Rough Weekend for NHL Shop

I always hate sharing “negative” stories here, but this one was very active on Twitter over the weekend and I want to put it out there to get opinions from the sports business community on how you think it should be handled. Cassandra Negley did a great job covering the story over at SportingNews.com, and I reference several items from her piece in my summary below.

At some point on Saturday, some Stanley Cup jerseys were listed on the NHL Shop for the steeply discounted price of $63.33. Here’s a tweet with a picture of the four discounted jerseys:

From what I can tell, the listings were up for a few hours before the items were discontinued, so I can only imagine how many people jumped online to purchase, especially Rangers fans (the Canadiens had already been eliminated, and the Kings/Blackhawks series was not decided yet). There was one report that the price was not a glitch, which while this would show an amazing level of generosity by the NHL, was probably very unlikely. There were immediate questions of whether or not orders would be honored, considering the significance of the pricing mistake, but it was looking optimistic based on this:

Ultimately, it was not to be when on Sunday morning, buyers of the discounted Rangers jerseys received the following email:

We are emailing to let you know that unfortunately, there was a pricing error for the New York Rangers NHL jersey that you ordered on our website. Despite our best efforts, occasionally an item may appear on our website with an incorrect price and, in this case, a member of our staff mistakenly uploaded a product with the wrong price attached. This type of human error does not occur often, but we do apologize that it affected your order and are doing our best to make it right.

We will be honoring the pricing shown on our website for orders placed on a first-come, first-serve basis for the limited number of jerseys we have in stock. Those customers will receive a confirmation email when their order ships. For the remaining orders for which we do not have stock, we will be cancelling the order for a full refund, and in the cancellation confirmation email we will be providing $10 in promotional credit for the trouble.

Again, we apologize for the inconvenience that this mistake has caused and do hope that you will give us another chance to provide you with your NHL gear.

Sincerely,
Customer Service at www.Shop.NHL.com

If you want to see the “colorful” tweets sent by angry buyers, you can find them quite easily. Many questioned how the NHL Shop would determine the “limited number of jerseys in stock” and the overall response to the $10 credit as a make-good seemed quite negative (EDIT: if anyone out there has access to a social sentiment measuring tool, it would be interesting to try and measure this).

I want to make it clear that I am not writing this to call out the NHL Shop for the mistake. The truth is, all organizations make mistakes, many of which are WAY worse than this (Target? eBay?), and once it happens, the most important thing is how an organization responds to the mistake.  I am writing this in the hope that it is something everyone can learn from.

My question to you is, do you agree with how the NHL Shop responded, and if not, what do you feel they should have done differently? Should all of the orders have been cancelled and a larger promo code been shared with the entire audience? Should they have eaten the cost of all the mispriced orders and just back-ordered what was not in stock? At roughly a $120 discount per order, that could be a VERY significant chunk of money. Or is their attempt to honor as many orders as possible without back-ordering a reasonable compromise? Please share your thoughts in the comments – thanks!

UPDATE – The cancellation emails are out today. Here is what they say:

Thank you for your recent order. We appreciate you choosing SHOP.NHL.COM for your merchandise needs from the best brands. Unfortunately, we were unable to fulfill a portion of your order and we apologize for the inconvenience.

A refund in the amount of $XX.XX which includes applicable shipping, taxes and discounts will be issued to the form of payment used at checkout for the item(s) listed below. We continuously strive to provide the best service in the industry, and as a result, have added $10 Promotional Credit (merchandise credit) to your account for use any time toward future purchases with us. Again, we are sorry for the inconvenience.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact our Customer Service Team toll-free at 1-800-618-3211.

We hope to have the opportunity to serve you again soon.

Sincerely,

Customer Service
SHOP.NHL.COM

4 thoughts on “Rough Weekend for NHL Shop

  • June 2, 2014 at 11:38 am
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    My take Russell: From a crisis standpoint, mistakes like this don’t require a measured response proportionate to what it costs you to right the wrong. In other words, if it’s really costly for us, we won’t right the wrong. That’s only the brand’s viewpoint. Mistakes like this are measured by reputation hits, which can ultimately be more costly. Many companies have already learned this lesson the hard way with merchandise mistakes. If you screw up, you pay the price. It will make you more vigilant the next time. You can’t screw fans because you screw up–ever.

  • June 2, 2014 at 8:44 pm
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    Considering the lack of rational behavior sports fans exhibit, why try to be rational with them in an email? Situation like this, you honor the sale and leak your doing so into the media. In fact, you even build it into a contest where for 30 seconds pet day, you have an errant price on hot merchandise. Boost website traffic.

  • June 3, 2014 at 12:21 pm
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    To me, you have to go all or nothing (and likely should do all). The most egregious part of this – and likely what upset so many – is that the NHL effectively gave some fans a $120+ discount while giving some fans a $10 discount. You’re admitting your mistake but only allowing a percentage of those who took advantage to reap the benefit.

  • June 3, 2014 at 9:28 pm
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    I am a former brand marketing exec and I strongly believe that a company must stand accountable for its mistakes. They should honor the offer they mistakenly made for ALL people who had a confirmed order before the mistake was corrected. The loss is far less than $120 per jersey, as $199 is the marked up price. I am sure the true cost is a fraction of that.

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