Cookware company, ProCook, has decided to honour a deal offering bargain-hunters a free frying pan. The offer was only made because of a glitch on a deals website listing; it has no obligation to stick with the offer; and it's going to cost the company more than £10,000.
So why are they doing the decent thing?%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%
The deal popped up on HotUKDeals on Friday, with the ProCook frying pan on offer for £0, plus £4.95 delivery. It normally sells for £18, so users were rightly impressed.
They soon shared the good news through the website's forum. SlobRob was first to spot it and posted:"Needed some new cookware and whilst browsing the frying pan section online noticed this was down as £0 with £4.95 delivery. Ordered two last night and got email confirmation to say it has been dispatched. Not sure if its a mistake or not but I should be receiving them Monday hopefully."
He soon inspired more posts and hundreds of orders. The users knew it was too good to be true, so the orders were made in hope rather than expectation, but by Saturday morning, 600 people had signed up for over 1,000 pans.
At that point, ProCook staff spotted the glitch and put it right. Once they had made the change, they were perfectly within their rights to email everyone, say there had been a mistake, and walk away. However, they decided not to.
They did email everyone who ordered, saying: "You may be aware that over the weekend we had a system error on our website, the result being that our 28cm Fusion frying pan was showing at a cost of £0! Clearly this was an error for which we apologise, and it is now showing at its proper price of £18 (High St price £36) which, we are sure you will agree, is still great value."
But they didn't stop there. In a tremendous show of customer service, they continued: "However, we recognise that you really wanted to enjoy the opportunity of receiving a free frying pan and so, as a gesture of goodwill, we are going to send you one free of charge in any case. If you ordered more than one frying pan then you are welcome to reorder any quantity over and above your free one but at the correct price. P&P charges, where applicable, will still be charged to your account."
Estimates of the total cost to the company range from £10,000 to £50,000.
10 biggest companies in the world
Cookware firm honours accidental freebie offer
Wal-Mart Stores, or Walmart, is an American retailer that runs chains of discount department and warehouse stores around the world.
The company was founded by Sam Walton in 1962, incorporated on October 31, 1969, and first traded on the New York Stock Exchange in 1972. It is headquartered in Bentonville, Arkansas and has around 8,500 stores in 15 countries, under 55 different names.
Royal Dutch Shell, more commonly known as Shell, is a global oil and gas company headquartered in Holland, but with its registered office in London.
With operations in more than 90 countries, it is active in every area of the oil and gas industry, including exploration and production, refining, petrochemicals, power generation and trading.
Exxon Mobil Corporation, or ExxonMobil, is an American oil and gas corporation formed on November 30, 1999, by the merger of Exxon and Mobil. Its headquarters are in Irving, Texas.
With 37 oil refineries in 21 countries, Exxon Mobil Corporation is the largest refiner in the world.
BP is yet another global oil and gas company, this time headquartered in London. It has operations in more than 80 countries, produces about 3.8 million barrels of oil per day and has 22,400 service stations worldwide.
The name BP is derived from the initials of one of the company's former legal names, British Petroleum.
Sinopec Group is one of the major petroleum companies in China, headquartered in Beijing.
Its business includes oil and gas exploration as well as the production and sales of petrochemicals and chemical fibres.
China National Petroleum Corporation is a state-owned fuel-producing corporation and the largest integrated oil and gas company in China. It has its headquarters in Beijing.
CNPC - the parent company of PetroChina - was created in 17 September 1988 when the government decided to disband the Ministry of Petroleum and create a state owned company to handle all Petroleum activities in China.
State Grid Corporation of China is the largest electric power transmission and distribution company in China, once again headquartered in Beijing.
It has subsidiaries in Northern China, Northeastern China, Eastern China, Middle China and Northwestern China.
Toyota Motor Corporation, more commonly known simply as Toyota, is a multinational automaker headquartered in Toyota, Japan.
The company was founded by Kiichiro Toyoda in 1937 as a spinoff from his father's company Toyota Industries. Its brands include Toyota, Lexus and Daihatsu.
Japan Post Holdings is a state-owned Japanese company that deals with mail delivery and financial services.
It is headquartered in Tokyo and was founded on January 23, 2006.
Chevron Corporation is an American energy company headquartered in San Ramon, California.
