Oh, Christmas Tree: Pricing Mix-up Burns Consumer

December 8th, 2014

Carole Ray thought she had found a tremendous deal on Christmas trees for her annual holiday display that collects canned goods and toys for families in need. In the end, though, the price was too good to be true.

The upside-down, pre-lit, artificial trees made by Vickerman Company were priced at $13.14 on Walmart.com’s online marketplace, where third-party retailers can sell their wares to consumers. Ray ordered four.

upsidedownchristmastree

The artificial tree in question.

She received a confirmation email from Walmart.com on Nov. 12, but then later was informed that the $13.14 price tag would not be honored. Why? The actual price was more than 10 times what she paid, at $170 a tree.

BulbAmerica, the retailer selling the Vickerman trees on Walmart’s site, said that a pricing mix-up was to blame.

Corey Frons, a partner at BulbAmerica, told TINA.org that Walmart “accidentally matched” the UPC (universal product code) of an ornament to that of the tree, causing the price of the ornament to be posted as the price of the tree. The retailer sent Ray a refund but she wants what she ordered.

“I told him (Frons) I needed to spend that money on hams, not his false advertising,” Ray said in an email to TINA.org. “I already have the decorations to put on the trees and was so excited to find (the trees) at Walmart at this price.”

In addition to the canned goods and toys that patrons donate for admission to Ray’s holiday display, Ray said she personally adds a cooked ham and bread to each needy family’s box. The display features more than 150 decorated trees, photos with Santa, hot chocolate, and a campfire for roasting marshmallows — all inside a large barn in Georgia. Ray said she’s been doing it for nine years and will open this year’s display this weekend.

Frons said he offered to pay more than half the cost of the trees in light of the pricing error, but Ray refused. He said a few other consumers were affected by the pricing error and each were refunded in full and were to be issued a $10 gift card from Walmart.

Frons added that these type of technological mishaps are not uncommon on online marketplaces such as those on Amazon or Walmart.com.

“UPC matching errors happen frequently,” he said.

Walmart told TINA.org it was looking into the pricing error. But a company representative said refunds and returns for products sold on the website’s online marketplace are handled by the retailers who post their wares, and not Walmart.

Consumers shopping online this holiday season should review these retailers’ terms before they buy. The terms may make allowances for pricing mixups that leave customers holding the bag.

Click here for more Terms of Surrender posts. And let us know if you think you’ve spotted a potential candidate for next time.

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