Wal-Mart cancels low-priced orders made in online pricing snafu

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

(c) 2013, Bloomberg News.

Wal-Mart Stores is telling online shoppers who bought erroneously low-priced merchandise Wednesday that their orders are being canceled.

"Given the wide discrepancy in pricing, we are notifying customers who ordered these items that their orders have been canceled and that they'll be refunded in full," Ravi Jariwala, a spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement Wednesday. Wal-Mart will send customers $10 e-gift cards within five days for future purchases, he said, declining to say how many orders were canceled.

Pricing issues on Wal-Mart's website Wednesday morning had stemmed from technical errors caused internally, Jariwala said.

The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer was selling steeply discounted merchandise online such as kayaks for about $11 and computer monitors for about $9. The company's Internet store was intermittently unavailable throughout Wednesday as the issues were fixed, possibly resulting in lost sales.

Some items including kayaks, monitors, televisions and gym equipment were heavily discounted while other items were priced up, said Christian Antonio, a Pittsburgh-area blogger who wrote about the pricing abnormalities. A can of Lysol was priced at more than $100 and Kool-Aid packets were selling for more than $70, Antonio said in an e-mail.

The price issues affected many departments, Antonio said. Children's cribs were offered for $28 and highchairs for $7, he said. Exercise equipment such as elliptical machines and treadmills that normally sell for hundreds of dollars were offered for $33 and $21, he said.

On the "Terms of Use" page of its website, Wal-Mart says it "cannot confirm the price of an item until after your order is placed" and acknowledges that "pricing errors may occur."

"Walmart reserves the right to cancel any orders containing pricing errors, with no further obligations to you, even after your receipt of an order confirmation or shipping notice from Walmart," the website's terms say.

Some shoppers, anticipating that their purchases might not be fulfilled, opted for "Site to Store," which lets them pick up online orders at a store. They posted pictures Wednesday of their early-morning receipts alongside their discounted merchandise.

The errant prices were available for at least six hours Wednesday morning, Antonio said. Sales were uninterrupted other than a prompt instructing shoppers to pay using PayPal accounts rather than credit cards, he said.

The pricing issue alienated Charles Allen Jr., a shopper in Midwest City, Oklahoma. Earlier Wednesday, Allen had purchased six computer monitors priced at $8.85 each for his business, which conducts research for legal firms, he said by e-mail. Wal- Mart canceled that order before it shipped, he said.

"We have reviewed your order and this was cancelled due to a price error," according to a Wal-Mart e-mail Allen received from the company's customer service department, that he provided to Bloomberg News. The e-mail said, "prices are subject to change without notice."

Allen was turned off by the experience: "Most likely have bought my last TV from Walmart," he said in the e-mail.

Two years ago, Target Corp.'s site crashed a handful of times during peak shopping hours after the company took control of its online operations from Amazon.com Inc. Steve Eastman, president of Target.com, subsequently left the company.