Thursday, 29 May 2014

#LenovoGate explained in terms even a Lenovo Web Administrator or PR Rep can understand

My Tale

On Friday May 23 at approximately 11:30 AM I placed an order for a Lenovo Y410P lap top.  I had been tipped off by a friend who had purchased some at 1:00 AM.  The price was $879 with a $600 e-coupon (DOORBUSTER) for a final price of $279. In good faith I placed my order, entering all my pertinent information and quickly received my 2 confirmation emails.  At no point in time did this offer seem "to good to be true" ad it was a DOORBUSTER.

However at approximately 5:00 PM I received another email saying there had been a pricing error and that my order was being cancelled but that I was welcome to go to their website and purchase the computer at the corrected price.

As of 8:30 PM that same day however the website was STILL showing the lower price and taking orders at that price.  As a note I had purchased on my phone and and was checking on-line via my laptop so it was a not a case of not clearing the cache.  

I tried following up with them  on Saturday and placed a call to them and was to receive a call back at 2:00PM.   This time was scheduled using their automated callback system.  I did not receive a call that day and it wasn't until Sunday they tried to call back.  Sadly I was out and could not take the call.

On Monday the 26th, I tried numerous times to reach a CSR there but keep getting an automated message saying their hours of operation are 9a to 9p EST and then it hangs up.

I have signed the petition on along with 2700 other affected persons and I have registered a complaint with the Canada Competition Bureau. (the total signatories is now over 6,000)

I just want them to honour the price on the website, like they did in China a few months back where they priced a tablet wrong and it cost them 16 million dollars.

This ability to offer a price and generate website hits and collect our personal information and then NOT sell us the item in question by saying it was am "error" is ridiculous.  In fact it smells like an outright deception designed to get our personal information for their database.

In this day and age of computers there is no reason an online retailer should have a price error posted for close to 24 hours, let alone the fact that it was closer to 48 hours from start to finish. Consumers need feel confident that the price they see is the price it is and not have their order cancelled at the whim of  corporation at a later time.

Why They're in the Wrong

Here's why they are in the wrong.  Under the Canadian Competition Act a retailer is forbidden from engaging in Bait and Switch sales practices

According to the Canadian Competition Bureau:

  • You are attracted to a store by an advertisement for a bargain-priced product. Once inside, you discover that the product that was advertised, the "bait," is sold out or otherwise not available. The switch occurs when a salesperson pressures you into purchasing a higher priced item as a replacement, or if you find yourself induced to make other purchases while inside the store. In both cases, the retailer successfully captures your shopping dollars by luring you to the store with an advertised bargain that was never intended to be made available in reasonable quantities.
Now this can be mitigated by circumstances, printing errors, pricing errors etc.  However the onus is on the retailer to take corrective actions AS SOON AS THEY BECOME AWARE OF THE PROBLEM.

Now in a brick and mortar store it would go something like this.

ABC Company advertised a Whatchamacallit for a very low price.  People come into the store to purchase the Whatchamacallit because it's a great deal.  However after seeing a huge increase in traffic the manager looks at the add and sees the price is wrong and people have been paying the low price all morning.  She immediately puts up a notice at the front door to the store about the price error and instructs all the cashiers on the correct price and posts corrections there to.  If this is a multiday sale she contacts her Advertiser and issues a price correction.

#Lenovogate however did not go down like this.  It went thusly. Lenovo Canada updates their website with several ridiculously good sales on Thursday evening. Consumers snap up these deals through the evening and into Friday morning.  We know that by 12:10 PM that they knew something was wrong as that was when their first tweet about it came out.  They did NOT rectify the situation right away.  In fact from this point it took them over 24 hours to change the pricing on the website.

Now I know for a fact that changing a website does NOT take that long.  In fact several experts have chimed in that using the coupon software that Lenovo uses a change should have taken about 5 minutes.  So then why wait 24 hours before making the change and why continue taking sales AFTER you had issues cancellation notices to other customers.

And it exactly these failures to comply rectifying the situation correctly coupled with their refusal to honour the sales that occurred prior to their becoming aware of the situation and those that came in before the website was updated, that makes this a clear case of bait and switch.


I will not discuss the motivations and intentions of Lenovo in this scandal.  Although it appears, given their slow response time and excessively slow web update, that this was an intentional bait and switch perpetrated on the customer there does exist the chance that they did not intend to engage in deceptive sales practices.  However whether they intended to deceive the consumer or rather the ineptitude of their web department, quality assurance department, sales department and PR deparment, coincided in a "Perfect Storm Of Stupidity" the end remains the same.  They slighted their customers, went on to undervalue them, then the head of their PR department went on to outright insult them. and that just aint right.


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