How to Catch the Next Walmart-Like Web Glitch Bargain or Similar Fire Sales

With the upcoming holiday shopping season, how do you make sure you don't miss a crazy sale again?
Walmart

On Nov. 6, Walmart experienced a technical error that led to mispriced items on its website, including marking items both much higher and much lower than their retail value. Customers thought they were getting the deal of a lifetime, but the company later said it was notifying customers who ordered items with the "wide discrepancy in pricing" that their orders were canceled and they will be given a refund. The company told customers it will send them within five business days a $10 e-gift card for Walmart stores and Walmart.com.

Read More: Why Walmart Canceled Mispriced Item Orders

United Airlines

Airlines have advertised ridiculously low prices for a brief period of time on their websites. Last month, some lucky United Airlines customers snagged round-trip flights for as low as $5. These are known as fat-finger fares.

"In this case, the carrier ate the loss. But got a lot of good publicity in return," Marks said.

The website allowed customers to get round-trip flights from Newark, N.J., to Dublin, Ireland, for $49.40. The company had a similar problem in September. Both times, the company honored the pricing glitch.

Cyberguys on Amazon.com

Recently, catalog and Web retailer Cyberguys had the difficult decision to honor customers' orders after an incorrect price list was submitted to Amazon.com.

Computer routers worth $1,300 were sold for $13 and hard drives worth $300 were sold for $3. The company decided to accept the $28,000 loss and honor the orders.

Best Buy

Bucking the trend, Best Buy said it would not honor a $9.99 HDTV sale listing back in Aug. 2009. The 52-inch Samsung flat-screen HDTV retailed for $3,399.99. The company had intended to discount the TV to $1,799.99.

Smith said glitches are always going to happen, but what separates good companies from the bad are how they respond to them.

"That's going to be the difference between the flash in a pan or whether it becomes a social media death spiral," Smith said. "One thing retailers need to do right now, especially as we approach the incredibly important shopping season, is have a disaster preparedness plan in place and know how to respond."

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