Pricing Disasters

The tip of the price-berg: Pricing errors you want to avoid

Pricing. It's like a wink across the bar. Get it right and you could be reeling in the hottest customers. Get it wrong and you can bet their heads will be turning.

Pricing is no easy task, leaving some of the world’s biggest brands with their tails between their legs - albeit a result of human error and software glitches.

Here, we round up some of the biggest retail pricing disasters, and this is only the tip of the iceberg.


Foreo story

On the morning of Black Friday 2019, beauty brand Foreo, known for its handheld beauty devices, was gearing up for one of their biggest sales events. A simple pricing error meant that their best-selling UFO facial mask device was listed at £9 instead of an already discounted £149.90.

In just two hours, 38,575 facial devices had been sold resulting in a £7.7 million loss for the brand. Foreo admitted their mistake, spending hours trying to rectify the issue, later agreeing that the price would be honoured for customers who’d made the purchase.

That’s what we call a skin-vestment.


Screwfix story

Trades retailer Screwfix, kicked 2014 off with a bang when an online pricing glitch meant every product was marked as £34.99. Within hours, thousands of customers had snapped up incredible deals and news spread fast.

Unlike Foreo, despite confirmation emails already being issued, Screwfix cancelled all unshipped or uncollected orders, issuing refunds to dejected customers who thought they'd taken advantage of the discounted hardware products.


FanDuel story

When FanDuel, one of North America’s biggest betting companies, allowed their customers to capitalise on an 18-second betting error, they expected their pricing glitch to be short-lived.

However, it soon blew up into a global affair.

Odds had been input at New Jersey’s Meadowlands Racetrack, at 1/6 rather than 750/1, with customers naturally kicking up a stink when FanDuel refused to pay out. Despite house rules siding with the betting company, FanDuel re-considered, rewarding their customers with the appropriate pay.

Little did they know that this decision would cause a toxic reaction.

Rather than a reassuring press announcement that colleagues would receive extra training and systems would be double-checked, critics damned the company’s decision to waste time advising ‘we got it wrong’.

What’s more, with FanDuel having set a precedent, other betting companies were now being forced to pay out on ‘palpable betting’ odds errors.


Etsy story

In July 2020, Etsy, the US-founded vintage items and craft supplier, hadn’t recognised a pricing error until merchants started complaining about their bank accounts being emptied due to a glitch that affected shipping fees.

Unknown to Etsy, a decimal point error caused a massive shipping fee overcharge, and instead of paying tens of dollars for postage, some sellers were charged thousands.


Next story

Fancy upgrading your sofa for under £100? That’s exactly how hundreds of customers benefited when Next wrongly priced a pair of sofas worth £1198 for just £98. News spread amongst bargain hunters with discount websites such as HotUKDeals highlighting the offer.

Six hours later the glitch was identified, but only after orders had been placed, accounts debited and confirmation emails dispatched. That’s until Next withdrew the offer and cancelled the orders - reversing their terms and conditions, which allowed them to cancel the order before dispatch.

The brand damage had already been suffered.


Tesco story

Whilst it might be the largest retailer in the UK by market share, that doesn’t mean Tesco is immune to pricing errors. Tesco customers have enjoyed cases of wine worth £60 for the same price of just one bottle; a block of Cathedral City Cheddar at £1 instead of £6.55, and everyone’s favourite Terry’s Chocolate Oranges at 29p instead of £2.75.

That’s not all. Earlier this year an error with its self-scan machines meant that some shoppers were playing a real-life game of Supermarket Sweep with over £500 worth of goods snapped up for just £100.

Marks and Spencer (M&S)

Marks and Spencer story

In January 2012, M&S shoppers realised a pricing error meant a 50-inch 3D plasma screen TV, listed for £1099, was selling for £199. Orders flew in and eventually spotted the error, Marks & Spencer switched it off and cancelled the orders. As a gesture of goodwill, the retail giant offered customers a £25 voucher rather than a 50-inch plasma for £199.

Not feeling appeased, customers collaborated, which never ends well. After initiating an online petition, highlighting that M&S had taken customers’ money and therefore had entered a binding contract, the retailer performed a U-turn and honoured the original discounted orders.

Pricing is complex and never easy and in 2021 it happened again.

A newly released footstool with a £129 RRP was listed for £1. After 1500 footstools had been ordered in the first 60-minutes, M&S cancelled the orders, and this time refused to refund.

John Lewis

In the sweltering summer of 2022, John Lewis shoppers spotted an ultra-hot deal whereby a £2,600 sofa could be reduced to £100 by simply choosing a different colour. Thanks to social media, orders ramped up and only when John Lewis spotted the news, announced that the issue was simply a price glitch.

Whilst orders had already been completed and payments taken, John Lewis refused to confirm, quickly refunding downhearted customers, and advising that the orders would not be fulfilled.

It’s hardly surprising that customers felt John Lewis had reneged on their ‘Do Right’ value, however according to bosses, the retailer had “acted with integrity using our judgement to do the right thing”.


netflix story

Cast your mind back to 2011. For just $10 a month, Netflix offered two rental services - movie streaming and mailed out DVDs. With the rising interest in streaming platforms, CEO Reed Hastings chose to split the offerings. Qwikster would now be responsible for DVD rentals and Netflix would focus on online streaming. Those customers who wanted access to both would now have to pay $16 per month.

Unhappy with a 60% price increase, customers decided to vote with their feet (and wallets), leading to over 1 million subscribers walking away. While this pricing fail wasn’t a result of human error or technical glitches, it highlights the impact of bad financial decisions.

Despite an apology posted on Netflix’s blog, customers publicly expressed their anger across the comments forum.

How pricing intelligence helps

Mistakes do happen when it comes to pricing, and they rarely favour the retailer. The usual outcome is customers spotting the error, securing the offer, and broadcasting the deal.

In addition to the commercial damage, it’s how their crisis communication team handles the fallout, mitigating the negative reputational impact.

Despite an apology posted on Netflix’s blog, customers publicly expressed their anger across the comments forum.

That’s one of the reasons why retailers use pricing intelligence to alert inaccurate online prices and provide a secondary level of reassurance to avoid pricing errors. In addition, insights into competitor pricing intelligence and the best quality product matching service help retailers price more confidently.

And that’s where Skuuudle comes in.

Combining our latest software with in-house pricing intelligence teams, we match retailer’s branded and own label products with those of their competitors; pricing scraping, price monitoring and product matching on a daily frequency, providing real-time analytics and daily reporting.

Not just that, our Exhaustive Product Matching relentlessly product matches, achieving matches where others fail, until products simply can’t physically be matched any further.

You could say it’s the Skuuudle difference.

So to avoid your pricing making the headlines for the wrong reasons, and making sure it’s being talked about for all the right reasons, get in touch with our pricing intelligence team today.

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