Macys.com said yesterday that it won't honor purchases made with “unauthorized” coupons that some customers used to get as much as 50 percent off of merchandise.
The company's problems began this week after word that consumers could enter multiple coupon codes to obtain significant discounts at Macys.com spread quickly over the Internet.
Messages on DealHunting.com and FatWallet.com let fellow bargain hunters know that they could enter multiple coupon codes, which Macy's allows, presumably to obtain discounts on different products.
But consumers noticed that the codes were sequential and started entering multiple coupon codes in sequential order. Some entered four to five codes for the same product.
FatWallet shoppers reported saving as much as 50 percent on certain items, including bath towels and apparel. One member said he purchased $420 worth of jeans for $240. Another FatWallet member noticed a mistake on the pricing of a $239.99 Cuisinart food processor, which was listed at $39.99. The processor and other merchandise, plus four coupons, resulted in a $27.33 bill.
One shopper who tried entering five codes was surprised to discover that the codes were accepted together. “I posted my discovery at DealHunting.com, not knowing what mayhem it would cause,” the anonymous member of FatWallet said in a posting on the site's message board.
The bargain hunter said he felt guilty about how many other shoppers took advantage of the situation. However, he said, “Macy's has gotten much exposure, which will benefit them from here on.”
Some FatWallet members said they had already received orders from Macy's placed Jan. 21.
Tim Storm, owner of Storm Concepts, which operates FatWallet, acknowledged that some consumers “do things in a fraudulent way,” but he said the incident was Macys.com's fault. On its site, Macy's instructs customers on how to enter multiple codes. In addition, he said, the coupons probably do not list restrictions such as “only good on this item” or “nontransferable.”
“The consumer tries to look for the best deal,” Storm said.
However, the FatWallet member who originally posted the coupon code message on the site opted to remove the message. In addition, Storm said FatWallet would post a message from Macy's to its users if the retailer contacts the site.
Macys.com is not the only site to experience these problems. Staples.com and Amazon.com have dealt with similar issues in recent months. Staples starting using a new coupon program last summer, after many consumers received free, or nearly free, products using multiple coupon codes.
Jill Frankle, director of retail e-commerce at Gomez.com, said the incident should teach Internet retailers how quickly information can be circulated on the Web as well as make e-tailers aware that they should have an alert system to “catch these types of scenarios early on.
“Over time, we will see more things built in to deal with this,” she said.
Macys.com should also have a disclaimer on its coupon codes, stipulating that it reserves the right to cancel orders when unexpected problems such as this incident arise, Storm said.