New laptop didn't match the specs advertised What are my options?
April 28, 2011 11:43 AM   Subscribe

About a week ago, I purchased a laptop. When I finally got it, the laptop didn't have the specs advertised. When I wrote the company, they said it was a mistake and I could send the laptop back for a refund. The problem? I could've bought it cheaper (and gotten it sooner) from another company, but now that deal is gone.

About a week ago, I bought a laptop (from a place I'll call EP). At the time I was debating between that laptop and a similar one from amazon. The one from EP was ~$50 more and I wouldn't get free two day shipping (meaning I wouldn't get it in time for business trip I was going on), but it had 2 more GB of RAM (6 vs 4) and a bigger harddrive (640 instead of 500 NB: this isn't a case of the OS reporting less than is actually there, it really is a smaller harddrive than advertised). Even though I was on a tight budget, I figured the extra ram and HD was worth it.

When I got back from my trip, I picked up my laptop, and it was exactly the same as the one from amazon. As soon as I realized that, I emailed the company I bought it from and they told me some manager had entered the wrong information, and they issued me an RMA to return it for a full refund.

If I could still get the discounted price from amazon, I would have considered that (although I wouldn't have been too happy). However, amazon's price now matches EP's. I believe either 1) amazon was having a special on new sandybridge laptops and that expired or 2) amazon sold out (they only had 6 left when I was looking) and now the only sellers are 3rd parties on amazon.

My question, given all this, is what I could/should reasonably expect from the company I bought the laptop from. Offering a refund doesn't seem like enough since I would have benefited had I originally bought the laptop from amazon (would have had it in time for business trip, would have gotten cheaper price) and now those benefits are no longer available. This other company does sell RAM and Hard Drives. Would it be unreasonable to ask them to send me the appropriate RAM and Hard Drive to match the product description and have me return the smaller RAM and HardDrive? That seems fair to me, but it would be nice to know what's normal/expected in these situations.
posted by chndrcks to Shopping (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would not expect them to do anything beyond refunding your money but it can't hurt to ask. The timing of when you bought the thing and what other deals are available isn't really their problem but if they're super nice and think they have a shot at getting your business in the future they may kick in the additional hardware. I wouldn't make a big deal about it if they decline though.
posted by ghharr at 11:49 AM on April 28, 2011

You should get the laptop you ordered. The company you purchased it from has no responsibility to do anything else because of your decision process.
posted by bitdamaged at 11:49 AM on April 28, 2011 [15 favorites]

A refund is the best you can hope for.
posted by wryly at 11:50 AM on April 28, 2011

I'm confused -- is EP no longer willing to sell you the laptop you originally purchased at the price you originally purchased it? Yes, they messed up, and you won't get it for way way longer than you should have, and that sucks, but I don't know that you should expect anything more than the successful completion of the purchase that you originally made. You can probably convince them to ship it out to you via a quicker shipping method, but I'm not sure about anything other than that.
posted by brainmouse at 11:51 AM on April 28, 2011

You can ask, and they can say no. Some options you can ask for
1. they send you updated hardware, you send back the parts being replaced.
2. you can ask for x amount of $ back.

If you only get the refund back (most likely outcome), take a look at Monitor it for a week or two and you're likely to find as good as or better deal on a laptop.
posted by pyro979 at 11:58 AM on April 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you're happy doing so, then my vote would be for asking them to send you replacement memory and hard-drive so you can update your laptop to match the description of what you bought. In addition, they'll need to agree to pay the shipping fees for you to send back the old ones.

Having said that, I think it's doubtful that they'll agree to this - but it can't hurt to try, right?

If that is a non-starter then you can't do much else but send it back to them and get a refund for the price of the laptop and the additional shipping costs incurred by you.
posted by mr_silver at 11:59 AM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I'm confused -- is EP no longer willing to sell you the laptop you originally purchased at the price you originally purchased it?

I should have been more clear. The laptop EP offered on the webpage was identical in every way to the one offered on amazon (same company, processor, etc.) except it was listed as having more RAM, a bigger hard drive and cost more money. Both the quick summary of the laptop's specifications and the more detailed summary listed the larger HD and bigger RAM. It's common for the same laptop to be offered with different options at HD and RAM, so I thought that's what was going on here. That made sense given the price difference.

When I got the laptop, however, it was exactly identical to the one from amazon (same RAM and HD), except, of course, I had paid more money for it. There apparently is no version of this laptop with upgraded RAM and HD, so it's not as if they just sent me the wrong thing. It was a case of the listed specifications not matching the actual product. And now, amazon's price has gone up (no longer offering the deal they were before), so I don't have the option of returning this one and getting the lower price.

Hope that clears it up a little.

Thanks for all the other comments so far, everyone.

