MACYS.COM’S DISCOUNT DRAMA

Byline: Peter Braunstein

NEW YORK — Fatwallet.com certainly lived up to its name this past weekend, but in an unorthodox kind of way.
Bargain hunters visiting the online coupon site on Saturday received an unauthorized 50 percent discount at Macys.com, using a series of online coupon codes not meant for general use. At least four codes were circulated Saturday to members of the Web community site, where e-tailers including Amazon.com and Ashford.com routinely post discounts enticing shoppers to their own ‘Net destinations.
“I saved over $70 bucks,” said one shopper in a post at Fatwallet.com’s forum. “I went back to see if it would work for a second order, and it does. You had better get it while you can because once they figure it out, it’s all over.” Other shoppers reveled in the twilight pleasure that is the online coupon-code scam. One Fatwallet.com client posted a message claiming to have purchased 10 pairs of pants at Macys.com, originally totaling $420 — but costing only $240 using the illicit discount code. “I’ll be stocked for a while,” the cybershopper’s message read.
A Macy’s spokeswoman explained to WWD that the illicit codes were intended for specific individuals, to be used only under specific conditions, but were apparently distributed broadly in a perverse form of ‘viral marketing.’
“Some codes provided discounts on a first order when you open a new charge account, but were being used by people who fit only one or neither of these criteria. Other codes were meant to be used only for purchases above a certain dollar amount, or to make up for a customer service error,” said the spokeswoman. “It was a glitch in the system that these problems weren’t caught immediately, and it just kind of snowballed. All purchases made using legitimate codes are being processed, while people who entered codes that did not meet the conditions of their use are being notified by e-mail.”
Coupon-code scams are endemic to e-commerce sites. In the last six months, both Amazon.com and Staples.com were subject to code scams when confidential information was posted publicly on Internet message boards.

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