IMPORTANT UPDATE: The See's Candies debacle

by Paul Michael on 2 January 2008 21 comments

For those of you (and I presume there were many) who took up the incredible See's candies offer I posted yesterday, I have bad news. I too got the email from See's saying they would not fulfill the order due to a glitch. But, the story does not end there.

See, I believe that a company should stand behind an order, even if it is due to a glitch. If you walk into a store and see a T-shirt marked as $5, they will usually honor it, even if the real price of that T-shirt is $45. To simply say "nope, not our fault, you're getting nothing" seems very unfair to me.

For those of you that may not have received it yet, here's the full text of the email...

Greetings from Sees.com,

We regret to inform you that a technical website error caused the following item to be displayed at an incorrect price on the Sees.com website:

Gift # 182 - 3lb. 15-1/2 oz. Holiday Gift Special - Price $1.00

We are unable to fulfill this item for the incorrectly posted price. Therefore, we have cancelled your order for this item that was placed on January 1, 2008.

At any given time, despite our best efforts, we may have an item appear on our website with incorrect pricing. We do verify prices prior to processing orders and any discrepancy will cause the order to go on hold for further review. We would like to assure you that your credit card was not charged as your order was placed on hold when the pricing error was discovered.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. We value your business and hope that you will give us a chance to serve you again in the future.

Sincerely,

Customer Service Department
Sees.com

Please note: This e-mail was sent from a notification-only address that cannot accept incoming e-mail. Please do not reply to this message. For any further questions, you can reach our Customer Service Department at 1-800-789-7337.

 

 

 

 

I called the customer service number and was told, very politely, that See's will not honor any of these orders. I pointed out that they may want to consider giving every customer they let down some kind of compensation, even a money-off coupon, so that they save face and show people that they are at least a company that cares about customer service. I am waiting to hear back from them and will let you know asap if I receive a response. Let's hope See's can pull something out of this fire. Watch this space...

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Lana Goodrich's picture

I think this gets into muddy territory in the online world. On the one hand, companies should stand by their offers. On the other hand, a single keystroke error could subject an online company to hundreds or thousands of dollars of loss before the error is fixed. I've read about consumers who exploit online errors or lag-times between redeeming gift cards online and in-store (they buy something online with the gift card, then turn around and go to the store the same day and use it again, before the computers can catch up). There's a big potential for abuse in the online world from both ends. However, I do think it would be appropriate for See's to give a better explanation for their error and/or offer some sort of coupon as an apology for the inconvenience.

Will Chen's picture

Nice job Paul! I agree with Lana that some sort of coupon would be the appropriate compensation. While technically they don't have to do anything, the See's Candy brand is a fairly prestigious brand name. It should be in their best interest to honor their deals.

Guest's picture
Guest

Come on -- you said yourself at the outset that you thought it was a mistake, and thinking that you sicced your thousands of readers onto them. To what end? To drive them out of business? That's not frugality. How does it help your economy or anyone else's?

Guest's picture
Guest

I saw the heading for 4 lbs. of See's for a buck yesterday, and after having just visited See's this weekend and noting the real prices of these things (we got a whole 8 pieces of candy for $8 and change), I immediately filed the "offer" in the too-good-to-be-true category of my mind. I figured it was some sort of scam that involved buying magazine subscriptions or the like.

Yes, merchants should honor their advertised prices, but when you take advantage of what is clearly an error and invite everyone on the internet to capitalize on it as well, that's just plain mean. Sh*t happens; errors are made. People get burnt out over the holidays and someone obviously entered the wrong information. It might have been a bit nicer to have contacted the company and asked them if they could verify the price before placing your order -- not to mention sharing it with the world.

Bad form, seriously.

Guest's picture
Guest

We got 12 pieces of candy for $8 and change -- I forgot about the 4 lollipops.

Linsey Knerl's picture

but I'd like to offer a defense.  I have been a member of several deals forums for years.  Usually, when a deal of this caliber has been discovered, it gets plastered all over several websites within minutes. Four of the deal sites I had visited had this info out BEFORE Wise Bread.  So, the deal hounds were already unleashed.

And there are instances of legitimate "too good to be true" deals.  Secret savings happens all the time.  The Children's Place has 39 cent clothing deals on a whim, and people go crazy trying to scoop up everything they can.  The same goes for retailers like Sears, American Girl, and a few regional online retailers that I shop.  These sales are not mistakes, but rather really, really clearanced items.

Paul could have called to see if this was a fluke, but what reasoning would he to do this?  By the time he heard back from them, the item could have been sold out.  Unfortunately, when it comes to good deals, the early bird is the ONLY one getting the worm.

