Cookware firm honours accidental freebie offer

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pancake raceMatt Dunham/AP/Press Association Images

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?

The deal

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.

ProCook response

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.

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Why?

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?

Reaction

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.

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