HP misleads customers for months about Touchpads

Posted in Business, Technicalon Oct 31, 2011

The ethics guide for HP uses the headline test to determine if a business decision is ethical:

The Headline Test is a simple but powerful tool designed to make sure we appropriately consider the soundness and impact of our business decisions. It is named after one of the tools most commonly used by executives: “Before I make a decision, I consider how it would look in a news story.” (Source: SBC, page 8 )

According to the headline of this blog post, HP’s decision to mislead customers for months about the availability of Touchpads at firestorm prices is unethical.

In late August, HP decided to discontinue, after only a few months, the HP Touchpad, its tablet computer device. In discontinuing it, they set the price at just $99, making it the most popular tablet for the weekend until it quickly sold out. At the point it sold out, HP quickly communicated that there would be more soon:

We have had a great response to the new price and are now temporarily out of stock of both devices on hp.com and at some local retailers. The good news is that we will have more available shortly. (source)

The #hptouchpad is sold out temporarily. We R working on a site where you can sign up & be notified when #HP will have more. PLS RT. (Twitter source, emphasis added)

HP confirmed a couple of weeks later that there would be more Touchpads manufactured:

Despite announcing an end to manufacturing webOS hardware, we have decided to produce one last run of TouchPads to meet unfulfilled demand. We don’t know exactly when these units will be available or how many we’ll get, and we can’t promise we’ll have enough for everyone. We do know that it will be at least a few weeks before you can purchase. (source)

Almost two months later, HP announced that they are completely out of stock, never having sold additional Touchpads to the public:

We are now announcing that while some retailers will have limited stock available, HP’s online inventory is depleted. (source)

For more than two months, HP misled potential customers about the additional availability of Touchpads. This is in direct violation of the HP Standards of Business Conduct which states:

Promise only what you can deliver. Deliver on what you promise. Do not create misleading impressions in any advertising, marketing, or sales material. (Source: SBC, Page 13)

I once respected HP, but now they seem so confused that they can’t even keep to their own business standards. I’m not the only one who is disappointed in HP. I’ll finish with some comments from other lost HP customers:

In spite of this and because of the poor handling of this debacle, I will no longer be buying HP products. This simply is not how you treat your user base. Since the only thing that counts to corporations is money, I will vote with my wallet and go elsewhere. (source)

HP could have and should have handled this better, period! The fire sale price of the TP does not justify this type of customer treatment and disregard! (source)

@BrynaAtHP been waiting for email about touchpad, now they are all gone! HP lies! Never will I buy HP again! Shame on you HP! (Twitter Source)


Alan Webber

November 29th, 1999 at 5:00 pm

As they wrote, “We don’t know exactly when these units will be available or how many we’ll get, and we can’t promise we’ll have enough for everyone. ”

They did make more and are selling now. No they did not stay with the unrestricted low price but they were losing money at that price so it is logical. They still sell them at the normal price and they had been out completely so that is fine and good if folks want to buy one cheap along with a PC. Companies often have some promotional sales or closeouts and we all know they will not last forever. Best Buy gave them an offer and hope it worked out well. If you want to spend less buy a nice notebook as much cheaper and do much more. Or of you want a tablet there are many brands and lots of used ones too. These things will be a dime a dozen in a few years.


November 29th, 1999 at 5:00 pm

I understand your disappointment. I think you’re response, however, is wildly exaggerated, and reflects a consumer attitude that believes one is legally entitled to satisfaction of one’s consumer dreams. Obviously that is not the case. You cannot claim an ethical right to having HP manufacture a tablet for you at a loss to them, no matter what wild claims they made on their web site. But is HP really acting “unethical” and ‘misleading”?
Calling HP’s conduct “unethical” or “misleading” implies to me that at the time they formulated their intentions for the future, they had in mind not to make good on their announcements. I don’t think that – especially given that in the interim they replaced their CEO – this would constitute a fair judgment. One must certainly permit the new CEO to have a change of mind regarding his predecessor’s decisions. Otherwise, why introduce a new CEO altogether.
Besides that, whereas I am no attorney, I doubt that HP’s announced intentions can be construed as a commitment. Moreover, it is doubtful that the availability of machines through retailers and directly from HP to developers does not constitute the fulfillment of HP’s announcement, if you want to call HP’s announcement a commitment. It was clearly not a commitment personally to each and every person that read the announcement. Some persons will be able to obtain the machines from retailers, other from HP directly, because they qualify as developers.


November 1st, 2011 at 3:16 pm

Thanks for summarizing this information. I was one of those waiting patiently on the “Notify” list… and was very disappointed when I learned they weren’t going to honor their promises. I knew I wouldn’t be guaranteed to get one, but I thought they’d at least honor the offering of more fire-sale tablets to the general public.


November 3rd, 2011 at 9:50 am

A major point that I missed was that HP had the opportunity to sell to the public, but instead chose to make a business decision to sell to employees instead. The problem was that HP communicated to the public that they would sell more, but then never sold more to the public when they in fact had the ability to do so.


November 3rd, 2011 at 2:14 pm

They didn’t sell many to the employees, and they sold the rest of their stock to retailers.

They didn’t mislead. There are more out there. Best Buy is selling them with computers, Tiger Direct is selling some tomorrow.


November 3rd, 2011 at 2:18 pm

I understand the point of this article but there shouldn’t even have been a firesale if HP had kept their promises about being in it for the long haul. Remember their mantra about it being a “marathon, not a sprint”? They didn’t deliver on that promise cutting the hardware after merely 49 days.


November 4th, 2011 at 9:21 am

@Damadar, But HP DID mislead. They said, “HP will have more” not “Best Buy will have more.”

@Dave, True point.


November 4th, 2011 at 10:12 am

HP Did have more. They then sent them to retailers to sell.

HP put them in a place where people could get them better. That’s not misleading. HP Had’em, HP put’em in a place where customers could get’em. Sour Grapes is all I hear.

Dave: Leo Apotheker is an idiot. Why do you think they got rid of him?

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