Cancelled camera sales offer snapshot of e-tail failure...
"This week we have seen yet another pricing blunder on the web... "
... so began a silicon.com leader written back in 2003 which cited the likes of Amazon, Argos and Thai Airways who have all sold goods or services online, only to later renege on the deal claiming they had made a mistake with the price.
Back then we asked how these companies had been allowed to get away with this and had escaped censure by anybody for failing to learn from others' mistakes.
Two years on we've seen Argos repeat its blunder and yesterday we saw Apple refuse to honour sales of a digital camera advertised at just under £100 which normally retails at closer to £600.
Despite Apple sending out a confirmation email, which even acknowledged a discount of £420, the company subsequently informed shoppers they wouldn't be receiving their cameras.
There are of course those shoppers who thought it a mistake but still looked to exploit it but there are also those who, during the January sales, when digital camera prices are falling sharply, will be forgiven for thinking this was a great bargain rather than blunder.
Whatever their reasons for buying, these customers were told the item was no longer available. Apple has since offered little else by way of an explanation - as is so often its way - in the face of enquiries from silicon.com.
Perhaps, albeit unlikely, there really were a limited number of cameras at that price, which sold out fast and the blunder here isn't with a mistake in pricing but rather with sending out confirmation emails to customers when the company couldn't make good on its word and subsequently failing to remove an out-of-stock item from its website.
Either way - and our money is still on it being a pricing blunder - it's a mistake and one which undermines the credibility of online shopping when handled badly.
Apple needs to realise it doesn't have a divine right to avoid criticism - and must explain why this happened and exactly why customers who were told they had bought a bargain have now been sold a pitiful excuse.