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It is interesting, at least to me, how the law works or should I say, doesn’t work. I spent 31 years in the U.S. Army and retired as a CW5. During my tenure in the Army I learned a myriad of facts.

In Contracting 101, taught at the Logistics Center located at Fort Lee, Va., I learned that a legally binding contract consisted of three things:

1. An offer to transfer something of value to someone else for something else of value;

2. Acceptance of that offer;

3. Transfer of either object of value.

If you look at it from that perspective what we have here (“Computer problem — AAFES shoppers upset when laptop price really is too good to be true,” Dec. 23) is an example of either AAFES or Dell, whoever is responsible, deciding that the law does not apply to them. They made an offer on the AAFES website, people accepted that offer — and here is the legal stumbling block: The offeror took possession of the acceptor’s property (i.e., charged their credit or debit cards). Under the law as taught by the U.S. Army’s contracting school at Fort Lee, those facts constitute a legally binding contract. Yet the company is refusing to honor its contract.

Now was the offer a mistake? Who really knows? But that really is not the issue. The company made the offer, and the fact they have decided to cut their costs by using an automated system to accept offers and take people’s property in response to those offers is their problem, and possibly they should rethink their position as to automated systems.

However, that problem is not that of the people who turned over their money in good faith. I suspect if I refused to honor a legally binding contract in that manner, I would find myself held in front of a judge on a theft-by-taking charge. Ah, but there is the rub: How do you arrest a corporation?

It used to be in the United States that an individual’s (and a company is a legal individual) word was his bond, but those days are, sad to say, long gone. The new mantra is if I have more money than you then your word is your bond, but mine isn’t because I can buy the law. I am a wealthy company and you have no rights, my lowly customer. I remember the court fights over monopolies but that is long past, too. A shame, but my money is on the fact that neither Dell nor AAFES will honor their contracts, and the lowly customer will get shortchanged again.

My, but it does make a person wish Ralph Nader was younger.

William Gasaway

Landstuhl, Germany


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