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Disappearing $69 iPad 2 triggers buyer outrage at Sears

Retailer promises credit for mispriced iPad by third-party seller

By , Network World
July 19, 2011 10:32 AM ET

Network World - No, you can't buy an iPad 2 for $69, or even $179. But the mistaken, wildly low prices by a third-party reseller on Sears' website has triggered an acrimonious debate on the retailer's Facebook page, with nearly 400 customers weighing in.

Last Friday on Sears.com, a third-party seller called GSM On Sale offered two iPad 2 models at astounding prices, according to several media reports: the 16GB, Wi-Fi-only model for $69 (Apple lists it for $499), and the 32GB, Wi-Fi-only model for $179 (versus Apple's $599 list price).

It's not clear how many customers placed orders. But it is clear that however many there are, they are plenty upset about not getting a $499 product for $69.

MORE APPLE: Apple iPad love-fest has no end in sight

The third-party seller is part of Sears' Marketplace program, which offers companies the options of selling their product on the Sears website (with Sears handling the transaction processing and settlement), selling through the site (with Sears also handling inventory and shipping) or simply advertising on Sears.com.

It didn't take long for GSM On Sale to catch the error and notify Sears, which posted a very brief apology on its corporate Facebook page by 8:42 p.m. on the day the ad appeared: "Unfortunately, today one of the Marketplace third party sellers told us that they mistakenly posted incorrect pricing on two Apple iPad models on the Marketplace portion of the website. If you purchased either of these products recently, your order has been cancelled and your account will be credited. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused."

Many posters to Sears' Facebook page seemed to have read this as a promise of refund, instead of credit.

Sometime later, the GSM On Sale website, as well as its storefront on Sears.com, went offline. On Monday, visitors to GSM On Sale's website were greeted with a page carrying a prominent red "Closed" sign and a message saying: "Our online store is currently closed for maintenance." As of 8:30 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Tuesday, July 19, visitors to the GSM site were greeted by the same message.

Neither the speed of the response nor the offer of credit mollified fuming buyers or other critics who joined the debate on Sears' Facebook page.

The critics insist that Sears and GSM On Sale should honor the ad pricing even though it was a mistake. "your company should've honored their word and sold those IPads for $69 and stop being so greedy!! Think about the consumer who keeps you in business instead of always looking for ways to make a profit!" was posted by Kellee Whipple.

Another poster, Chris Parrish, wrote, "Does not matter who screwed up the price it was there for the world to see and they should honor something. I feel it is false advertisement and they have my info and my money as well."

But others criticized the critics. "i am an avid 'slickdealer', but to think this ad would stand up is absolutely ludicrous," posted Jason Lewis. "This was not Sears fault....There is more than $69 of materials in the iPad, and, again, if any of you had done any research then you would of realized that Apple has a MAP policy(minimum advertised Price), No reseller is allowed to sell below a certain price point. Most of the people buying these were probably salivating at the thought of reselling them on eBay and the like."

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