IBM Korea made a big blooper last week by posting prices of its laptop computers at a 90% discount to what they should actually be priced. IBM now says it is unwilling to sell these computers to the hundred or so alert buyers that got their laptops at a bargain rate.
On Nov. 21, IBM posted several prices of laptop computers on its Web site. The units retail for more than 2 million won ($1,660) each, but the prices were mistakenly posted as 100,000 won. The company discovered the mistake after an hour, but by that time more than 100 alert shoppers had sent in their credit card information to pick up a bargain laptop.
Red-faced but seemingly unwilling to stand by its prices, IBM Korea said it would offer a 35-percent discount off the true price to those who placed orders.
That did not sit well with the buyers, and the company appeared to be giving itself a bit of wiggle room should the protests grow to the point where the company’s image might be damaged.
“All I can say at this point is that we apologized to those who made the purchases at the wrong prices and made an offer to sell the computers at a 35 percent discount,” said Kim Kwang-won, a spokesman for the company. He refused to comment on whether consumer confidence in IBM would be harmed if it stuck by that position. IBM was selected as the second most respected foreign operation in Korea in a recent survey, but its reaction contrasts sharply with that of Marubeni Corp. of Japan when it made a similar mistake last month.
The Tokyo-based trading company dropped a zero from the yen price of a desktop computer, but decided to swallow the estimated 300 million yen in financial losses by honoring those prices for more than 1,000 machines. Marubeni said that it valued consumer trust at more than the loss from selling a computer at a tenth of its retail price.