It is active in more than 180 countries and is engaged in every aspect of the oil, gas, and geothermal energy industries, including exploration and production, and power generation.
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They didn't have to honour the deal. The company said in a statement: 'We were not legally bound to supply the pans for nothing but we have decided to send one pan to each person who ordered them as a gesture of goodwill."
There are plenty of examples of online mistakes not being honoured by companies this year. Back in March, Tesco accidentally priced an iPad at £50, and refused to honour orders. In January Next priced sofas worth more than £1,000 for less than £100, and after correcting the price online said they wouldn't be sending any out at the cheaper price.
Most companies have the small print on their terms and conditions to cover this: so that you making an order and the payment going through is not enough to guarantee a price will be honoured, and does not constitute a binding contract.
So why did ProCook choose to do so?
The effect on those receiving the pans is impressive. On the forum they were effusive in their praise. One user said: "What very nice and professional people over at ProCook." Another added: "This probably sounds like pointless gushing, but I really will consider ProCook before other retailers when buying kitchen products from now on, due to their excellent response."
Of course, as news spreads about this move, a relatively unknown brand is getting a lot of very good publicity - both for the products themselves and for their customer service. There could be an argument that this is the sort of goodwill that money can't buy - and is well worth £10,000 or more.
But what do you think? Does this sort of story affect your shopping decisions? Let us know in the comments.
10 of the biggest consumer rip-offs
Cookware firm honours accidental freebie offer
Using a mobile phone to make and receive calls, send texts and browse the web while abroad can be extremely costly – especially if you are travelling outside the European Union (EU), where calls can cost up to 10 times as much as at home.
To avoid high charges, Carphone Warehouse suggests tourists ensure a data cap is in place, use applications to check data usage, turn off 'data roaming', avoid data-intensive applications such as Google Maps and YouTube and use wi-fi spots to update social networking sites.
Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) is supposed to help people to continue meeting their loan, mortgage or credit card repayments if they fall ill or lose their jobs. However, policies are often over-priced, riddled with exclusions and sold to people who could not make a claim if they needed to.
At one point, sale of this cover - which was often included automatically in loan repayments - was estimated to boost the banks' profits by up to £5 billion a year.
Now, though, consumers who were mis-sold PPI can fight back by complaining to the bank or lender concerned and taking their case to the Financial Ombudsman Service (08000 234567) should the response prove unsatisfactory.
It could be you, but let's face it, it probably won't be. In fact, buying a ticket for the Lotto only gives you a 1 in 13.9 million chance of winning the jackpot.
With odds like that, you would almost certainly be better off hanging on to your cash and saving it in a high-interest account.
No-frills airlines such as EasyJet may promote rock-bottom prices on their websites. But the overall fare you pay can be surprisingly high once extras such as luggage and credit card payment fees have been added - a process known as drip pricing.
Taking one piece of hold baggage on a return EasyJet flight, for example, adds close to £20 to the cost of your flight, while paying by credit card increases the price by a further £10.
It may therefore be worth comparing the total cost with that of a flight with a standard airline such as British Airways.
Cash advances, which include cash withdrawals, are generally charged at a much higher rate of interest than standard purchases.
While the average credit card interest rate is around 17%, a typical cash withdrawal of £500, for example, is charged at more than 26%.
What's more, as the interest accrues from the date of the transaction, rather than the next payment date, costs will mount up even if you clear your balance in full with your next payment.
Supermarkets such as Tesco and Asda often run promotions under which you can, for example, get three products for the price of two.
However, it is only worth taking advantage of these deals if you will actually use the products. Otherwise, you are simply buying for the sake of it, which is a waste of your hard-earned cash.
Buy a train ticket at the station on the day of travel and the price is likely to give you a shock - especially if you are travelling a long distance at a busy time of day.
However, you can cut the cost of train travel by 50% or more by going online and making the purchase beforehand - especially if you book 12 weeks in advance, which is when the cheapest tickets are on sale.
Other ways to reduce the price you pay include avoiding peak times and taking advantage of so-called carnet tickets, which allow you to buy, for example, 12 journeys for the price of 10.
Most High Street banks offer packaged accounts that come with monthly fees ranging from £6.50 up to as much as £40, with a typical account charging about £15 per month.
Various benefits, such as travel insurance and mobile phone insurance, are offered in return for this fee. But whether or not it is worth paying for them depends on your individual circumstances.