Sometimes banner ads online promise a great price, but do not reflect actual reality. That’s the sad lesson that reader Ricky writes that he learned recently after clicking on a banner ad for Overstock.com. See, the banner advertised products for sale at Overstock.com and bore the company’s logo, but the company did not produce the ad, and the prices are not real.
He wrote to the company:
I was researching iPod docks to purchase this morning and came across several models I was interested in. One in particular was a Philips DCP851/37x (Overstock #11676281). I came across several websites which carried the product including your own with the cheapest being Geeks.com which has it listed for $79.99.
Unfortunately, the item was sold out at Geeks.com and your website had it the next cheapest. The price was still over my price range so I stopped looking. This afternoon I had some free time at work so I decided to log into my hotmail account to check my email and the first thing I saw after logging in was a banner ad for overstock.com which had that very item I was researching. The price on the banner ad was $79.99 which matched Geeks.com website so I clicked on the banner ad and ended up on the product page on your website. The price unfortunately did not match the banner ad price and was the same price I had seen earlier, $107.49.
I clicked on the chat icon to talk to a customer service agent to explain what had just happened. They asked for a link to the ad in question, but unfortunately the ad had already switched to a different vendor. I kept refreshing the hotmail.com website in hopes that it would come back up, which it did. However, this time that price was different ($91.74), but still did not match the price on your website. She asked me to give her the link to the banner ad, but since it was a flash banner ad there was no way I could give her a link. She advised me to take screenshots and email this email address.
Attached you will find two screenshots, the first called hotmail.jpg shows my hotmail inbox with the banner add off to the right showing a different price from what’s listed on your website. Unfortunately, I have not been able to recreate the lower price of $79.99 that I initially saw however this screenshot still shows the price discrepancy. The second picture of overstock.com shows the location of where the link went to after clicking on the banner ad where you can clearly see the two prices don’t match up. Interestingly enough, you can also notice that on the item ‘Mustek MP80B’ the banner ad price is actually higher than the actual website.
The purpose of this email is two point out the price differences of your ads and your website and to hopefully get you to honor the $79.99 price on the Philips DCP851/37x (Overstock #11676281) product.
Any information on this matter would be greatly appreciated.
An Overstock rep responded:
I am writing in response to your letter regarding the Overstock.com ad banner. I will be happy to help answer your questions.
To provide some clarification, the Overstock.com advertising on your Window’s Live Hotmail is not a paid endorsement by Overstock.com. The advertising was placed via our affiliate program, a program open to everyone and comprised of thousands of affiliate members who post our banners and sell our merchandise on their own websites. Affiliate programs are widely used in the Internet retailing business, and the task of connecting affiliates with online retailers is typically handled by an independent third-party organization.
Overstock.com does not sponsor, support, or endorse the views and opinions of any political party, organization, personality, or issue. We simply provide a great selection of quality merchandise at deep discounts. As vigorous supporters of free speech, we firmly believe society as a whole benefits enormously by encouraging a diversity of ideas.
After carefully reviewing the matter, we do not plan to change our policies with regard to our affiliate program at this time. We certainly appreciate your comments and value the viewpoints of all of our customers.
Please let us know if we can be of further assistance on this or any other issue. I hope you will visit us soon for great savings on name-brand products.
It sounds as if this is a form letter sent to people who find sites on which they see Overstock’s banner ads offensive, so it doesn’t really apply to Ricky’s situation. Still, it got the message across to him. Prices on banner ads are not the same as prices on ad circulars, and they are not always current. Or even real.