It was a terrible ending to a tragic story as singer Whitney Houston was found dead in the Beverly Hilton hotel on Saturday. As the world received the news and the mourning began for millions of fans, Houston’s music set the charts alight again.
Houston’s music sales skyrocketed after news of her death. CNNMoney reported that three songs, “I Will Always Love You”, “I Wanna Dance with Somebody”, and “Greatest Love of All” ranked first, second, and third, respectively on the iTunes chart. Houston also dominated the top 10 albums on Amazon.com with “The Greatest Hits” and “The Ultimate Collection” in the first and second slots.
While fans all over the world found comfort in her music, Sony raised the UK iTunes store prices of “The Ultimate Collection” album up 60%, from $7.85 to $12.50, and “The Greatest Hits” up 25% from $12.50 to $15.67 – when people realized this and became outraged over the egregious price hike, you would assume that Sony would snap into action with a full crisis management plan explaining their reasoning for exploiting a singer’s death – right?
Wrong. Instead, Sony released this statement: “Whitney Houston product was mistakenly mispriced on the UK iTunes store on Sunday. When discovered, the mistake was immediately corrected. We apologize for any offense caused”
A mistake – simply an unintentional price hike that coincidentally took place on Whitney Houston’s most desired albums and singles hours after she died. Even worse, the increased prices were not lowered until the next day and their apology statement took two days to release! And through it all Sony has made no mention of refunds or even iTunes credit.
I will be the first person to tell you that I have no idea how the principles of supply and demand work with iTunes. But when reading these stories as a consumer, I am shocked – not because of a price increase (I can almost understand that). I am shocked over the way Sony handled the fans' outrage - pretty much dismissing their customers with a three-sentence explanation. It almost makes the situation worse.
Sony needs to realize that customers are the reason that a company is successful. Customers are the empowered ones and they are the ones you need to keep happy. Somewhere in the last five days, someone at Sony must have forgotten that.
Pete DeLuca is Manager of Creative Services at Maroon PR. Contact him at Pete@MaroonPR.com.