TouchPad buyers say Barnes & Noble reneged

Angry bargain hunters light up Twitter with complaints that the Internet retailer took their order for the discontinued tablet only for consumers to learn their purchase had been canceled.

Steven Musil Night Editor / News
Steven Musil is the night news editor at CNET News. He's been hooked on tech since learning BASIC in the late '70s. When not cleaning up after his daughter and son, Steven can be found pedaling around the San Francisco Bay Area. Before joining CNET in 2000, Steven spent 10 years at various Bay Area newspapers.
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Steven Musil
2 min read

This weekend's Internet fire sale of HP TouchPads ignited a fury of interest from bargain hunters, as well as just plain fury from some who say Barnes & Noble reneged on their purchases.

The tablets, which Hewlett-Packard announced last week it would discontinue, went on sale at a steep discount this week, with the 16GB model dropping in price from $399 to $99 and the 32GB model dropping from $499 to $145. The price drop sparked a frenzy of bargain hunters and reduced to a crawl many retailer sites rumored to have stock of the phased-out tablets. By this morning, most sites were sold out of the devices.

Barnes & Noble was among the handful of sites offering the device. However, many unhappy buyers lit up Twitter today with complaints that the Internet retailer had sent them e-mails informing them that the orders they placed for TouchPads over the weekend had been canceled, presumably because B&N oversold the tablet (see Barnes & Noble letter sent to CNET reader below).

A snapshot of TouchPad bargain hunters unhappy with Barnes & Noble. Screenshot by Steven Musil/CNET

Barnes & Noble representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment, so it's unknown how many orders had been nixed. But judging by the number of tweets on the topic, it's more than just a few.

A CNET reader said he received the following letter:

Dear Valued Customer,

We are writing to you regarding your recent Barnes & Noble order for "HP TouchPad Tablet with 16GB Memory".

Due to unexpected customer demand for this item, our inventory was depleted prior to your order being processed so we are unable to fulfill this item as requested. Consequently, we have canceled your order and you will not be billed for this amount.

You may see an authorization on your credit or debit card for the order, but please be assured you will not be charged. The authorization will be released in accordance with your bank's policies.

We sincerely regret any inconvenience that this may have caused.


Barnes & Noble

Customer Service

Early last week, AllThingsD reported that Best Buy had complained to HP about the mountain of unsold TouchPads taking up too much space in its stores and warehouses. According to that report, the retailer had sold only 25,000 of the 270,000 TouchPads it had received.

And it's not just Best Buy. Over the weekend, the discounted devices became the hottest-selling electronics items on Amazon. Even HP's site selling TouchPads at fire-sale prices cratered under the rush of interest, according to a story from CNET's sister site ZDNet.

Updated at 10 p.m. PT to include customer service letter.