Okay, I just got off the phone with a TRU.com rep. Here is the story they gave me:
TRU Online (a seperate division of TRU from the retail stores) was to receive a shipment of the Endor Battle Packs from Hasbro. The guy looked it up and found that Hasbro notified TRU Online they would miss the promised shipment date by more than 30 days. The shipment is no longer pending and they don't know if they will get these online or not. He then claimed the FTC requires TRU Online to either deliver product or cancel orders if they will be delayed by more than 30 days. He apologized profusely for the hassle and gave me two additional options:
#1 - if the item is available again on TRU.com at a later date, they will honor the total price or my cancelled order (Buy two, get one free)
#2 - they can't offer a coupon for retail because they are different divisions, but if I can find these items at retail, I can fax the receipts to TRU.com and get a promotional code (for online use) in the amount of the difference.
Truth or Fiction?
I'm still unhappy about not getting these and I still wonder if there isn't something to them saving money on the deal. However, there are a few facts to consider here:
#1 - they make a pretty good margin on these items. I'm sure that while lower, they still make a nice profit selling three sets (or more) per household
#2 - they cancelled everyone's orders. I know some people ordered 4 or more of these, so if it was just all about money I'd be surprised that they don't want to sell any of these. Yes, they could just post them again when they are in stock, but who knows if they would sell out after this backlash? Seems risky from a financial perspective.
#3 - they were still willing to offer me the promotional price if/when these become available online. They even came up with a creative offer if I could find them at retail.
Seems like a lot of evidence to support that they just couldn't fill the orders on time and unwisely dropped the orders without communicating very well. Maybe this is just good damage control after a few days of bad PR, but it seems unlikely that they couldn't come up with a good initial spin for cancelling, then rebound 180 degrees in a matter of days.
Net-net, I'm still not overly happy with TRU, but I'll stop bashing them with every other post based on the good CS response.
See the info below on FTC regulations. This is a bit different than the CS person eluded to, but I can see it being easier to just cancel orders than to make sure consumers are notified, especially if the Buy 2G1 deal meant they weren't going to make much profit.
Mail-Order Merchandise Rule. This regulation, also known as the 30-Day Rule, is designed to protect consumers from unexpected delays in receiving merchandise ordered through the mail. It allows the customer to cancel any order not received within the time period advertised or, if none is stated, 30 days of order. According to the rule, in those instances in which shipment of goods is delayed, a customer must be notified within 15 days of placing his or her order. Moreover, if shipment is delayed past the agreed-upon delivery date (or 30 days), then the business must send a postage-paid return notice notifying the buyer that he or she may terminate the order for a full refund, which must be received within seven business days.