Man buys $14,000 Cartier earrings for $14 after company posts price error on website

MEXICO CITY — Fine jewelry maker Cartier isn't known for donating items, but in the case of one Mexican man, it pretty much did.

Rogelio Villarreal was browsing Cartier's web page in an idle moment when he received an offer that seemed too good to be true. “I broke out in a cold sweat,” he wrote. On his account in Xformerly known as Twitter.

It appears that Cartier made a mistake and listed the gold and diamond earrings at 237 pesos ($14), instead of the correct price, which is 237,000 pesos ($14,000). Villarreal asked for two sets.

What followed were months of hesitation, during which he said Cartier offered him a consolation prize instead of jewelry, during which Mexican officials supported his position that the company should honor the advertised price.

Villarreal finally got the earrings last week, at the price he was offered, and posted a video online of himself unboxing them. But he quickly tired of the public attention — finding that not all that glitters is gold — and posted on Monday, “Okay, talk about something else, I'm tired of earrings being the only thing anyone knows about my personality.”

Villarreal's case has become controversial on the Internet during a particularly polarizing period in Mexico ahead of the presidential elections scheduled for June 2.

Some observers criticized Villarreal for exploiting what they saw as an honest mistake by the fine jewelry company. Some claimed he should return the earrings or pay taxes on them. Some described him as a thief.

Villarreal, a doctor doing his medical residency, said he had to fight for months for the company to actually deliver, and claimed they offered to send him a bottle of champagne instead.

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The company did not respond to requests for comment.

Villarreal wrote on his social media accounts: “I have the worst luck in the world and I have not made any money at all, and what I have is that I bought it.” But now he was able to buy two sets of earrings worth $14,000 for just $28.

He says he gave one of them to his mother.

“It feels great and it's great to not be the underdog for once in my life,” Villarreal wrote.

Jesús Montaño, a spokesman for Mexico's consumer protection agency, known as Profico, confirmed Villarreal's account of his ordeal.

“He filed a complaint in December,” Montaño said. “There is a conciliation hearing scheduled for May 3, but the consumer has already received his purchase.”

In response to a question about the ethics of the whole thing, Montaño said that companies “must respect the declared price.” If there is an error, “it is not the consumer’s fault.”

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