At least four coupon codes were circulated Saturday to members of Web community site FatWallet.com before Macys.com discovered the error and canceled the coupons, according to a spokeswoman from the Internet arm of stalwart brick-and-mortar retailer Macy's.
"I saved over $70 bucks," a gleeful shopper said in a post at FatWallet. "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."
Macys.com spokeswoman Diane Pucko declined to say how long the spending spree at Macys.com lasted or how many orders were placed using the codes. She also declined to discuss whether the store would honor the purchases made with the codes.
"At this time we are evaluating the validity of the orders placed using these codes," Pucko said.
The codes, a series of numbers and letters, enabled a shopper to receive about 50 percent off a wide range of products when combined. News of the cut-rate prices touched off a buying frenzy at Macys.com.
Although mistakes of this kind do happen in the offline world, the speed at which e-commerce moves can make a small glitch turn into a thousand-dollar error. Some of the online stores plagued by the problem in the past six months have been Staples.com and Amazon.com.
In both cases, online bargain hunters, tipped off via Web message boards, swept in electronically to cart away free or nearly free merchandise.
On Saturday, one person posted a message on FatWallet saying that 10 pairs of pants that added up to $420 at Macys.com cost $240 after the discount codes were keyed in. "I'll be stocked for a while," the message said.
Pucko said the company is investigating how the codes were made public.