July 19, 2011, 3:26 PM

Sears feels the heat over an iPad pricing goof

A seller on the Sears Marketplace offers the tablet computers for $69.

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On Friday, e-retailer GSM On Sale listed two iPad models for sale for the unusually low price of $69 through the Sears Marketplace, a sales forum hosted by Sears that lets other merchants sell their inventory through Sears.com and use its shopping cart and payment processing system for a monthly fee and a cut on sales. Consumers flocked to order iPads at the rock-bottom price—new versions of the Apple Inc. tablet computers normally sell for a minimum of $499—only to have their orders cancelled by Sears.com hours later. 

A Sears spokeswoman says GSM On Sale accidentally posted the incorrect price on the Marketplace. “Those orders were cancelled and customer’s accounts were credited,” she says. She declined to say whether Sears or GSM On Sale made the decision to cancel the orders. Today, GSM On Sale’s home page on the Sears Marketplace is listed as “no longer available” and GSMOnSale.com’s home page says the online store is closed for maintenance. GSM On Sale did not respond to a request for comment.

Sears’ seller agreement for Sears Marketplace merchants says any product listing and content is provided solely by the merchant and Sears does not guarantee accuracy. It also says Sears is not responsible for any errors, omissions or inaccuracies contained in a product listing and that the seller is responsible for handling and resolving all user service issues in connection with their sales in the Marketplace. The agreement also says consumers who contact Sears with any issues related to products sold by Marketplace sellers will be advised to contact the seller. If the seller doesn’t respond satisfactorily, Sears may suspend the merchant’s Marketplace account or withhold payment. The Sears spokeswoman declined to say whether GSM On Sale suspended its Sears Marketplace account or if Sears took that action.

Sears.com, No. 7 in Internet Retailer’s Top 500 Guide, apologized to affected customers in a posting on its home page and on Facebook, where more than 350 consumers expressed their opinions on the situation. Some postings supported Sears, while others blasted the company for not honoring the price. 

This isn’t the first time Sears has taken heat over the actions of Marketplace sellers. In May, the retailer removed a merchant’s listings of porn videos after the American Family Association, a self-described family values organization, notified Sears the videos were for sale through Sears.com. Sears prohibits the sale of pornography in its merchant agreement, but at the time said the content had managed to slip through Sears’ monitoring system.

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