Zappos Loses $1.6 Million in Six-Hour Pricing Screw-Up

This past Friday, between midnight and 6 a.m. PST, 6pm.com, a Zappos sister site, accidentally made the biggest pricing error in the company's history. All items in the store were capped at a maximum price of $49.95--a huge mistake, since 6pm.com carries luxury items that can reach into the thousands of dollars.

Though obviously 6pm.com didn't advertise the "sale," bargain-hunter sites picked up on the error and publicized the vulnerable vendor, leading 6pm to lose "over $1.6 million" in those six hours. But despite the huge loss in revenue, the site isn't taking their mistake out on the customers who profited:

 

While we’re sure this was a great deal for customers, it was inadvertent, and we took a big loss (over $1.6 million - ouch) selling so many items so far under cost. However, it was our mistake. We will be honoring all purchases that took place on 6pm.com during our mess up. We apologize to anyone that was confused and/or frustrated during out little hiccup and thank you all for being such great customers. We hope you continue to Shop. Save. Smile. at 6pm.com.

 

So our heartfelt sympathies to 6pm and especially to the poor guy who screwed up what's probably the one line of code that led to the whole mess. But our congratulations to anyone who came away with a haul of cheap goodies.

Dan Nosowitz, the author of this post, can be followed on Twitter, corresponded with via email, and stalked in San Francisco (no link for that one--you'll have to do the legwork yourself).

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3 Comments

  • Adam Covati

    I think it's nice of 6pm to honor those prices, was it the right thing to do? Given Zappos general mentality, I'd say that matches their culture, but I think most reasonable people would understand if they didn't. That being said, a lot of bargain get unreasonable when it comes to pricing mistakes... ;)

    I also feel bad for the guy who slipped that bug in it happens. But I'd say that this shows how companies need to have adequate testing practices in place. This doesn't reveal buggy programming, but poor QA practices at hand.

    Speaking of bugs, the login / register link at the bottom of the page, under the comments here at fastcompany.com leads to an error page if you click on signup, I had to click the 'login or signup' link at the top of the page to create an account.

  • kelly cook

    Or maybe it was a marketing scheme? How many people shopped at 6pm that have never heard of it before? I think it was a calculated risk. Brilliant!!

  • Bryan

    It is nice to read about companies that take the long view of their business and place customer goodwill at the top of their priorities. I do think, however, that their customers should not see this unfortunate but honest error as a windfall and hold the company to the price. It must have been obvious to customers that a $500+ item priced at $49.95 was a mistake.

    What is with this "free lunch" attitude and the corresponding sense of entitlement that is so pervasive these days? People seem to have no trouble taking advantage of others for their own gain without a second thought. Where is the sense of community? The golden rule? The honor?