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November 14, 2011

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Bargain hunters hit by web glitches

WHEN online promotion prices seem too good to be true, technical problems mean they often are, Taobao Mall shoppers discovered over the weekend.

Many consumers who ordered goods in Taobao Mall's massive sales promotion on Friday - the auspicious 11/11/11 and also Single's Day - were left angry and frustrated to find their orders canceled and refunded.

One Shanghai shopper, surnamed Zhang, said he stayed up late waiting for the promotion to start, but was disappointed to find his orders for six items of clothing were canceled hours later.

"I received a text at 2am telling me the orders were canceled and the money returned to my account," Zhang said.

"It's frustrating because I could see the bargains but I couldn't reach them."

Other consumers across China expressed their anger on the official microblog of Taobao Mall, lamenting the time they wasted and accusing the company of cheating consumers.

Taobao Mall, China's largest online retailer, offered 50 percent off all products in its "Super Single's Day" promotion.

The company attributed problems to excessively heavy traffic in the early period of promotion.

Shoppers rush

"We saw more than 3 million shoppers rush to the platform during the first few minutes and cause a 'traffic jam' in the system," a Taobao Mall media official said yesterday.

"This disabled functions for consumers to pick the size and color of the products they chose, and thus made orders invalid."

Heavy traffic soon eased, restoring normal functionality, but many products were sold out when consumers tried to order afresh, the media official said.

She said only a small percentage of consumers was affected by the bottleneck, and the one-day transaction volume for successful orders was 3.36 billion yuan (US$530 million), a three-fold increase on November 11 last year.

Taobao Mall said yesterday that in addition to a full refund, it would give credits worth 30 yuan to all consumers who encountered problems when ordering.

The mall also promised to negotiate with stores to let consumers whose orders were canceled during the promotion buy the products at discounted prices.

Chen Min, an official with Shanghai's consumer rights protection commission, said Taobao Mall was at fault for canceling orders without consumers' consent and it is legitimate for consumers to demand buying the products at prices previously agreed.


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