for 15% off that I immediately resold.

They quickly added more restrictions to the promotion.

I'll go on and say something, perhaps, controversial.

This "price mistake" was not a mistake at all. This was intentional move by amazon to attract publicity.

Once these news spread, people will remember. And next year they will have a few extra million people browsing amazon "looking for that super deal".

This "price mistake" is simply part of the advertising/marketing stratagy by amazon to create extra excitement about prime day.

People will be coming back for years ... looking for that 100$ super lens. This is money well spent.


There was a similar incident in 2001:

> Amazon messes up a 'Buy this camera and get that bag free" promotion to be "Buy this bag and get that camera free." As a result you can get a $350 Minolta Maxxum SLR for $40.


Does anyone know if someone tried to order a ridiculous amount of the 13k Sony zoom lens? If I would have noticed this pricing error still in time to place an order I wouldn't have wasted a minute to think what I want, I would have ordered 100-1000 lenses worth 13000 for 95 each and later sold them on eBay for 10k each and bought myself a Tesla or something...

Why don't I read an actually interesting story about this pricing error, who cares that some people got a single item discounted... That's as interesting as someone winning $300 in the lottery. Happens all the time, not worth a story otherwise...

Given the algorithmic pricing on a lot of things (everything?) sold on Amazon there’s probably money to be made building some bot that checks for pricing mistakes and buys when one is found.

I believe this was common on eBay. People also looked for common misspellings of items, misspellings that would lead items to get fewer ids and usually end underpriced relative to similar items.

I don't have this automated, but this is definitely still a thing, at least for used test equipment. I'm not clever enough to automate it fully, since often constructing the search terms is fairly difficult, but I definitely have scored some incredible deals ($40 for a perfectly fine HP spectrum analyzer a month ago). The only automation is some simple greasemonkey scripts, but there are definitely deals to be had on mis-categorized items. Likely this works best on specialized equipment that the average bulk auction buyer doesn't recognize, I would suspect that most industrial/scientific equipment would apply. This certainly won't apply to consumer items like a laptop though, the item has to be esoteric enough that a non-expert has difficulty even determining what it is.

Most I believe use all words within a given Levenshtein distance.

This is an unintentional by-product of shipping so quickly. As Amazon moves to quicker and quicker shipping policies, it means that errors like this can't be reversed in time.

I would imagine that Amazon could threaten to close the customer's account if they refused to return the camera equipment but that might be a bit extreme and might be very bad press.

You'd think they'd add a fail-safe into their systems just in case for these circumstances.


* If SalePrice < (0.25 x CostPrice) - Delay Order

* If (CostPrice - SalesPrice) > $500 - Delay Order

Obligatory Boeing edition:

* If trim adjust > 2.5deg { deactivate mcas }

Hm, seems this post would have been more actionable a couple days ago :-)

The deal (price mistake?) was only available for like 1 hr around 10 or 11 pm PST Monday night...but enough time for hundreds of mistaken orders.

Some think this is a marketing gimmick. I don’t:

1. They would not be able to resist making the price a cute number, like Prime day’s date, eg $7.16

2. They would later claim intentionality to not seem incompetent.

3. If they stuck to a product category, they would pick a category of mainstream or sympathetic appeal. Eg: pool toys for summer fun, back to school items, gaming pc or kids clothes.

4. They would bake in stop loss prevention. IE putting a per account quantity cap in place, and a global quantity cap.

I’m kind of surprised at many people thinking it was intentional— it’s a good use of imagination but going a bit deeper the execution does not fit with any imaginary world I can envision.

Amazon can eat that loss without batting an eye. If it's resellers, etc, I'm not sure how the situation would be remedied. I think cancelling the orders would be fair, because some small camera shop can't be expected to eat the same losses as the #2 multinational retailer. While I wish I had gotten one of those cameras, as 10kUSD would completely change my life, I can understand both sides I think...

If it was Amazon it would be the best PR for the next prime day you could think of. People will be scouring the site for these kind of deals next year.

What nobody is touching on here is that there are UPP/MAP restrictions on many items from different manufacturers. You'll see notice this in action when you see a price that's obfuscated behind some magical "add to cart" wall.

Regardless of the PR value here (which is worth more than this stunt IMO) I'm going to bet there are going to be more than a few MFRs whipping out their contracts for some type of damages here based on those ULP/MAP guidelines. The cost here is going to be much more than the gross loss on the items individually.

What if this was done on purpose to increase hype for the next Prime Day? They'll probably cancel the orders anyways, and there will some people who will visit Amazon on prime day hoping to score a ridiculous deal, only to settle on buying some random shit.

The guys shows a picture of him getting the gear down at the bottom of the article.

Then it wouldn't be a honest mistake and they would have to honor the sales.

Leaving aside the question of right or wrong, I have always thought that the pride people take when they "beat" a large corporation is one of the most fundamentally American things there is.

How many times has someone given you a tip on what lie to tell to a customer service agent to get what you want? How many websites are there devoted to jumping on airline ticket pricing errors? How many times can you think of someone telling you their insurance paid out more than their loss was worth?

In some circles this even extends into taxes. People brag about how they minimize their tax burden even though that means the person you're bragging to will be the one receiving less govt. services. We have a president now who brags about not paying much in taxes, even though his current job would be meaningless without them!

I think in a purely capitalistic society, this is all rational behavior. But it's also the reason we have such antagonistic relationships with corporations. Both sides look to screw each other at the slightest hint of weakness.

This is the internet so I am sure I will be told which side is right, but that's really not what I am getting at. I just find the dynamic so interesting.

