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A Catastrophic Online Shopping Error

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Business process improvement covers every part of your operations, including how you manage pricing and discounts. One story explains how a company accidentally provided an astounding $1,500 in savings.

An Australian electronics retail store by the name of Dick Smith, discovered that their New Zealand website failed to register main items for sale. Electronics such as the iMac, retailing anywhere from $1,500 – $1,800, were being sold for the price of shipping and handling. Immediately, customers began tweeting about the enormous clearance tags:

@stefan: My order just went through. 27 inch iMac. Total price: $4.95.

business consultant talk about retail store error

© Flickr user ali edwards

The store immediately performed offline maintenance to repair the malfunction. An action that was, no doubt, done so in extreme haste. And though no report has identified just how long the mistake persisted, the fact that at least sixty individuals were able to purchase high-end merchandise like plasma TVs and iPhones, demonstrates just how fast and furious online news can spread now that social media has become a major influence in our day-to-day lives.

Of course, we all may be wondering about two particular things: 1.) how did the problem begin? and 2.) what becomes of the discounted merchandise that already sold? According to a Dick Smith’s spokesperson, the incorrect pricing was due to a technical error—a glitch that is still being investigated. In regard to the goods, unlike our previous blog that our productivity consultants reported about how China Eastern Airlines honored the three dollar flights they mistakenly sold, the Dick Smith store may have only provided New Zealand site customers with a 10 percent discount:

Its call centre [will] contact the 60-odd customers who ordered free products. They [can] opt for the 10 per cent discount off the current price or cancel their orders.

Consumer New Zealand chief executive Sue Chetwin said the Fair Trading Act allowed retailers to refuse to honour an advertised price if it was a genuine mistake.

Another customer, Ed, said he had visited the website after hearing the retailer had a sale – but the discounts were much bigger than he expected.

He ordered a 40-inch television and an iPhone, both of which cost him $5 for delivery. He would not take advantage of the discount.

“I just did it as an experiment to see if I could buy something. There had obviously been an error.”

The moral of the story is that failures of fantastic proportions can occur. And while remedies may vary greatly between those dealing with the mistakes, the same conclusion can be made: failure is simply a part of life.  That being said, we needn’t shrug our shoulders in defeat and accept the loss as it is. Instead, we must consciously recognize that, though consequences to failure occur, we can still effectively achieve success in the aftermath. We owe it to ourselves and our business to take the initiative to grow and learn from experiences that challenge our knowledge and our work.

Also, it’s important to realize that errors with new technologies can occur on alarming scale. It’s important to be prepared for these potential errors, and have a system in place to deal with them before things spiral out of hand. When you’re prepared, you can deal with nearly any situation that comes your way.

We must change our outlook on failure if we are to accept that it is ever-present in our lives.  To learn more, you can read a sample chapter from our book Failure: The Secret To Success or simply check out Or, if you want more information on how to prevent errors like this from happening within your organization, contact the business improvement consultants at AccelaWork today!

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