Retailer misses $2.9B mistake 

While some Bay Area residents began the New Year on Jan. 1 by resolving to lose weight or save money, Brian Klug had a different idea: make his first purchase of 2010 a $2.9 billion CD-ROM.

The 30-year-old engineer, who works in San Mateo, said he saw the item — a Discovery Channel “Cells” CD-ROM — listed for $2,904,980,000 on the shopping site Amazon.com. He said he just had to see if it would go through.

It did.

“I expected an error message when I hit the purchase button,” Klug said. “But I got a confirmation number.”

He was also charged $3.99 to ship the item from Berkeley.

The purchase was short lived, however. Klug said days later he was contacted by Amazon — he did not contact them first — and the order was canceled.

“I was curious about the breakdown of the process,” he said.

During a cancellation conversation with an Amazon representative, Klug said he learned the company has methods in place to catch exceptionally low priced items, but not for the other extreme.

Amazon representatives could not be reached for comment.

Klug said he is a regular online shopper, but never goes for billion-dollar purchases.

“Usually my purchases are in the millions,” he said jokingly.

Klug said he will continue to shop online and if he comes across another multibillion dollar purchase, he will probably try it again.

When asked what he had learned from the whole experience, Klug replied, “When you click an order button for a $2.9 billion CD you get a $2.9 billion CD and a lot of media attention.”

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