Truth in Advertising

I wrote just over a year ago about how dishonorable our society has become in many ways. One particular area I pointed out was in business how things are advertised very simply (e.g., ‘unlimited Internet!’) while the reality is often much more complex and contradictory (e.g., ‘2gb per month’—which is not ‘unlimited’).

Another area of frustration with me is how companies now feel that they can change the terms of agreements at-will (and justify it by pointing to a sentence in a 12,000-word service agreement that says they can). One of the cornerstones of honorable behavior is saying what you mean and meaning what you say, not offering your customers an ‘agreement’ that they have never read or agreed to that gives the company the power to change terms on a whim.

And now we see another example. made an error and offered Apple iPad tablet computers for $69, when the particular model in question typically retails for something more like $699. Many people placed orders for the drastically under-priced iPads, received order confirmations with the absurdly low price from, and were informed that their order was being processed.

After discovering the error, cancelled all of the low-price orders. I consider this unacceptable. Anybody who placed an order on the site when the price was set at $69 is now entitled to a $69 iPad. entered into an implicit purchase agreement with those customers, and is morally (if not legally) bound to fulfill its obligations under that agreement. The customers are not responsible for’s employees’ error; they were offered a product at a particular price, and they accepted the offer. cannot renege on the offer they made any more than a customer can renege on the offer they accepted.

The proper moral of the story is not that customers should be wary of prices that are ‘too good to be true,’ but that companies should check and double-check the accuracy of their offers before putting them on their web sites. That is their job, not their customers’, and they are bound to fulfill the obligations they enter into.

Scott Bradford is a writer and technologist who has been putting his opinions online since 1995. He believes in three inviolable human rights: life, liberty, and property. He is a Catholic Christian who worships the trinitarian God described in the Nicene Creed. Scott is a husband, nerd, pet lover, and AMC/Jeep enthusiast with a B.S. degree in public administration from George Mason University.