Christmas came early for some online shoppers over the weekend when hundreds of items showed up for just a penny on Amazon’s UK site.
However, the rock bottom prices weren’t part of a generous festive offer on behalf of the e-commerce giant but instead the result of a glitch with third-party software operated by a UK-based outfit called RepricerExpress.
The firm’s ‘Repricer’ service is designed to help Amazon Marketplace merchants keep their prices competitive, with the software automatically adjusting the price tags of goods to keep them close to those of other companies selling the same or similar products online.
However, for about an hour over the weekend a problem with the Repricer software meant a vast array of items – among them computer games, furniture, and clothes – were offered for just a penny, with plenty of shoppers quick to take advantage of the ‘special offer.’
One online retailer, Belle, who sells toys and games, told Sky News her enterprise could go out of business after losing around £30,000 ($47,000) in the mishap.
The online retailer said she’s been paying to use the software for the last 18 months, in which times it’s worked fine. But with December 25 fast approaching and last weekend one of the busiest of the year for online retailers, the malfunction couldn’t have come at a worse time.
The nightmare before Christmas sounded even worse for Martin Le Corre and his business, which also deals in toys and games.
He told the Guardian, “By the end of the hour, we had 1,600 orders. People were buying 10, 50, 100 copies of everything. It’s £50,000, £60,000, £100,000 ($155,000) of stock; we can’t even work it out.”
An electronics retailer in Scotland said he thought someone was joking when he noticed an Inbox full of emails from Amazon listing sales at 1p a time, with one customer ordering 59 mobile phones for just a penny each.
Amazon said it was able to cancel the majority of the orders before the items were sent out, adding that it’s “reviewing the small number of orders that were processed and will be reaching out to any affected sellers direct.”
Repricer said in a statement it was sorry for the error and was working with Amazon to try to prevent orders with incorrect pricing from being shipped. However, a number of the affected retailers believe they could go bankrupt with some claiming the e-commerce site was having trouble preventing orders from leaving warehouses.
Whether the merchants can recover any lost revenue appears to rest on the details of Repricer’s contract, which may include clauses on limits and exclusions regarding claims.
As for the excited shoppers who put down pennies for products worth substantially more, it seems likely a sizable number of the items will be turning up at delivery addresses in the coming days.