A couch is a big investment — a really nice piece of furniture can cost thousands of dollars. So you can imagine how excited some shoppers were to find Anthropologie selling an $8,000 couch online for… nothing. Alas, that excitement was short-lived, after the company explained that it had all been a mistake.
Too good to be true
Business Insider reports that shoppers were snapping up the “Edlyn” two-piece chaise sectional — which usually costs up to $7,798 — after it was listed as costing $0, with only a $149 delivery charge.
One shopper told BI that he’d successfully purchased the couch for no money, and was only charged for shipping and delivery. Others on Twitter gleefully reported the deal.
Like everything else that sounds too good to be true, the free couch turned out to be an apparent website glitch: The shopper who talked to BI says his couch order was cancelled 39 minutes after he’d received his order confirmation.
“The item(s) below reflect product(s) that are no longer in stock, or are cancellations that you have requested,” the email reads.
The online listing for the couch now reflects the correct price as well.
“We sincerely regret that a technical glitch on our website caused some furniture pricing to be listed incorrectly,” a spokesperson told the site.
If this sounds familiar, perhaps it’s because this kind of thing isn’t uncommon, from the airline industry to the gift card business.
Last year, for example, customers complained when Walmart wouldn’t honor a pricing error that listed a 70″ TV for $99.
Just in 2015, both United and American accidentally offered free or cheap tickets when they didn’t mean to. The Department of Transportation didn’t make United honor super-low first-class fares that resulted from a glitch, but American decided to offer some travelers free flights to China after a similar hiccup.
As we’ve explained many times before, these kinds of mistakes are not examples of “bait and switch,” despite what customers may say.
To qualify as a scam, the “bait” part requires a deliberate intention to deceive the customer, while the “switch” portion involves the retailer taking the lured-in customer and getting them to buy a more expensive product. By canceling orders, Anthropologie and other companies are not forcing anyone to pay up.
There is is no law requiring businesses to honor honest pricing mistakes. Some do honor these goofs, because they believe that the initial loss will result in a net positive gain in the long-term, but they are under no obligation to do so.