I know they say companies don't have to honor mistaken ads, but something still seems wrong in this situation. I've lost money because of their mistake, and I have no way to recover that lost money. Thinking this through a little more, maybe I was trying to ask a legal question (yanml, etc.). I doubt this is a case worth suing over, but I'm just curious about this kind of corporate/consumer law:

Here's how I see the scenario:
Company A has a sale on item X. Company B sells item X at original price but advertises that it has features that are better/not available on A's X. Consumer decides the extra features are worth the money and buys from B. Turns out B's X is identical to A's X and now the sale is over. It seems like there has to be something to prevent these cases. Is the difference just in intent? B's in the wrong if they intentionally (falsely) claimed the extra features but in the clear if it was an accident?

Thanks again all.
posted by chndrcks at 12:19 PM on April 28, 2011


So, you agreed to spend $N for a computer having specifications X, and instead they sent you a computer having inferior specifications Y. They have failed to fulfill the terms of your agreement.

Depending on the state that you're in, this might be an unfair trade practice (see "bait and switch"), and that's not the sort of thing that they just get a do-over on. Unfair trade practices often have statutory damages and attorney's fees associated with them.

I'm not saying that you should definitely sue them, or even threaten to sue them, but it might be worth learning a little more about your rights as a consumer, calling again, speaking to a manager, and bringing up those rights.

Your state likely has either an unfair trade practices act or a consumer protection act that applies to this. Your state's attorney general's office may have information that can help you.
posted by gauche at 12:24 PM on April 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks gauche - those links were great. I made this purchase online - which state should I be looking at? Mine or the seller's? (fwiw I'm in Illinois; they're in California)
posted by chndrcks at 12:34 PM on April 28, 2011

I'd like to gently point out that no, you have not lost any money because of their mistake. After the refund you will have exactly as much money as you had before -- an opportunity to buy from one of their competitors has now vanished, but that's not really something you can hold them responsible for.

Sometimes it's worth asking a company if they're able to match someone else's offer, but right now there's practically no incentive to do so because that offer doesn't exist anymore.
posted by hermitosis at 12:48 PM on April 28, 2011 [7 favorites]

It's likely that the middle-manager you speak to in California will have a mental block, if you start to cite Illinois law to him, as to why he should care about Illinois law. It might be worth it to look into California law at first, for the purpose of persuading the decision-maker on the other end of the line.

Ultimately, the question of whether Illinois or California law applies will be up to a judge to determine. If there is a written contract in their sales process that contains a choice-of-law clause, that will probably be determinative.

The California Department of Consumer Affairs has some good information. It might be worth a phone call just to get a sense of what you can do. Here's something that might be useful.

A word of advice: leave the amazon offer out of it. It's not really relevant to your story of what happened, which is: you ordered X, they sent you Y, and you're not happy about that, and you don't want your money back. You want X, and you're willing to stand on whatever rights you can argue you have to get it.

Good luck!
posted by gauche at 12:52 PM on April 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

In my opinion, you are entitled to ask for what you paid for. Especially if your invoice/receipt/whatever shows you paid for extra GB of memory and disk space that they did not furnish. Ask for them to remedy the situation. They advertised, you paid, they shorted you. If (as my interpretation) all their promotional materials said 300GB, but they sent you 200GB (or whatever), they are on the hook for it. You might not get it, but I think you are absolutely right to ask for it.
posted by kenbennedy at 12:57 PM on April 28, 2011

Just to put this in perspective, you're out $50 on this deal, right? Ask away, but you should really consider how much that $50 is worth to you. Do you want to spend hours pursuing this company over $50? You may, but you may also decide that these kinds of things happen, even with no malice on anyone's part, and it may not be worth putting too much more effort into this particular problem.
posted by OmieWise at 1:10 PM on April 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Ask for 10% open box discount; as they'll have to sell it as open box one and eat the s&h fees if you return it.
posted by zeikka at 1:22 PM on April 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Unlike most folks here, I actually agree that you are out $50. Charitably because of their honest negligence, or less charitably because of their false promise which you caught them at. I even think, with a layman's understanding, that you might have a valid legal claim to that $50. I am certain an inventive lawyer could cobble together a complaint alleging something like tortious interference or detrimental reliance, or hell, both as alternative. You can always make an argument, and maybe get lucky with a judge who doesn't like EP. But it would be the sort of murky legal claim that I wouldn't want to count on.

But I know -- and EP does too -- that it would be nuts for you to spend the kind of money it would take to litigate this over a $50 claim. Since they are confident that you won't be suing them, the fact that they may legally owe you the money doesn't really matter, does it? Because you've got no club to beat them with.

