by Mike Masnick

United Changes Mind On Mistake Web Prices

from the fly-free! dept

Late last week I posted that I thought United made the right move in not honoring $25 flights from San Francisco to Paris that were due to a mistake on their webpage. The readers who responded disagreed, and apparently so did a lot of folks. United has bowed to the pressure and agreed to give those flights at the price listed. I think this is stupid. I'm sorry, but there's no way anyone who bought those tickets didn't know it was a mistake, and United has every right to refuse to honor them. I think consumers are expecting to get away with a little too much these days. They know that if they scream loud enough, the companies will give in to avoid the negative press. It's fine to complain about legitimate problems, but these are just a few people who want to get away with basically scamming the airline. I consider it to be dishonest.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. icon
    Col. Klink (profile), Feb 20th, 2001 @ 8:54am

    Bait & Switch

    I'll give United the benefit of the doubt and assume that it was a mistake. I'm taking their word for it, and not assunming that it was "too good to be true". Businesses have been known to sell stuff at a loss to either get business (loss leaders) or to drive others out of business (dumping).

    Even with the assumption that it was a mistake, I feel that United needed to honor those prices. Otherwise, what's to keep a dishonest travel agent from offering too-good-to-be-true rates, only to claim a mistake after selling the tickets. How can a consumer ever prove that a business isn't running a scam? I suppose you could file suit and subpoena their records, but that's no way to save money...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    lissell, Feb 20th, 2001 @ 11:53am


    Somthing to keep in mind in all of this is uniteds legal obligation. Selling a ticket online for $25 bucks and then say oops, it was a mistake its actuall * is legally no different from target marking a nice sweater as being $25 and then telling you that the item was "mismarked" and therfore $50. If it is the businesses mistake then they have to simply take it. Otherwise they can be charged with a whole load of nasty things including bait and switch. This is why we have rainchecks as well.

    just my $.2


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Mark F, Feb 20th, 2001 @ 4:15pm

    Re: legalities

    This is a difference between bait and switch and "we made an honest mistake". Look through any newpaper, over the course of a week you'll likely see correction notices. A $25 flight to Paris is not believable and should not be honored.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Ryan, Feb 20th, 2001 @ 7:55pm

    Re: legalities

    A $25 dollar flight could well be believable! Here in London, you can have normal flight prices for the equivelent of several hundred dollars that due to special promotions are reduced to essentially loss making fares (pretty close to $25 on company websites) to get people interested in flying in certain types of airlines (like easyjet and etc.). To be honest I'm glad that consumers actually have power to change the will of corporations, it's too easy to forget that out side of the US, large corporations really could give a Sh*t if they got bad publicity (taking into the fact that customer services in many other countries means just that, if a customer gets served they should feel lucky!)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    mhh5, Feb 21st, 2001 @ 1:54am

    Re: legalities

    Um. So all mistakes are final? Seller beware? I agree with Masnick here... There should be return policies that work both ways in order to protect everyone -- buyers and sellers alike... But I guess the customer is always right.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    Jim_Nance (profile), May 26th, 2010 @ 9:13pm


    I understand why United decided to absorb the cost of this ad glitch. The advertising they'll get from this story and their ultimately taking the high road will probably equal the 1.6 meg it cost them.

    And, they can certainly cut some of the flight costs, such as fueling the plane(s) with the not-so-fresh stuff that sat a while and took on water and the other contaminants that enter all liquid fuel vessels through their vent pipes.

    And, they can stretch the maintenance schedule, i.e. delay engine overhauls, lube changes, pressurization stress inspections, etc., because after all, this is what corporations feel compelled to do to keep stockholders happy, especially in uncertain economic times such as these.

    For added perspective let's compare: Of all the past and present accusations against British Petroleum (BP) none are ever for any questionable spending of potential dividends to guarantee-or even overkill, if you'll pardon the metaphor when deaths are mounting-the safety of their workers, the public or the environment.

    Sure, big corporations will magnanimously spend what they must to maintain the images and illusions, but they have ways of compensating that we aren't ever supposed to learn about....

    Have a nice flight, folks! And, don't worry, the tires are probably safe for one more takeoff and landing, even if they may be due for replacement....(that fine print in the logs of the equipment install dates, total air miles and cabin pressurizations, etc., are really hard to read sometimes. And, workers, mechanics and even inspectors can make mistakes, especially if they're exhausted from working to cover permanent staff and crew shortages....)

    25 dollars from San Fran to Paris? Wow! Now, that's what I call tempting fate!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.