Bargain-hunting parents were thrilled when Internet chat boards lit up with news of a big sale on Britax car seats at Target.com -- just $43 instead of the usual $280.
Hannah Abbott of Seattle rushed to order three of the seats, getting one for her still-unborn third child and ordering two more as holiday presents. Even the shipping was reduced. Hannah was thrilled but cautious. Then she received her email confirmation and started to relax.
But jubilation soon turned to disappointment, when Target abruptly canceled the order. No money was taken from her account and no explanation was offered.
"They just kind of sent me on my way and said sorry," Hannah said.
But it doesn't work that way anymore. Consumers don't just meekly go away when they're told to. Hannah complained to Seattle's KING 5 News, which got on the phone to Target.
Target at least found it in its heart to talk to KING 5 but it wouldn't budge on the price. It was all a mistake, said Target. The giant retailer said its Web site had a "pricing feed malfunction" and displayed the wrong price. (See KING 5's story).
Accidents do happen and, although state laws vary, most states allow occasional flubs. But stores or Web sites that make a habit of it could find themselves in trouble eventually.
Not the only incident
The Britax case is far from the first pricing incident involving Target. Its errors and omissions have generated numerous complaints from consumers in recent years.
Last month, a Long Island consumer complained that Target was advertising Hanes sweat shirts for $4.66 -- a price it said was the "lowest price of the season." But the consumer said she had purchased the same shirt at the story a few weeks earlier for $4.50.
"I cannot believe any of their advertisements again. I am a senior citizen and my time and gas consumption were thoroughly wasted by their LIE!" the consumer said.
In September, Casilda of Brooklyn, N.Y., bought a girls jacket from a rack that had a $19.99 price posted.
"When I got to the register the jactet rang up at the original price of $44.99. I went to customer service and the very nice young man was willing to help me but needed a manager to override the difference in the amount," she said.
"We spoke with two managers and eventually had to speak with Jeremy who was rude, impertinent, and told me that he didn't care what the sign said he was not giving me the jacket for the sale price. He further went on to explain that he didn't care if I called the bureau of consumer affairs or anybody else he was not honoring the sign which was posted above the merchandise," she said.
Casilda said the manager eventually told her she could have a 10% discount on the jacket.
In Michigan, Anthony of Grand Rapids bought a Zune car audio product marked with the price $39.99 but at the register, it scanned for $79.99, he said.
"Store refused to sell the product for the price indicated on the sticker indicating they have the right to refuse sales to anyone," he complained.