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Flipkart's mega sale: For some, it was a harrowing day


By the time India's largest discount sale by Flipkart got over by Monday evening, most online shoppers were flipped out with disappointment.

Eighteen-year-old animation student Saurav woke up by 8 am on Monday to order a 32-inch Sony Bravia TV, expecting a huge discount on Flipkart. While Flipkart kept its word and offered 50% off (including an exchange bonus), Saurav's experience with India's biggest online merchant was a bitter one.

Saurav got a message at around 6 pm from Flipkart saying his order has been cancelled. Interestingly, his online order history on the website had also been deleted. On Flipkart's official Facebook page, Shivam Shukla, another online shopper, posted: "You people removed my whole order history with my recently ordered item. Do you have any shame? Along with that there is no email or SMS."

Similarly, many such stories of dissatisfaction were trending on social media throughout the day — a day when Flipkart launched its biggest marketing initiative, 'The Big Billion Day' sale. For an e-commerce player that has built an eye-popping valuation of $7 billion by gaining the trust of a rapidly evolving Indian consumer, Flipkart saw an unexpected outcry of negative publicity, which has never been witnessed till now.

Social media posts on Flipkart's pricing strategy went viral, as some of the products on the website were put on a dynamic pricing mechanism, which is unheard of during traditional offline retail sales periods. For instance, a Canon Pixma printer at 9 am cost Rs 3,500 on Flipkart. Six hours later, it was retailing at double the price.

Tweeted an online shopper: "Fraud flipkart. Puma running shoes used to be 1799 and now after 55% discount it is 1800." The e-tailer was also accused of marking up prices before the sale. On Facebook, Flipkart's official page flipkart.com got hundreds of comments from disgruntled users on every post about a new offer. Some even posted screenshots of the same products available at different prices.

Posted Meenakshi Swarnkar: "Well this is no BIG Billion day... any product listed on steal deal were never available and they go out of stock at exactly 8:00 am... Flipkart, do u think people are ever going to believe in you?"

In response, a Flipkart executive cited technical glitches. "We have had over a billion hits today. Things can go wrong," the executive said. However, leading up to the sale, Flipkart founders Sachin and Binny Bansal had sent out personal mailers to shoppers informing them that Flipkart had beefed up its logistics in anticipation of record orders.

"Philips 24 LED Flipkart rate - Rs 11490/- Market rate -Rs 11500/- Effective Discount Rs 10/-," tweeted a shopper.
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