A glitch at Bloomingdale's last week led to the company accidentally issuing as much as $25,000 in store credit to some customers, and at least one capitalized on the mistake by going on a shopping spree, walking away with tens of thousands of dollars in jewels and luxury goods.
Some customers in Bloomingdale's loyalty program received emails on Friday, Aug. 14 that apparently confused their reward point balances for dollar amounts. As a result, customers who had accrued 5,000 "Loyallist" points — typically enough for a $25 gift card — were instead told that they just got $5,000 in credit. Others received emails for $10,000 and at least one got a $25,000 gift card.
"A small subset of Bloomingdale's Loyallist participants were accidentally issued rewards gift cards with amounts that were clearly incorrect," a spokeswoman for the Macy's-owned department store said in an email to BuzzFeed News. "The company caught the mistake last week and is re-issuing replacement gift cards with correct amounts. The company is in contact with its customers and has apologized to those affected."
Bloomingdale's reserves "the right to cancel or refuse to accept any order placed based on incorrect pricing or availability information," according to its website. But the company declined to respond to follow-up questions about whether customers are required to return items purchased in stores as part of the glitch. The loyalty program's terms and conditions also don't shed any light on that.
It could become an expensive mistake: BuzzFeed News spoke to one 29-year-old customer who received a whopping $25,000 as part of the glitch. The shopper, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said he was expecting a gift card after recently buying a pair of Ferragamo shoes, but certainly not in the amount he saw. He initially thought the sum was related to his wedding registry, as he and his wife were married earlier this month.
The shopper said he made some online purchases using the free credit, but worried that Bloomingdale's might cancel the orders (that's what happened to other customers, as per comments on Reddit and Twitter). So he went to the company's flagship store in Midtown Manhattan when it opened on Friday morning to see how real the $25,000 was. Upon testing the card on a tie, he realized it worked.
He subsequently picked up roughly $17,000 worth of merchandise, including a $10,000 pair of diamond earrings, a $5,000 watch, and a new Louis Vuitton bag, all of which cleared on his card.
On Saturday, the shopper received a call from Bloomingdale's telling him he "needs to" return the merchandise, which he has yet to do. He said he spoke with the company today, and was told that if he returns the goods, he will receive a $100 Bloomingdale's gift card. If he doesn't, he will be banned from the loyalty program — a seemingly acceptable sacrifice for the $17,000 worth of free stuff he picked up.
In recent years, online glitches have led to hallelujah prices on everything from airline tickets to flatscreen TVs, though companies take different approaches to honoring purchases made on such errors.
Last year, Ralph Lauren honored many customers' orders after a 65%-off discount code meant for employees was leaked online. But it did cancel orders on items like a $5,700 chandelier and $1,000-plus handbags, a person familiar with the matter told BuzzFeed News at the time. Balenciaga, after a glitch earlier this year, did not honor orders for $2,000 bags that were mistakenly sold for as little as $200.
While it's easy for retailers to cancel online orders in these instances, it's less clear what happens once goods are physically obtained through a glitch — as in the case of the $17,000 Bloomingdale's shopping spree.
History suggests it might be good for the buyer. Macy's accidentally sold a $1,500 necklace for $47 in 2013 and lucky customers who snagged the deal in stores were apparently able to keep the jewelry.
As for the shopper who scored the incredible shopping spree, he's not sure what he's going to do.
"I wish they'd offer me a real reward" for handing the stuff back, he said.
And as for his wife and her new accessories?
"I'm going to have to claw away that LV bag from her."
Sapna Maheshwari is a business reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Maheshwari reports on retail and e-commerce.
Contact Sapna Maheshwari at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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