See's decision not to honor the deal is their decision alone.  I'm a bit bummed that it wasn't a legit deal, but I wouldn't liken Paul to a meany.  Anyone who tries to share really good, low-priced chocolate with the world should be canonized.... :)

Paul Michael's picture

...when I called See's I did let them know that I felt I had let a lot of my readers down. I had called to verify the offer, as my article stated, but they were cloed for New Year's Day. Usually when the mistake is a typo or some such error, the order form picks it up and won't let it go through. In this case, both the price and the free shipping were consistent throughout the process and several people had contacted me saying "don't buy it, it's probably old candy that has gone past it's sell-by-date" which makes sense as it was a Holiday gift box. In any case, deal hounds are always looking for these things, and I am a one of those lowly dogs. But my intention was hardly to make See's go broke. Something tells me that if this was not See's, but a company that's a lot easier to dislike, such as Wal-Mart, I would not be getting such flack. And if you don't think companies take advantage of similar errors, think again.

By the way, frugality has never been something that has everyone's best interests at heart. I look out for myself, my family & friends and my readers. If I find a way to legally take advantage of a great offer, I really don't see the harm in putting a dent in a large company's huge profit margin. 

Will Chen's picture

The guests make some fair points. Paul certainly did take an aggressive stance on this, and I agree that approach might not sit well with everyone.

On the other hand, I've seen MANY "too good to be true" deals offered by companies that are NOT mistakes. Rather, these deals are used by companies to generate viral buzz around the Internet.

It is not always possible to figure out when something is a viral campaign or that it is a mistake.

Guest's picture
Chris

In publishing, when the new year comes and we have calendars, they go in the dumpster. When the baker has bread going stale, he marks it down and puts it in the 'day old' bin.

I know a dairy that sends thousands of gallons of milk into the sewer - every day...

So if a chocolatier posts a deal in January for a Christmas/Holiday themed gift box, isn't it entirely possible that they just want to get rid of excess stock?

The shipping seemed a little 'too good to be true' to me, but it seemed entirely possible that they wanted to blow some old(and aging) inventory out the door.

See's Chocolates isn't losing my business over this(not that I'd buy overpriced sugar in the first place), but I'm not hacked off at wisebread either. I'm kind of glad that wb tipped me off to a potential deal...

Chris

Paul Michael's picture

Robin Hood has a nice ring to it.

Guest's picture
Brenda Helverson

Whether or not it was a mistake, it was See's mistake. If they accepted the order, then they are obligated to fulfill the order. After all, they are the experts and it is their web site.

Perhaps you can make them "See" the light.

Paul Michael's picture

but I doubt See's will do anything about it. I've made two calls, I don't want to badger them too much. After all, they make candy, and who doesn't love candy?

Guest's picture
Linda Eichblatt

I completely agree with Paul, and I thank him for posting their website offer on Wise Bread. I heeded his advice and ordered 4 one-pound boxes of their "Holiday Special." When See's wrote me and said the whole thing was a mistake, I replied to them that they should honor their offer, regardless. Who is responsible for proofreading a website? The customer or the owner? Why, the latter, of course. I feel that See's owes me some candy...4 boxes of it and nothing less.

Guest's picture
navi

You're just trying to take advantage of a mistake. Not nice. Not frugal. Just cheap.

Guest's picture
Mean Guest

Cheap, gluttonous, selfish, greedy, unethical and opportunistic. When bad things happen to you, and you take these kinds of actions to others, make sure you don't complain. Try running a business sometime, and dealing with people actively out to take advantage of you at all times, instead of treating you genuinely and compassionately. All for some candy you probably wouldn't have sought out in the first place.

Paul Michael's picture

when is a deal not a deal? Anyway, selfish is a bit odd considering I posted that deal to the whole world. I was planning to share the candy among many people, so hardly greedy or gluttonous. Opportunistic, absolutely. That's what deal hounds do. Cheap. well, I've been called worse and it bounces off me like water off a ducks back. The only question here is unethical, and while you may think my practices are such, I believe it is equally unethical not to honor an order.

Guest's picture
Guest

Well said. :}

Guest's picture
Guest

Doesn't Warren Buffett (or Berkshire Hathaway) own See's Candies?
No point...just asking?

Guest's picture
Chris G

That sucks about the dairy and the wasted milk. Now if we were communists... :)

Guest's picture
Shelby

Cinnamon lolly pops are everyones favorite and they're only out around Christmas. I personally think that Valentines Day is a cinnamon holiday too. So I think that Cinnamon lolly pops should be around all year long.

Guest's picture

I am also a fan of digg and popurls, lifehacker and many other blogs. I remember something about circuit city, offer a game for 'X' amount, then once your in the store. "We never said that it was a typo!."

But hey since your here lets scam you.

Proff read!.
Or unless the poor million $ company has sever RSI like I typo's are acceptable. Your not the one needles & pins.

I usually do 1 of 2 things.
(1) NEVER GO BACK (boycott) at least they will not get my $.

(2) Google there boss every one has some body that a higher up!!.