Most advertisements, price quotations, and invitations to bid are not construed as offers. A notice in the newspaper that a bicycle is on sale for $800 is normally intended only as an invitation to the public to come to the store to make a purchase. Similarly, a statement that a seller can “quote” a unit price to a prospective purchaser is not, by itself, of sufficient definiteness to constitute an offer; quantity, time of delivery, and other important factors are missing from such a statement. Frequently, in order to avoid construction of a statement about price and quantity as an offer, a seller or buyer may say, “Make me an offer.” Such a statement obviously suggests that no offer has yet been made. This principle usually applies to invitations for bids (e.g., from contractors on a building project). Many forms used by sales representatives as contracts indicate that by signing, the customer is making an offer to be accepted by the home office and is not accepting an offer made by the sales representative.
Although advertisements, price quotations, and the like are generally not offers, the facts in each case are important. Under the proper circumstances, an advertised statement can be construed as an offer, as shown in the well-known Lefkowitzcase (Advertisements as Offers ), in which the offended customer acted as his own lawyer and pursued an appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court against a Minneapolis department store that took back its advertised offer.
Despite the common-law rule that advertisements are normally to be considered invitations rather than offers, legislation and government regulations may offer redress. For many years, retail food stores have been subject to a rule, promulgated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), that goods advertised as “specials” must be available and must be sold at the price advertised. It is unlawful for a retail chain not to have an advertised item in each of its stores and in sufficient quantity, unless the advertisement specifically states how much is stocked and which branch stores do not carry it. Many states have enacted consumer protection statutes that parallel the FTC rule.