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May One Take Advantage of a Price Glitch?

Rabbi Daniel Dombroff

 

Question: When engaging in online commerce, one often discovers price glitches where a mistake was clearly made in the price given online. For example, one may find a product or deal that is supposed to be worth $1,200 but is listed by mistake for $120. Is it permitted to take advantage of such a price glitch? Does it matter whether one finds it on one’s own or on a website dedicated to tracking such occurrences?

Answer: It is very difficult to claim that an actual issur exists in such cases. After all, there is no problem of gezel akum (stealing from a non-Jew) or mateh akum (deceiving a non-Jew), since purchasing the item is entirely legal.

Nevertheless, perhaps we should consider as a community whether it is appropriate to take advantage of such mistakes en masse. Due to our ability to communicate with each other quickly and effectively, we in the frum community are often the ones who take advantage of these glitches. This capitalizing on such mistakes on a mass level could potentially damage our image and reputation as religious Jews.

The Smag (Sefer Mitzvos Gedolos) states that when mashiach comes, we do not want the goyim to question h at this time, it may affect our reputation in the eyes of others.

It is therefore recommended that everyone consult their individual moreh hora’ah (rabbinic authority) before taking advantage of a price glitch.

With regard to the second part of the question, although there may not be a difference between taking advantage of a price glitch when stumbling across it on one’s own and finding it through a site dedicated to tracking such glitches, perhaps one should think twice before publicizing the glitch or spreading it further to others for the reasons discussed above.

 

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