Black Friday came early at Toys “R” Us this year. Unfortunately, the huge half-off sale this past weekend wasn’t something the bankrupt retailer had planned.

It started innocently enough, when the company recently emailed coupon codes to Toys “R” Us credit card holders. “Thanks for being an ‘R’Us Credit Cardholder!” the emails read. “Enjoy this coupon to save on all your shopping essentials.” Then there was a coupon code offering 15%, 20% or 25% off.

But, to borrow a phrase from the late, lamented Consumerist, the retailer seems to have forgotten how the internet works.

The codes weren’t unique, and they weren’t complicated – CS15 for 15% off, CS20 for 20% off, and CS25 for 25% off. So of course, they quickly showed up online and deal-seekers began using them on the Toys “R” Us website this weekend.

Oh, and did we mention that these deal-seekers also discovered that the coupons could be combined? If you added them all to your order, you’d get 25% off, then an additional 20% off, then an additional 15% off – for a total discount that cut prices in half.


Those who got in on the deal bragged about their hauls online. “I just did this and I’m not kidding – It WORKS, I was floored!” one shopper wrote on Facebook. “Knocked out the last of our Christmas shopping and saved a tooooonnnnn,” another wrote. “Even cashiers were shocked to see the price,” a third offered.

The codes were only accepted on the Toys “R” Us website, but many shoppers placed their orders online then drove to a store to pick up their purchases. That was apparently the way to go, because those who placed their orders online for home delivery soon got bad news –

Toys “R” Us cancelled their orders.


“Several promo codes intended only for our credit cardholders were improperly shared online and quickly went viral,” Toys “R” Us said in a statement. “This resulted in an overall deal that was simply too good to be true – as many have noted on social. Orders that should not have qualified for the deal have been cancelled. Credit cards will not be charged for cancellations.”

Often, “glitchers” who take advantage of obvious pricing errors are seen as opportunistic cheaters who try to profit from a retailer’s honest mistake. But this deal seemed legit. After all, who doesn’t do a web search for a coupon code before buying something online? These were legitimate, non-unique coupon codes, and once they were out there, they seemed fair game. And if a retailer’s website allows you to stack coupons and doesn’t say you can’t, why not do it?

Then again, many who took advantage of this deal referred to it as a “glitch”, so they clearly knew it was a mistake that they were trying to profit from. “Lesson learned: Being greedy and unethical will get you nowhere. But I still can’t help to pity myself right now,” lamented one shopper who missed out on the deal.

Many are complaining that Toys “R” Us should have honored the orders. “Toys ‘R’ Us goofed up and it seems that they are just cancelling orders rather than admit their mistake and honor the orders that they placed,” one shopper wrote on the company’s Facebook page. “I will make sure to spread the word to all of my friends and family… to not support this company any longer, as it’s apparent that they no longer value the customer,” another complained. “In a world of Amazon, Target and Walmart, ALL with way better prices than you, you would think you would want to make this mistake right!” a third commenter wrote.

This isn’t the first time a mishandled Toys “R” Us coupon has led to a free-for-all. Several years ago, the retailer offered a printable coupon for $5 off any purchase. So some shoppers printed as many as they wanted and combined them to get a whole lot of free stuff, before Toys “R” Us realized what it had done and put a stop to it.

But this most recent couponing error comes at a particularly bad time. Not only are we right on the cusp of the all-important holiday shopping season, but this season is more important than ever for Toys “R” Us, which filed for bankruptcy a couple of months ago. There haven’t been any store closings yet, because Toys “R” Us needs each and every store to make as much as possible during the company’s busiest time of the year – but after the holidays, all bets are off.

“The holiday season is the most important for annual results,” the company said in its bankruptcy filing. “In the weeks prior to Christmas, the company generates approximately 40% of its annual revenue… The importance of executing a successful holiday season cannot be overstated.”

Given the importance of the holiday season in ensuring Toys “R” Us’s very survival, perhaps someone should have impressed upon the marketing team the importance of not bungling a coupon promotion.

So if you got a bunch of toys for half price this weekend, enjoy your good fortune – because at this rate, it could be one of the last coupons that Toys “R” Us is able to offer.

Photo by JeepersMedia

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