The holidays are a time for generosity. But unless Michael Dell is trying to play the role of Santa Claus this year, even the holidays rarely see the type of generosity that appeared on the Dell website a day ago as users of started noticing significant pricing ‘errors’ on the Dell website.

These included pages of heavily-discounted prices on CPUs, namely dual and quad core Intel processors for under $20.

It didn’t take long for users to place their orders, and it only took a little bit longer for Dell to pull the prices. Needless to say, some unlucky Dell employees will experience reduced holiday cheer as they deal with the orders that aren’t going to be honored.

Some have suggested that the pricing errors are the work of disgruntled Dell employees. Dell just announced plans to lay off 700 workers in Malaysia, but that was a manufacturing plant so I think it’s premature to assume that the pricing and the layoffs are related. That said, the nature of the errant pricing is suspicious, although not all of the errors were generous (one hard drive was listed at $21,000). As I write this, Dell has yet to issue any statement about the cause.

Regardless of the cause, however, this situation isn’t pretty. If intentionally made, the pricing changes would highlight a severe breach of security protocol given how many products seem to have been affected. If actual errors, it would seem that Dell’s system has a serious flaw somewhere.

In either case, this came at the worst time of year for Dell, and not only is it embarrassing, it comes at a real cost as Dell employees will have to find, cancel and possibly refund orders that took advantage of the errant pricing.

That said, it’s the holiday season so I’m sure all will be forgiven and hopefully the real Santa will deliver some just-in-time deals of his own.

Photo credit: Matti Mattila via Flickr.