How to go from a pricing error to lost customers

Jacob Allred
#rants recently had an amazing deal on Melissa & Doug block sets. These sets are regularly around $50, but with this deal you could get 2 sets for around $24. I immediately placed an order. One set for my baby, and one set as a gift.

Sadly, my order arrived yesterday with just one set in it. I waited for an email letting me know where the other set was, but none ever came. Today I got an email saying that my order was complete. Odd, considering I ordered 2 sets but got only 1.

Knowing that mistakes occasionally happen, I go to, hit up their contact page, and see that they advertise 30 second response times on their CS toll-free number. Great!

I call them up, wait on hold for 10 minutes (hmm.. seems a little longer than 30 seconds..) and eventually get a guy that decides to blatantly lie to me. Instead of telling me the truth (that it was a pricing mistake and they were only honoring one set per person), he decided to tell me that it was UPS / “the factory’s” fault that I only got one set, and that they were no longer available (despite showing “in stock” at a higher price on the website). I was given a 50% refund on my order. Keep in mind I wouldn’t have gotten refunded for the unshipped item if I didn’t waste 25 minutes on the phone calling them. They would have happily and knowingly stolen my money.

So I started out thrilled that JCP had a great deal that would help with my Christmas shopping, and now I’m so upset with them that I’m not likely to ever shop there again (with the exception of amazingly good deals that probably lose them money anyway).

So what went wrong? How did they go from a simple and common pricing mistake to losing a customer for life?

  1. First, they had a pricing mistake. It happens. Some companies choose to honor pricing mistakes (yay!), and some choose to cancel orders before they ship (oh well). Shipping half an order really isn’t acceptable. You either ship it all or you cancel it all.
  2. Then they didn’t notify customers that their orders weren’t going to be fulfilled.
  3. To make it even worse, they didn’t refund customers for the parts of their orders that weren’t shipped without requiring a lengthy phone call. They knew they only shipped me part of my order, but they were going to keep my money and pretend that they shipped the full order.
  4. They told some customers the truth — that they weren’t going to honor the price even though the item was in stock — and those customers posted about their experiences on the internet. Telling customers the truth is a good thing. The problem is…
  5. They told some customers a lie — that the item was no longer available and that their system claims both sets were shipped — after wasting 25 minutes of their time on the phone.

So what should they have done? In my opinion they should have honored the pricing mistake and shipped the units at the agreed upon price. They could have put the loss in the advertising budget, because you know JCP got a lot of positive exposure from this.

Alternatively, they could have cancelled all the orders before they shipped, and reversed any credit card charges that had already gone through. This would have been disappointing, but wouldn’t have hurt their reputation in any way (people anticipate great deals getting cancelled before they ship).