Wal-Mart Online Price Error Leads to $100 Can of Lysol

Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s website was selling kayaks for about $11 and computer monitors for about $9 earlier today owing to a technical error that led the world’s largest retailer to shut down its online store for maintenance.

The pricing abnormalities were caused internally, said Ravi Jariwala, a Wal-Mart spokesman.

“We’re working quickly to correct” it, he said in a telephone interview, adding that there would be “intermittent site unavailability” until then.

If the Bentonville, Arkansas-based chain doesn’t process the orders, it risks alienating customers who thought they were getting legitimate deals. Jariwala said the company hasn’t decided whether it will honor prices for items already ordered.

“We’re still working through those details and will follow up with customers,” he said.

The retailer also may have lost sales while its website was down in the middle of the day.

Some items including kayaks, monitors, televisions and gym equipment were heavily discounted while other items were priced up, said Christian Antonio, a Pittsburgh-area blogger who earlier today wrote about the pricing abnormalities. A can of Lysol had sold for more than $100 and Kool-Aid packets were selling for more than $70, Antonio said in an e-mail.

The price issues affected many departments, Antonio said. Children’s cribs were offered for $28 and highchairs for $7, he said. Exercise equipment such as elliptical machines and treadmills that normally sell for hundreds of dollars were offered for $33 and $21, he said.

Twitter Raves

Shoppers took to Twitter to crow about their deals.

“I ordered 50 kayaks and 100 speakers,” @AlbertMarsh posted. “You better honor it!”

Some, anticipating their purchases might not be fulfilled, opted for “Site to Store,” which lets them pick up online orders at a store. They posted pictures of their early-morning receipts alongside their discounted merchandise.

@JoshGrilli raved about getting a copy of a video game at an unusually steep discount, prompting the company to respond at 5:50 a.m.: “Happy to know that you were able to cash in on a good deal! What other goodies did you find?”

When @bellwaters posted “@Walmart you need to fix your site computer monitors for $9.00!” the company replied: “that is our actual price!”

The prices were available for at least six hours this morning, Antonio said. Sales were uninterrupted other than a prompt instructing shoppers to pay using PayPal accounts rather than credit cards, he said.

‘Human Error’

Walmart.com failed at 10:30 a.m., said Justin Noll, director of Client Experience for AlertBot, an Allentown, Pennsylvania-based company that tracks website crashes. At that time the site had an error message that said it was undergoing scheduled maintenance, which sites typically perform around 2 a.m. when traffic is low, Noll said.

“This looks like someone made a mistake,” he said. “Someone enters the prices and probably entered in the wrong price. It’s likely human error.”

Two years ago, Target Corp.’s site crashed a handful of times during peak shopping hours after the company took control of its online operations from Amazon.com Inc. Steve Eastman, president of Target.com, subsequently left the company.

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