The shopping portal 6pm.com, sister-site to Zappos.com, both owned by Amazon.com, announced on Friday that they had accidentally mis-priced hundreds of items in their online store and lost $1.6 million because of the short sales. The mistake took place when 6pm price capped their entire inventory (not including those cross-posted with Zappos) at $49.95. This put many items, such as expensive GPS units and high-end shoes, at well under cost for the discount house. That resulted in a $1.6 million loss to the site before someone at 6pm noticed and the problem was fixed.
The company is honoring all sales during the period (which lasted about six hours, from midnight to 6am Friday) and taking the loss, says Director of Brand Marketing and Business Development Aaron Magness at Zappos in a blog post Friday afternoon.
This causes one to wonder whether this was really a “mistake,” or whether the company planned to do this as an advertising campaign. Whether planned or not, it surely has resulted in a huge glut of viral marketing for 6pm. The news almost immediately appeared on Gawker and then on CNet News, Silicon Valley Watcher, and others. Now that is some good publicity.
One commenter on Gawker points out that the Zappos blog entry detailing the mistake starts out with what is basically the company tag line and sales pitch, which is what would be picked up by news aggregation sites and most social media posts. This may have been a calculated plan by Magness, but it didn’t necessarily have to be planned as part of the event and could have been just a good marketing ploy by Magness in the aftermath.
However you view it, 6pm stands to gain more than they’ve lost with the good publicity and the (so far) good public sentiment over them honoring their sales despite the mistake – the law doesn’t require them to.