A $100 Gift Card Selling For $10 On Walmart.com Is A Mistake, Not Bait & Switch

Once again, the Walmart website made a pricing error, and once again shoppers tried to pounce on it only to later have their orders canceled. And as always happens in these situations, some of these folks are mistakenly claiming that this was a bait-and-switch scam.

This time, the deeply discounted item was a $100 Walmart gift card, which the site somehow listed as only $10.

So of course, people jumped at the chance to purchase these deeply discounted cards.

One woman tells Houston’s ABC13 that she ordered 80 of these cards (total face value: $8,000) for $800.

“I was sending $2,000 to someone in need,” she explains. “I was going to give them away to people less fortunate than I.”

How generous of her. If I could spend only $800 and make an instant profit of $7,200 I might be willing to share that wealth too.

But she never got the chance to be the great Walmart gift card benefactor she’d hoped to become, as the retailer canceled her order — and those of others — saying it was an honest pricing mistake.

“This is bait and switch, that’s all I can say,” claims the shopper, misusing the phrase. “They offered me one thing, I accepted and then they took it away.”

Except what she described is not, as we’ve explained many times before, actually bait and switch.

To earn that distinction, the store’s actions must meet two criteria.

First — the “bait” part — requires a deliberate intention to deceive the customer.

There’s no evidence that Walmart made any attempt to trick consumers into shopping for these cards. It didn’t advertise the deal as a sale or alert customers to the discount. After all, what benefit could Walmart hope to gain by giving away $90 for every $10 spent?

Even if you argue that Walmart did indeed deliberately post the lower price without any intention of ever selling the item at that price, the retailer’s actions would also need to satisfy the second part of the bait-and-switch test.

In the “switch” portion of the scam, the retailer takes the lured-in customer and gets them to purchase a more expensive product. In fact, not only is Walmart not doing that, but it is offering to provide shoppers whose orders were canceled with $10 store gift cards.

And, contrary to a rumor that countless anonymous “lawyers” share in online forums, there is no law requiring businesses to honor honest pricing mistakes. Some do honor these goofs, because they believe that the initial loss will result in a net positive gain in the long-term, but they are under no obligation to do so.

True, Walmart should not have made the mistake, and the fact that some people were charged for their transactions means they will have to wait for their banks or credit card issuers to return the money to their accounts. But any reasonable shopper knows that getting 10 gift card for the price of one is not a sale, but a mistake.

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.