Best Buy briefly sells Palm Pre for $US99 - oops!

There were some happy shoppers coming out of Best Buy over the weekend after the big box retailer slashed the price of the Palm Pre by fifty percent

There were some happy shoppers coming out of Best Buy over the weekend after the big box retailer slashed the price of the Palm Pre by fifty percent. The only problem was it may have been a mistake, as other Palm Pre retail outlets including the Sprint Store did not drop their prices.

After news of the mixup broke yesterday on PreCentral.net, many blog readers stormed their local Best Buy locations to grab a Pre for $US99 with a 2-year contract, instead of the original $US199 price. But the Pre spree didn't last long, as John Bernier of Best Buy's Twelp Force--the retail chain's customer-service team on Twitter--let the world know the new Pre pricing was an accident.

"Actually, [the Palm Pre is] $US199, we corrected an unintentional pricing error," Bernier said in one of his many tweets discussing the Pre issue. Even though the new price tag may have been an error, the big box retailer still delivered price-dropping joy to many happy Pre fans. Over on Pre Central.net, commenter d2globalinc claims to have received a credit of $US214 after taking back two Palm Pres purchased at Best Buy within the last thirty days. Both FV and JG on CrunchGear said they received a similar rebate on Sunday as a result of Best Buy's Palm Pre sleeper sale.

But the happiest people may have been those able to get their hands on a cheap Pre after months of lusting after the device. MERGATROYDER on PreCentral claimed to get the last available Pre at the commenter's local Best Buy, paying just $US144 plus some reward points for the device, screen protector and case. JKOnTheRun readers Shawn and Justine also claimed to have picked up Palm's iPhone killer at the bargain basement price.

Amid the joys there were also moments of outrage from some who had already bought their Pre's from other retailers. While not exactly parallels, the Best Buy price mix-up is a reminder of a similar situation with the original iPhone. Apple's wonder device was launched on June 29, 2007, but just over two months later, on September 5, Apple announced it was dropping the iPhone's price from $US599 to $US399. Apple's announcement--while spurring sales towards one million iPhones sold just five days later--enraged early iPhone adopters who were now out $US200 compared to those who waited a few months. In fact, user anger got so loud that Steve Jobs was forced to issue an open letter offering early iPhone adopters a $US100 rebate as compensation.

The Best Buy situation is different since the retailer claims the fifty-percent drop in price was a simple human error. But I'm not so sure. Could it be this price cut was originally planned for late summer or early fall to spur sales into the back-to-school and Holiday seasons, just as Apple did two years ago? A $US99 price tag may also make more sense since, feature-for-feature, it puts the Pre against the more comparable iPhone 3G instead of the 3GS, as PC World contributing editor Harry McCracken points out on Technologizer.

So what do you say? Did Best Buy jump the gun on an upcoming price drop or was this really just a simple mistake?

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Ian Paul

PC World (US online)

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