Hamleys reneges on Christmas e-bonus

London's iconic toy shop offered massive discounts at the weekend but is backtracking, leaving consumers out of pocket and toyless

London's iconic toy shop, Hamleys, has gone from Father Christmas to Mr Scrooge in just one day. On Tuesday, news emerged that happy shoppers had been able to claim massive discounts of up to 60 percent on toys and other gifts. On Wednesday the company said it is not going to honour the discounts after all.

Hamleys had been take by surprise by a sudden spurt of children's gift-buying at the weekend after a specialist discount-hunting website had found that because of a glitch, it was possible for consumers to rack up multiple discounts and claim up to 60 percent off their purchases.

After this came to light, a Hamleys spokeswoman initially said that the company promised "to honour any orders made as a result of the blunder". Now, though, it has had second thoughts, even though it had already billed most of the people affected at the discounted prices.

Hamleys has acknowledged the original error but insists it is now within its rights to renege on the offer.

"Hamleys experienced a technical error on our site," the company said in a statement to those customers who tried to take advantage of the offer. "This resulted in you being able to apply a discount code more than once. Multiple use of the discount code contravened the terms and conditions of the offer and as a result we are unable to fulfil your order," the statement concluded.

To make recompense, the company said it will give those customers affected a 25 percent discount if they replace their original order.

One consumer who will not be taking advantage of the Hamleys offer is Simon Bowes, who had ordered two toys, including the hard-to-get Underground Ernie, for his children. "The discount is nothing really, when you see the mark-up Hamleys put on their toys and take the discount it is still more expensive than you would normally pick them up for," Bowes told ZDNet UK.

The discount scheme that failed has created problems for Bowes. "I thought I had Christmas sorted and now I don't and have to rush out and try and get the presents again," he said.

Bowers also took exception to the wording being used by Hamleys in some press statements. "I was just taking advantage of an offer, and then I read that Hamleys is accusing us of fraud," he said, referring to earlier comments quoted in The Guardian.

On Wednesday morning Hamleys defended its actions over the decision to renege on the original offer, but a spokeswoman stopped short of accusing customers of fraud.

"We are not saying that customers knew what they were doing was wrong [when claiming multiple discounts]; they didn't," she told ZDNet UK.

"It's nobody's fault, it is one of those things that happen. The problem was caused by third-party sites that have passed on discounts when they have absolutely no right to," the spokeswoman said. "We appreciate the inconvenience this could have caused customers."