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A Month Has Passed And Kobo Still Hasn’t Fixed the Pricing Bugs on Their Website

A couple weeks back I posted a rather inflammatory article which revealed a pricing bug on the Kobo website. That article, which pissed off a lot of people, showed that displayed 2 different prices depending on whether I was logged in to my account.

A lot has happened in the couple weeks since I reported that story. After exchanging a few emails with a Kobo programmer it became clear that this was not a simple bug, nor was it a consistent one. While I still don’t know how the bug works I do know that the simple and obvious solutions don’t fix it.

And oh yeah, the bug is still happening today.

Now, as interesting as that story was, there was at least one key detail missing. I focused on the existence of the bug but completely neglected to mention how long the errors had persisted. TBH, I didn’t know at that time. But ever since that post I have been trying to find out exactly how long Kobo has been screwing this up.

My earliest confirmed report comes from MobileRead, and it is dated 10 September:

Is anyone else getting different prices on the checkout page? For instance, I want to get "Catching Fire" and it’s listed at $5.99. I click on the "buy now" button and the price jumps to $11.97. I contact Kobo’s customer service and they said that I should be logged in as to get the correct pricing. I log in and the same thing happens. I contacted them again, and they told me that the correct price is $11.97. But it’s still listed at $5.99?? Any ideas??

That pricing bug is exactly what I reported 2 weeks ago and this particular instance of the bug is still a problem today. I just checked.

So Kobo has had this bug on their website for at least a month. As bad as that sounds the actual situation is very likely worse.

I’m only able to confirm that it has gone on for a month; if I went with unverified reports then this bug has been present for at least 6 months, and there’s a good chance it has been around since December 2011.

Two of my readers have chimed in since I first posted on this story 2 weeks ago. Each has independently reported that this pricing bug had been brought to the attention of Kobo customer service several months ago. One even said it was 6 months ago, but given that both talked to Kobo on the phone there were no emails for me to share with you as proof.

There’s also more reports from MobileRead. One dates from February 2012, and that customer reported being charged more on their credit card than the ebook was listed on the Kobo website.  This isn’t quite the bug I reported above but it does sound like it, doesn’t it?

And then there is a similar report from December 2011:

When I go to the Kobo store I will see a book for $7.99 but when I log in the price updates to $8.99. Is this because the default price is in $US but when I log in using my Canadian they update to $CDN? I’m just wondering.

Again, this sounds incredibly similar to the bug I found. This very likely is the same bug, and if I’m right then Kobo has had a major bug breaking their website for Ten Months Now.

If that doesn’t rate an "oh, shit" I don’t know what does.

And I would not be surprised if at least some of these reports were true. Based on my own experiences, the 2 readers who claim they contacted Kobo customer service are very likely telling the truth. I have seen in the past at least one occasion where Kobo customer service got a complaint from a customer, responded, but appeared to not have forwarded the compliant to the relevant party inside the company who could have fixed the error.

Speaking of Kobo’s questionable customer service, there was a period of at least 3 months last year where Kobo gave out this blog as the warranty repair site for the Slick ereaders. I kid you not.

I know a number of people will step forward to defend Kobo, but I’m not sure how. A month-long bug which over-charges some readers is indefensible. Customer service dept failing to forward a bug report is indefensible.

These are things which simply cannot happen if Kobo wants to be a first-tier ebook platform. And so long as they continue to make mistakes like the one above, the bungled launch in Japan, the still ongoing issues with the Kobo Touch, and the bungled release of Kobo’s new ereaders, they are not a first tier company.

P.S. As per my usual, I am still waiting to hear back from Cerys Goodall on this story, though she has not yet responded to my email about the earlier post. If I get a response from Kobo, I will update this post.

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Jot October 15, 2012 um 1:56 pm

My favourite Kobo experience is the bizarre samples they send. On many, many occasions I’ll think a book looks interesting, get the sample, open up the sample, get the cover … get the 'thank you page from the author', and …. get a blank page …. next page asking me to cough up purchase price. Based on what ?

I want to like Kobo, they are focused on reading unlike Amazon. However they seem more interesting in shoehorning bells and whistles into their products than actually useful features. On the kindle you can select a character name in the book and it will give you a synopsis of that character. Directly useful feature for that that enjoy reading. In kobo you get points and badges for reading, and can facebook and tweet locations. I’m reading a book, not gaming on my Playstation. I wouldn’t be surprised if the next version of the kobo let you play asteroids in the book so you can shoot the words. Then of course post your astroid book shoot-a-thon to facebook.

Doug October 15, 2012 um 2:47 pm

Kobo was bought out by Rakuten in early November of last year. Nate traces the bug back to maybe early December of last year. Coincidence?

Nate Hoffelder October 15, 2012 um 2:53 pm

Now that was a detail I had not considered. It is certainly possible.

Peter October 15, 2012 um 2:52 pm

"Speaking of Kobo’s questionable customer service…"

Kobo’s customer service isn’t questionable at all – its awfulness is without question. The only store with worse customer disservice is Sony, and that only by a hair.

Isles October 16, 2012 um 8:17 am

WOW. I can’t believe their customer service department was giving out your blog as a warranty repair site!?! That is incredible! I mean, this is a great site for eReading information, and I could see them referring customers to you for product information or performance reviews, but not for people with faulty devices or shipping issues. Ridiculous!

Patrick October 18, 2012 um 8:57 am

Apparently Amazon is having this issue too, just read about it today….

Nate Hoffelder October 18, 2012 um 9:00 am

Looking at the screen shots, I bet that this is an unrelated issue.

Nate Hoffelder October 18, 2012 um 9:07 am

Yeah, now that I look deeper I bet he’s seeing first a price in his local market in Canada and then the US price (when he’s not logged in). The second one is cheaper because Amazon is allowed to discount it (but only in the US).

Brian October 19, 2012 um 10:01 am

Kobo has responded here…

I’m not sure I 100% buy the response as even logged in I was getting two different prices on some books. When I searched for 'hunger games' I got one price with the search results and another, higher, price when trying to buy or viewing the books details page.

Nate Hoffelder October 19, 2012 um 10:19 am

First, Cerys is specifically ignoring my emails. LOL

And I don’t buy their explanation either. This is not the kind of bug you are allowed to have.

Gayla Nesbitt October 24, 2012 um 10:31 pm

I too have had a problem with pricing. The email I hot back from Kobo was I was wrong but I knew the price had changed on checkout!!!
Now my Reader will not let me read 2 books I purchased last Sunday! They open on the reader but the pages are blank! Kobo told me to reset my reader-did that, factory reset reader- did that, delete and reload Kobo desktop app- did that resync library-did that and I still cant read them on my reader! Any ideas out there?

Brian January 31, 2013 um 10:52 am

Still happening???

Ed Dalton November 7, 2013 um 9:57 pm

Hey folks. I just wanted to drop a line to say that this problem is still happening . I went to buy a book the other day…I was logged in…when i went to pay for the book at checkout, the price jumped from $18.29 to $25.07. i contacted Kobo and after they had fixed the price, they asked me for proof and gave me the same cock and bull story.Very unhappy customer.

Nate Hoffelder November 7, 2013 um 10:01 pm

I’m not surprised.

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