So, ask them nicely to make things right. But if they won't, I don't see much of a practical alternative to gritting your teeth, resolving not to trust EP in the future, and advising others to do the same.
posted by tyllwin at 3:02 PM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

They offered you a full refund? Take it and move on. Life is too short.
posted by gyusan at 3:18 PM on April 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

IANAL, but did want to second gauche. It seems like you had an agreement with this company that they breached, and they owe you either performance of that agreement or its equivalent. It also seems to me that this does not mean they owe you the extra $50 that you spent on this as opposed to the Amazon computer, but rather, that they owe you a computer like the one you thought you were buying, for the price that you paid –– OR they owe you the amount of money it would take to upgrade the computer to those specs. It seems worth pushing them on this after doing your homework via gauche's links and any other resources you can find. Particularly if this is a reputable company, I'd bet dollars to donuts they'll own up.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 3:20 PM on April 28, 2011

Let's put it this way: if, because of their mistake, you would instead see a new sale that would save you $50, would you give them that money or part of it? Did they "win" you that money?

The way I see it is they made a mistake and gave you a refund and should pay for back shipment. As a nice gesture, for the inconvenience they caused, they may also give you a discount or a gift card, but this has nothing to do with amazon's sale, because that's out of their control.
posted by rainy at 3:38 PM on April 28, 2011

You're upset, perhaps understandably so, that because of an innocent typo, you missed out on the opportunity to buy the laptop cheaper elsewhere. Sucks, sure... but let's not pretend this is anywhere close to sue-worthy.

I mean, for crying out loud, at my hourly rate, in the time it took me to read this thread and reply we're already well past $50. Is it really worth more of your time and energy at this point? The company made what sounds like an honest mistake and has already offered a full refund. All the paperwork they've already had to do, taking the stock back, dealing with reselling it as open box, processing your refund, they've likely already lost money on this deal. By offering a refund, they have done about all they can be reasonably expected to do to make it right to you, the customer. Why, then, would you even consider legal action? You think they need to be financially punished for a typo? They need to be taught a lesson? What would ultimately satisfy you? The poor schmuck who made the typo losing his job?

Mistakes happen. They've offered you a full refund. Take it, and let this go.
posted by xedrik at 4:39 PM on April 28, 2011

To everyone saying it's only $50, discretion is the greater part of &c. &c., you're almost certainly right. At the same time, the question wasn't, "is pursuing this worth my time", the question was, "what recourse do I have in this situation?" and the OP's time is worth whatever the OP thinks it is worth.

I guess I'm feeling a little punchy right now about businesses taking advantage of customers and of the public, something I've been seeing a lot of lately, so when I see something that might be not only taking advantage but against the law, I kind of want to see customers start fighting back.

So, chndrcks: you will almost certainly spend more than $50 in time and effort fighting this, but it might be worth it to you on grounds other than the economic, and I hope you get whatever outcome will be satisfying to you.
posted by gauche at 7:54 PM on April 28, 2011

I agree with kenbennedy: They shorted you, and all you're asking is for them to fulfill the sales agreement you made with them by exchanging your HD and memory for what was advertised. Any decent CS department should be happy to do that. I have no idea about their legal obligations; I'm just saying that doesn't seem like an out-of-line customer request at all, and you should certainly ask.

I do think you should leave the whole Amazon thingy and your lost purchasing opportunity out of it, as that just confuses things. To me, it's otherwise pretty straightforward. If you'd ordered just the HD and RAM, and received smaller than advertised, obviously they'd trade it in for you.

Plus, they probably come out better doing what you're asking for, as otherwise they lose the sale completely (and have an out-of-box product as pointed out above).
posted by torticat at 8:25 PM on April 28, 2011

Also consider that you're likely not the only person who ordered the advertised computer, so they're probably already working on how to make this right with multiple customers. Ask to talk to a supervisor, and just be nice but firm about requesting the exchange. Good luck.
posted by torticat at 8:30 PM on April 28, 2011

Response by poster: some of my points got a little long-winded, so in the body, I tried to stick to main points, and I stuck the side points in [small] footnotes.

I didn't (and still don't) mean to come off sounding upset. I'm not that upset. I guess I wrote my original post too hastily (busy time of year here). Before responding to the company's offer, I just wanted to get a sense of what would be considered normal in this situation (normal from both a legal perspective and a non-legal/ordinary-person perspective). All of your comments have helped in at least one of those senses, so again thank you all.

Part of what prompted me to post this question was that I was a little conflicted; I could see both sides: on the one hand, accidents do happen, and I'm typically laid back about such things.

On the other hand, I felt as though I entered into a reasonable contract with EP and they broke that contract, to my (and amazon's) detriment. I say "reasonable" because the difference in price seemed about right for the slightly more RAM and slightly bigger HDD - it's not like they accidently left off a 0 and I'm trying to get a $500 laptop for $50.

