Marc Jacobs has listed handbags for free. And then ?

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Marc Jacobs customers thought they had luck on Tuesday when a website glitch allowed them to buy its high-end handbags for free on the brand’s e-commerce site. Buyers were determined to make the most of the pricing error despite several website crashes, but the company quickly canceled orders after news of the problem spread on social media.

A 100% discount was automatically applied at checkout, the the wall street journal reported for the first time. Shoppers then received an email rejecting orders from Marc Jacobs, citing an “unintentional error” that led to incorrect product prices. Marc Jacobs did not respond to requests for comment.

In legal terms, an unintentional error occurs when “the price is so ridiculously low that it is obvious to the consumer that it was an error”, according to Helen Brown and Valeria Enrich, partners at the law firm. Global Baker McKenzie, who add that this is assessed on a case-by-case basis. If a brand is able to prove that an extreme price drop was an unintentional mistake, the sale is not legally binding.

“To avoid having to prove that an unintentional error has occurred, brands often include a clause in their terms and conditions stating that they do not accept the customer’s offer until the goods are dispatched. … [allowing] time to check that the prices are correct. However, they add, these clauses are becoming increasingly difficult to implement. The UK government, for example, is considering legislation that prevents these types of clauses because they are considered to be to the detriment of consumers.

How a luxury brand reacts to this type of error can have more of an impact on consumer perception than the problem itself. “In the luxury industry, your customers aren’t just customers, they’re also your community and your fans, so it’s critical to make sure they continue to support and promote you,” says Matt Moorut , digital marketing analyst at Gartner. “An error does not cause problems, but an incorrectly resolved error can.”

E-commerce logistics are sophisticated enough that errors and unintentional glitches have become rarer, but experts say brands should have a communication strategy in place in advance. First of all, you have to consider all those potential new customers who have come in for the business. How do you make the most of these mistakes to start a relationship with younger consumers who may have grabbed the discount bag because they can’t afford a full-price luxury item?

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