Reminder: If A Store Won’t Sell You A Laptop For $10, It’s Not Bait And Switch

Image courtesy of Not $10.

Not $10.

Not $10.

It’s not the fastest or best computer you’ll see, but the laptop that reader J. spotted for sale at her college’s online bookstore was a deal she couldn’t pass up. An AMD E300 processor! 2 gigabytes of RAM! A 320 gigabyte hard drive! All this for only $10. She placed an order and waited…only to have her order rudely canceled with no notice.

Here’s the item on the site. J’s college bookstore is run by eFollett, the company that runs all bookstores not already run by Barnes & Noble, or so it seems.


Oddly enough, the item is still on the site, but marked down to only $5, and also not available for actual purchase.

She was able to put the order through, and took a screen grab:


This should have been no surprise whatsoever to anyone whose order was canceled. While it would be awesome to get a $10 laptop, any consumer who knows enough to pounce on that order also knows that this is some kind of error on the retailer’s part. You’re not scamming the company, but you also aren’t placing that order in good faith. Especially if you order multiple computers to re-sell elsewhere. That probably isn’t why J. ordered two computers, but we read FatWallet, too, and know that it’s something that some deal-hunters do.

People frequently complain that issues like this are “bait and switch,” but we’ve gone over this many times: a transaction isn’t bait and switch when you place an order and the retailer cancels it and refunds your money. For bait and switch to happen, the retailer would have never intended to sell the item to you at all, and then tried to sell you a different item with a lower price and/or fewer features than the low-priced item that served as the “bait.”

Is it annoying when a company offers an amazing price and then snatches your order away? Yes. However, it’s not surprising, and retailers have no obligation to honor a price that they posted in error.

In this case, when you order a $10 laptop, a $25 laptop, a $69 iPad, 14¢ Cheerios, or $16 Copic markers, you are Michael Bluth. You’re opening a bag that says “Dead dove–do not eat,” somehow expecting to find something other than an inedible dead dove.

It wasn’t very nice of the bookstore to cancel the order out from under J. without even sending her an e-mail, though, and we have contacted Follett to ask about that. We’ll update this post if we hear anything back.

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