It seemed too good to be true: A Britax Marathon child car seat, the top rated seat from Consumer Reports, usually with a price tag of nearly $300, on sale at Target for $43, with free shipping.
The news spread like wildfire between members of the wired mommy community, and many people reported placing orders -- only to have some of them receive messages from Target saying the listing was an "error" and that their orders were being canceled. Oddly, some other people, particularly those who ordered the "Cowmooflage" pattern, received their seats without incident, though it may have been people who ordered early.
The same moms who had passed on the deal to each other were quick to let each other know about the about-face and compare notes. "It is my understanding that they have canceled all orders for the Britax seats at the $42.99 and $59.99 prices they had listed yesterday," said one. "According to someone online who contacted customer service they are taking up to 48 hours to decide whether or not to honor the listed price (they have a disclaimer on their site which covers their butts on pricing errors). But they said they are taking customer complaints into consideration. So if you ordered it and it has now been canceled you should contact customer service to let them know you expect them to honor the price they had listed. Here's a link with their contact info: http://www.target.com/gp/browse.html?node=3370571."
While some people made fun of the moms for believing that the car seats would actually be reduced to that price, it was not unusual for Target to have such deals, one mom said. "I have had great deals on Target reducing their items, sometimes as much as 90%, even on baby gear. I picked up a "pack n play" there recently for 80% off, so this didn't seem to be out of the realm of possibility."
A Facebook page to protest the decision was also set up.
Some people reported getting discounts of from $10 to $50 from Target -- with Target sometimes upping the discount to the higher amount when called on it.
(There were also scattered reports of people ordering multiple carseats -- 5, 20, even 100 -- with plans to put them on eBay for a higher price.)
The timing of the incident -- just before the beginning of what is expected to already be a mediocre shopping season -- is unfortunate, particularly in the context of self-described "pregnant hormonal women." Some people said they would be cutting down on their shopping or removing their registries at Target as a result, though others said they could understand the problem, especially since Target has a disclaimer on its site. Others pointed out that the error was made on three different carseats, not just one, and that it had been up for 24 hours before Target canceled it. They also complained that Target canceled orders without notifying people.
A number of moms also apparently alerted the media, including reporting that they were going to the Better Business Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission, and the state attorney general (though a majority of the commenters to the news stories suggested a number of variations, ranging in politeness, that the women should get over it).
Target's not the only site to have such problems -- posters related similar experiences with a number of other major shopping sites, including computer equipment sites -- but with the increasingly sophisticated wired mommy community, angering them enough to mobilize them against you is done at your peril.