Bargain Hunters Need Some Common Sense

BargainHunterThere's nothing more satisfying than scoring a too-good-to-be-true deal online — and there are few things more annoying than finding out that the deal isn't going to happen. However, it's still important to keep a sense of proportion about these things.

Picture by seabird

Our posts last week and this week about Dell offering a Linksys WRT610N router for $20.90 on its site, and then withdrawing the offer once it became apparent it was a typo, triggered a huge amount of discussion amongst readers. Plenty of people took the opportunity to order one (or several) routers, but right from the start there was widespread recognition that the whole thing might be a pricing error.

That indeed proved to be the case. Dell is offering the WRT610N at a discount to anyone who tried ordering it at the lower price, but with a saving of around $60 rather than $260, there probably won't be as many takers.

There is clearly, however, a minority of disgruntled readers who think that Dell should be forced to supply anyone who put in an order at the $20 price. There's even a whiff of conspiracy theory, with the suggestion being made that Dell deliberately underpriced the routers, waited for the orders to roll in, and then announced the actual price, hoping that some people would buy regardless.

I'm no great believer in conspiracy theories at the best of times, and I'll say up front that such a scenario strikes me as stupidly improbable, especially given that Dell did absolutely nothing to promote the router beyond having it in its online catalogue. I also find it hard to believe that it would consider selling a handful of routers as reasonable compensation for potentially annoying a lot of customers and turning them off higher-value purchases.

But what I find even more surprising is the concept that's being more widely floated: that having listed the price, Dell was completely obliged to sell the product — even though it hadn't taken money from anyone's credit card, confirmed that units were definitely available, and didn't promote the price via any advertising. Australia in 2009 often gives the impression of being a rather unforgiving place, but it's come to something if we feel that a typo should carry a major financial penalty.

No matter how many checks and balances are in place, mistakes are going to happen in retail. If someone doesn't get to buy a router for $20, I can't see any real injury or cause for complaint. You might not think that the compensatory offer is enough, but I can't see that Dell was obliged to offer even that. Life goes on.

Bargain-hunting online is great fun, and I certainly don't see it going away. But if you're going to get stressed every time a deal doesn't work out — because you couldn't make the dates fit, there turned out to be an error, or the site insisted on making it impossible to pay by implementing Verified by Visa — the fun goes right out of it and you might need to consider a different approach.

Lifehacker's weekly Loaded column looks at better ways to manage (and stop worrying about) your money.


    I work for a supermarket deli, and you wouldn't believe what people expect from us. If a number is falling off a ticket (still attached and visible, dangling from the ticket) we still get people expecting a $9.99 per kg product for .99c kg...people are just ridiculous! Or people will argue with us over prices from other supermarkets! ARGH!!!

    Eloquently and tactfully put Angus. My take is much more blunt - some of the posts to that article were embarrassing and shameful. There's definitely a small percentage of Kotaku readers that need to grow up and grow a brain.

    'Here kids. Here's some paper, some petrol and some matches. Now don't be making any fires with this you hear.'

    Not sure that Australia is so much unforgiving as it is greedy. Super-cheap deals on routers just aren't important, and anyone who thinks they are is in need of some form of therapy, not cheap routers.

    I worked for a supermarket in the late 1990's that had that policy: if something was mislabeled, you got it at the lower price, no questions asked.

    I wonder if some of the confusion (and anger) stems from those kinds of policies… and a sense of greed.

    You guys need to read up on:

    sure, i ordered a router
    it was worth a chance eh?
    i probably even had a case, considering they accepted my payment (before reneging later)
    but i knew it was under-priced and accepted a refund when THEY realised it was under-priced
    no harm, no foul

    Angus, I knew as soon as I saw the story originally it was a typo... was just waiting to see how many would actually order it then, when price is corrected, demand it for the mistaken price anyway.

    Serving the public after all these years means hearing the same stuff all the time - people in the end just want bragging rights. "Look at me ! I got xyz for bugger all ! Look at me !"

    If you'd read up on this story, you'd know that this wasn't by far the first time Dell has 'accidentally' listed an expensive product many times cheaper and done the same thing.

    Original post:

    Please review the facts before forming an opinion.

      Two other examples from other countries, and from a company selling hundreds of products, doesn't make much of a case. In particular, it doesn't prove that it wasn't an accident in each case.

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