won't honor unauthorized discount coupons said it won't honor discount coupon codes posted without authorization at several online bargain-hunter sites.

The decision has angered many shoppers, who say the San Francisco-based online retailer should honor the coupons because it was the company's error. Bargain hunters have been expressing their anger and frustration at promotional Web sites such as

While saying it understands the views of the shoppers, said it won't honor discount coupons used by unauthorized shoppers.

"A glitch in the system allowed [] to accept promotional coupons that were not properly used," said Diane Pucko, a spokeswoman. "The coupons were not used according to the parameters we had set up for them. Some of the codes gave discounts to people placing their first order after opening a new charge account. And the glitch also allowed people to use a code multiple times."

Pucko said the problems began after shoppers posted the coupon codes at the Fatwallet Web site. Then unauthorized shoppers began to take advantage of the glitch in's system.

She said the company learned of the glitch during the shipping process and sent an e-mail to the affected shoppers alerting them to the error, apologizing for any inconvenience and canceling their orders.

Pucko declined to say how many orders were canceled but said she didn't think any orders using the unauthorized coupons were shipped.

Barrett Ladd, an analyst at Gomez Advisors Inc. in Waltham, Mass., said handled the situation properly by acting quickly to notify customers of the error.

"These systems are not infallible," she said. "The key is to keep customers happy while still [running] a profitable business and not giving away all their merchandise. And the consumers have to realize this was an error. They can't expect to take advantage of the retailer and get away with it."

Last summer, in Framingham, Mass., and in Seattle also suffered from glitches that allowed customers to receive unintentional discounts on certain merchandise (see story).

Amazon later informed the customers that they could pay the correct prices or cancel their orders.

Staples spokesman Tom Nutile said, "Since last summer we have taken steps to tighten an already good coupon system. We usually don't go into detail on how we handled it. The steps we've taken in recent months have drastically reduced any coupon incidents."


Copyright © 2001 IDG Communications, Inc.

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