Since most seem to be on the 'accidents happen' side, I would like to elaborate on what I was feeling from the other side (not to argue, but to better try to explain my general concern here).

The degree of outrage I feel is dependent on how often this happens, and I don't know. For example:

I don't know that it was an accident. I tend to be pretty trusting/charitable in cases like this, but all I have to go on is the three sentence email they sent after I called them out on it. This could be an accident, or it could be something they do all the time. If it's something they do all the time, that hurts competition and that hurts all consumers (more on that in [1])

I also don't know that I'm the only one this happened to. [2] For all I know, I could have been the first to buy this laptop, or I could have been the 100th. Again, I would feel more outrage if I found out a lot of people had bought this particular laptop because of the same erroneous description.

I feel these points are important because it's relatively easy to shrug and say "meh, it's only $50," but if everyone takes this attitude, how will we ever know whether this is a one time occurrence or an every day event?

One more note - lest I be accused of ignoring answers that don't agree with my position, let me again say that just the opposite is true. Many of the answers here have done a fine job of arguing for the other side of this question, but since I was torn to begin with, I felt it worth trying to express my concerns from the other side.

[1]And while it's a fairly small harm to me (a little more on that later), it's also a lost sale to the other company. Sure, in this case it was amazon who lost the sale and the smaller company that got it, but the roles could easily be reversed. If they do this frequently, it harms competition. The direct harm to the consumers is small and spread out ($50 here, $40 there), but each of those is a lost sale to a competitor, and that direct harm to other businesses also indirectly harms the consumers.
[2] I only noticed the difference because "500GB" happened to catch my eye as I was peeling off a sticker. It would be very easy to miss - the text is small (seriously - my vision is fine with contacts in, and I can't make out the "4GB" or "500GB" with the laptop on my lap, I have to bring it closer to my face) and the boot screen doesn't show the ram size. Again, I don't know if I was the first to buy this laptop or the 100th. Did EP email all the other customers and make sure they were aware of the discrepancy? I have no way of knowing (and no easy way of making them do so). I can very easily imagine a scenario where I recommended this laptop to a non-tech-savy family member (because extra RAM is a nice feature). I don't think it would occur to most people to actually check that the amount of RAM installed matched the amount of RAM advertised (I'd be a little surprised if most people knew off the top of their heads how to check that)
posted by chndrcks at 9:06 PM on April 28, 2011

Response by poster: re: the Amazon side of the story. On everyone's advice, I'll definitely leave that out (and I left it out of the original email). The reason I mentioned it here was to illustrate 1) that I went with EP specifically because they offered the upgraded parts and 2) that it was reasonable for me to think that product description was accurate, since the price difference was about right for upgrades.

I'd like to gently point out that no, you have not lost any money because of their mistake.

You're right; I was speaking loosely. But it is still true that, had they not printed inaccurate specifications, I would have a qualitatively identical laptop and $50 more than I do now.

Sucks, sure... but let's not pretend this is anywhere close to sue-worthy.

To be fair, I never said I was going to sue. The only time I mentioned it, in fact, was to say that I doubted it was worth doing.

I mean, for crying out loud, at my hourly rate, in the time it took me to read this thread and reply we're already well past $50. Is it really worth more of your time and energy at this point?

Will $50 make or break me? No, but it's not an amount I sneeze at either. It's a big enough difference that after I had narrowed it down to these two laptops, I took an extra day to consider if I could justify stretching my budget to get the extra RAM and bigger HDD.

Why, then, would you even consider legal action? You think they need to be financially punished for a typo? They need to be taught a lesson? What would ultimately satisfy you? The poor schmuck who made the typo losing his job?

Now I think you're being very uncharitable to what I wrote. Hopefully I've made my concern clearer, but if no one ever makes a fuss, what would prevent them from doing this more frequently?

Do I want someone fired over a typo? Of course not, and I'm insulted that you would suggest it.

I promise I'm not thread-sitting, I'm just fascinated with the general issue at hand, beyond my own particular problem
posted by chndrcks at 9:16 PM on April 28, 2011

I feel these points are important because it's relatively easy to shrug and say "meh, it's only $50," but if everyone takes this attitude, how will we ever know whether this is a one time occurrence or an every day event?

I think it's important for you to put a dollar value on your own time. How much is your time worth per hour? Now calculate how much time you've spent dealing with all this. If your principles mandate that you see it all the way through regardless of financial outcome, that's one thing -- but considering this all started because you wanted to pay less money for a computer, I think your time would be better spent shopping elsewhere.
posted by hermitosis at 7:47 AM on April 29, 2011

« Older Searching for music with a postive outlook.   |   Fun, romantic things to see and do in Atlantic... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.