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Voucher scheme error provokes festive carnage

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UK toy retailer Hamleys website was ransacked over the weekend after sharp-eyed web shoppers spotted "a glitch in a voucher scheme which allowed customers to claim a cumulative 60 per cent discount if they bought goods from the Hamleys online store", and moved in for the kill.

According to The Guardian, the error was spotted by users of HotUKDeals on Saturday afternoon, and "within hours of details of the offer being posted on the internet, thousands of shoppers across the web had taken advantage of it". The result was that by Sunday morning, Hamleys e-shelves were stripped of goods at a fraction of the original price "with more than half of the top-selling doll and toy ranges out of stock".

One dazed surfer reportedly described the carnage thus: "It's like the Vikings have been to Hamleys. If you get on to their site, it's been emptied and pillaged."

Hamleys was caught on the hop by the onslaught, and its site reduced to a crawl. The company quickly withdrew the offer, but the effects may be serious. Hamleys doesn't yet know how many people availed themselves of the opportunity and "since the store uses a central warehouse for both its actual store and its online store, the shortage [of goods] will affect both outlets".

Hamleys chief executive Nick Mather said yesterday: "We addressed this issue immediately and it was resolved within 24 hours. We would like to apologise to customers who were unable to access the website and place orders during this time."

The company added it would honour "any orders made as a result of the error" - which may cost it dear. According to The Guardian, one highly-satisfied customer "boasted about ordering a full-size snooker table worth £13,000 for just over £5,000".

A Hamleys spokeswoman described the Viking raid as "one of the downsides of ecommerce". ®

Update

It seems Hanleys later changed its mind about fulfilling those Viking orders. Here's the email (un)lucky customers received:

Dear Customer

Thank you for your order.

Unfortunately Hamleys experienced a technical error on our site at the weekend. This resulted in you being able to apply a discount code more than once. Multiple use of the discount code contravened the terms and conditions of the offer and as a result we are unable to fulfil your order.

We appreciate that at this time of year no one wants to be disappointed. As a gesture we would like to offer you a 25% discount on your next order. Rest assured if you complete your order by the end of today we will guarantee delivery before Christmas.

To use the offer please enter the promotions code hamrefxxxxx at the checkout stage. This offer is more generous than the original terms of the promotion and is valid for 30 days subject to the terms and conditions below.

The funds which were reserved for your order have been released to your account and will be cleared according to your bank’s procedures. No money has been taken from your account.

We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience that this has caused you. And hope that we can still help to make your Christmas magical.

Best wishes,

Hamleys

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