Best Buy's $9.99 Flat Screen TV Sale a Pricing Mistake

Best Buy mistakenly lists the price of a $1,700 Samsung TV as $9.99.

Aug. 12, 2009— -- A flat-screen HDTV for only $9.99? The offer that sounded too good to be true was a technological mistake after all.

Early this morning, Best Buy's Web site listed a Samsung 52-inch, flat-screen TV for just under $10, with a $70 flat shipping cost, a pricing change picked up by many savvy online shoppers and bloggers.

According to blog accounts, many customers quickly took up on the deal, some ordering as many as 10 TVs.

While some customers were able to complete an order, others received messages that the site's delivery system was temporarily unavailable.

But much to the discontent of customers, the pricing was an error.

By 11 a.m., the product listing was updated to display the TV's normal price, $1,699.99.

"There was an online pricing error on a 52-inch Samsung television this morning," a Best Buy spokeswoman said. "We have corrected the issue and apologize for the confusion this may have caused. We will not be honoring the incorrect price and, again, apologize for the mistake."

The company also apologized for the pricing error via a Best Buy corporate Twitter account around 11 a.m.

According to the company's Web site, Best Buy has "the right to revoke any stated offer and to correct any errors." The policy also states, "Prices and availability of products and services are subject to change without notice."

Augustine Fou first heard about the alleged sale after reading an entry on Fou, the group chief digital officer at Omnicom Group's Healthcare Consultancy Group in New York City, said he knew the pricing was "clearly a mistake."

Fou placed an order for the TV at about 6:21 a.m. and uploaded a copy of his receipt on his blog.

Free Publicity for Best Buy

"The reason I did it and spent the $86 was to see what would happen next," said Fou, adding that he is almost certain he will receive a full refund. "This is the opportunity for them to prove how good their customer service is."

Even if the pricing mishap was a genuine mistake, it did help boost publicity for Best Buy and drive traffic for the company's site, and for free, Fou said. The TV's discount encouraged customers who don't usually visit Best Buy's site to register an account online, which is needed to even place an order, he said.

Debra Green's daughter found out about the deal through Facebook.

Green, a housewife from Woodlands, Texas, placed an order and even received a confirmation e-mail and expected delivery date.

"It was either a sales gimmick or a mistake, I just thought it was something you had to at least try," she said.

Green said that because the sale will not be honored, she probably won't shop at Best Buy in the future.

"If it was a mistake, you'd think they have someone more on the ball managing the Web site of a big company," she said.

Dell had a similar pricing error last month when the Taiwanese government purchased mistakenly-priced 19-inch LCD monitors for $15. Dell was fined $30,000 by Taiwan's Consumer Protection Commission.