Fat Finger Syndrome: How an Electronics Company Avoided giving Away Free Laptops

When Currys, the British high-street electricals chain advertised that it was selling a brand-new netbook at a giveaway price of 10% of its retail price, it was inundated with customers quite naturally at what was ‘the bargain of the century’.

This Samsung Galaxy Netbook, retailing at GBP229, was offered at GBP22.

However it turned out that an incorrect price was put on Currys’ website by a member of staff who mistakenly missed off the last digit.

The retailer said that it was unable to sell the laptop for the amount shown online and has emailed or telephoned all the customers who tried to buy it to explain and apologise. At this point, many customers felt that they were within consumers’ rights to insist that the retailer honour its promise and deliver nonetheless.

But they did not reckon with the fine print in its terms and conditions on its website which made clear that if an item was priced due to human error, then the price does not hold.

And what was the human error? Currys blamed it on fat finger syndrome.

This condition has made headlines several times recently. Of note was the tokyo trader who, in 2006, mistakenly keyed in a transaction order which inadvertently cost him USD 18 million.(see here). In essence, this syndrome refers to the invocation of a unwanted secondary action due to (a) one’s finger being bigger than the envisioned touch zone, or (b) accidental inaccuracy in the fine motor movements of one’s extremities. In simple terms, accidentally pressing an unwanted key on a keyboard. Quite common nowadays with mobile phones being as small as it is!

The Original Fat Finger Syndrome case? A typographical omission of the word "not" in the sentence "Thou shalt not commit adultery." This printing of the Bible has become known as the Wicked Bible( from Wikipedia)

 

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