Mistake Fares Aren’t Just for Air Travel

One man got an epic discount on Cartier earrings

Cartier logo
One man got a very good deal on some Cartier earrings.
Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

if you spend enough time looking up flight deals, you’ll likely hear about an absurd bargain that falls under the heading of a mistake fare. The explanation for these is simple: every once in a while, an error in flight pricing will lead to an absurd bargain. (I once saw a New York-to-New Zealand flight for under $300 round trip; the error was corrected before I could actually complete the purchase.) There are two big questions lurking when one sees a mistake fare: can I make this purchase in time, and will the company honor it?

As it turns out, the same principles apply even when air travel — or travel, period — is involved. At Business Insider, Amanda Krause recounted the story of a man named Rogelio Villarreal Jasso, who was browsing Cartier’s website and noticed an intriguing bargain. Jasso noticed that a pair of gold and diamond earrings were selling for 232 pesos; they normally sell for 232,000 pesos. (In U.S. dollars, that’s $13.67 and $13,670 at the current rate of exchange.)

Jasso did what most people given the opportunity to purchase a luxury item at a 99.9% discount directly from the retailer would do: he ordered two.

That’s when the trouble started, Krause reports. Cartier then contacted Jasso and told him that the price was incorrect and that they wouldn’t be filling the order. Jasso then filed a complaint with Mexico’s consumer protection agency; this, in turn, prompted Cartier to honor the original order and send Jasso his earrings.

New Airline Software Might Mean the End of Mistake Fares
Gone are the days of snagging a $9,500 roundtrip flight for just $500

It’s not hard to see why Cartier would try to walk back an incorrect price for luxury goods — or, really, any kind of goods. But shopping — whether for earrings, air travel or groceries — includes an element of trust. If a retailer makes an error in pricing, it’s not a customer’s fault for wanting to make use of that. And, as a case involving an Air Canada chatbot also recently demonstrates, if the seller is in error, the responsibilty for honoring an incorrect price is on them.

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