Yeah, it's Amazon losing money.. Big deal. However it does make me wonder the same people that jump on these kind of deals and justify it (rightly or wrongly) would do it to a much smaller company or even a person that's selling something.

Taking advantage of this "deal" is obviously morally untenable if you stop and think about it. Rather than posing the hypothetical of flipping it around between vendor and customer (i.e., "Would you be OK with it if Amazon charged you more?"), consider the case where it was a local mom and pop camera shop that made this mistake on its website. Then you would probably feel terrible about exploiting this and would be fine with the company requesting the merchandise be returned, say with a $100 store credit.

Now ask yourself why this scenario is really different from the store being Amazon from a moral standpoint. If you're being intellectually honest with yourself, you will conclude that it's the same reasoning that would support the idea that it's OK to steal from people as long as they are very rich and won't miss the money.

This happens a lot with HDDs and SSDs. At least once per month I get a notification about disks being really cheap. Looks like sellers make mistakes and put wrong numbers to quantity/price boxes. Most often orders are cancelled.

The customer is always right. Doubt Amazon will do anything about the customers that already received their merchandise. Hard learned lesson for Amazon and probably sucks to be the engineers dealing with the postmortem.

If I saw cheap photo equipment on Amazon, I'd assume it was some knockoff. It might be good, or not. I mean, really, how much does it cost to make a camera back? It's simpler than a smartphone.

I believe they were being sold from the official Sony storefront.

A part of me wonders if this is a calculated marketing move for next years prime day. "Hey remember last year when $13k cameras were priced for $100? Lets see if that happens this year!"

I recently "got" free echos from Amazon pricing error only to see the orders get cancelled and a single echo shipped at the normal prime day pricing though that was not what I agreed to.

I got a couple of those as well but that's in a different ballpark then this goof up. Plus those were Amazons products.

The markup on this gear is probably insane, it has a limited shelf life, if I told Amazon they could get this many column inches of good will for a few 100k they'd jump on it :)

Unfortunately this happened in US, while in EU the price was correct

Is there even any evidence that this was an accident? From what I’ve seen, there is no evidence that this wasn’t on purpose despite everyone stating it was surely an accident.

This bug probably cost Amazon far far far less than last year's prime day outage.

Also, it got them free press coverage. This could have totally been intentional.

It's a marketing gimmick: lose a bit from a few products to ensure crowds looking for the same "mistakes" on next Prime Day.

I got a $20 credit/gift card for a canceled HD purchase that was priced wrong... maybe you will get a $200 credit in this case?

Ughh. That's the newest version of my pseudo broken camera and the tele lens I've wanted forever.

Retail arbitrage at its finest!

Even the big players make mistakes that are completely avoidable with proper oversight

Love this so much <3

How much do you want to bet that Amazon sacrifices small-volume margin losses for ridiculous press ROI?

To me this is a really cool marketing stunt to bring even more people to Amazon prime.

Knowing something about Amazon, some team is going to miss a few nights of sleep.

"Amazon Prime Day gets global marketing campaign for less than $200k"

Aww, I wish I'd gotten in on that, could really use that sigma thing ^_^

I'd make an order and immediately ask Amazon if I can keep it or if it was an error.

Why? How come can I know for sure this is an error and not, say, a marketing strategy to show up for free on big news outlets?

Free publicity for the company and a free expensive product for me. They would be just using me to earn some publicity space, and I would be compensated a lot by it. Being a libertarian, I don't see any problem with this free trade.

Except, it was probably a huge mess on their pricing system. As this might be the case, if they wanted to cancel my order, I wouldn't complain at all.

What about if it was an error that turned out to be great for them because it drove more access to the camera area and they sold twice what they expected, and they admit it? I'd still be interested in returning the camera because I don't want to take advantage of an error, but I'd ask nicely if I can keep it and make it clear I have no intention to fight or complain if they said 'no'.

Wow, and I thought I had it good with the HP fire sale years back.

or the great Walmart "sale" of 2013 where everything was ~$9.

Didn't get on this, but reminds me of when Amazon didnt collect sales tax for states they didn't operate in. Was able to save about $300 on a stereo purchase because of that back in the day...

Dam. Wish I had noticed! Been on the hunt for a 70-300

The Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM was worth every penny. I've had it for 10 years now and it is still wonderful.

If your pictures are the sunny outdoors and not indoors, a long slow lens is almost certainly a better value than the typical 75-200 2.8.

Thats brilliant marketing (intentional or not), because in my mind prime day is amazon selling of their crap. The last years there was not a single item I was interested in.

This is great for Amazon publicity wise.

This is what I'm thinking. Take a small (for Amazon) that will be dwarfed by people who sign up for or renew Prime memberships hoping to luck out on a similar deal in the future.

according to random people in the slickdeals thread the loss was $16 million

Companies pay a whopping $5 million to run a 30-second ad during the Super Bowl....

This super sale (if everyone gets what they ordered) will have much deeper impact than a 30 second commercial.

Believe next year, millions more people wil be looking for deals on amazon on prime day....

Well executed "price mistake" ;)

So 0.1% of profit. Is that not small?

Oof! Someone's losing their job.

Good promo!



Or it's a cheap PR stunt.

It doesn't matter. They will simply cancel the order citing some TOS. (Source. Used to work at Walmart)

Maybe an intentional amazon move to take some losses but destroy B&H’s hold on high end photography

What are the guesses as to how this happened? At the risk of sounding conspiratorial I propose that sometimes these "accidents" are less accidental than they claim. So much hype over this has got to be worth something.

this was no accident. their pricing mechanisms are top notch. this is a marketing move!

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