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IBM customers buy $1 laptops in site snafu

The computer maker is canceling orders on the mismarked laptops and offering free shipping to the dozens of customers as restitution.

Some IBM customers took advantage of a too-good-to-be-true deal on the computer maker's Web site yesterday, ordering dozens of the company's laptops for $1 each.

For about an hour yesterday, IBM's Web store listed two different versions of its ThinkPad i Series 1400 computer for $1 each, a company representative confirmed. The machines typically sell for between $1,300 and $2,300.

IBM blamed the discrepancy on a data error and said it notified customers that it can not honor the discounted price. "We can't sell these for a dollar," a company representative said. "We'll work something out with our customers."

The pricing error at IBM comes one month after online luxury goods store Ashford.com offered Gucci and several other chichi watches for free, because of a pricing error on its own site. Last year, a plague of pricing errors hit Buy.com, ShopNow.com's BuySoftware site and Onsale.

IBM received orders for "hundreds" of $1 laptops from "several dozen" users, company spokesman Tim Blair said. The company sent out an email this morning alerting customers that it has canceled all orders for the laptops, and has started calling customers who ordered 10 or more of the computers, Blair said.

John Sutcliffe, a software development consultant from Stillwater, Minn., said he and five other people in his office each ordered four of them.

IBM is offering free shipping to all those customers who ordered the $1 computers. However, the company plans to charge full price for the computers to any of the customers who want to reorder them.

But that may not satisfy some disappointed consumers. Several of the customers who ordered the laptops told CNET News.com that they were upset that IBM was not offering them more of a discount. They pointed out that the company sent two emails confirming their orders.

A customer named Grace who works for a brokerage in New York said she ordered 12 laptops from IBM yesterday. Grace said she and her colleagues at the brokerage, who also ordered the computers, are considering taking legal action against IBM.

"We are trying to see what options we can take," she said.