Wednesday, March 19, 2014

J.C. Penny worker fired for telling truth about "fake" prices

Oh my.  This is just a scandalous Huffington Post story:
J.C. Penney is going to war against a former employee who outed the department store for its questionable discounting practices.
The department store was drastically hiking prices on items, cutting them back and then advertising huge "discounts," the former employee, Bob Blatchford, told the Today show last July. In one case, a "rack of $7 shorts became $14, and then they were 50 percent off," a separate J.C. Penney worker told the Today show.
"I saw a lot of pricing teams going through the store, raising the prices, mostly doubling -- towels and clothing," Blatchford told NBC's Jeff Rossen. "Then they would go on sale, and they wouldn't always go on sale for 50 percent off. Not only was it a fake sale, but they were actually paying more than they would have been previously."
Ominously, Blatchford told Today, "I don't think Penney's will survive if they keep doing this."
Now it's Blatchford who is fighting for survival. Two days after his appearance on the Today show, he was fired from J.C. Penney in St. Petersburg, Fla., where he was a custom decorating studio coordinator. When he filed for unemployment benefits, J.C. Penney contested his claim, he said. J.C. Penney also recently filed an arbitration petition to get Blatchford to give back any company documents that he might have. But Blatchford thinks the arbitration is really just an attempt to discourage him from speaking out about the company.
J.C. Penney declined to comment on Blatchford's situation or its pricing strategy.
The fight between Blatchford and J.C. Penney belies an open retail secret: Discounts, sale prices and big promotions are largely a game of smoke and mirrors. But until J.C. Penney ousted its CEO last year and his predecessor reinstated old pricing strategies, it was a largely unconfirmed open secret.
Strangely enough, I'm not surprised at this J.C. Penny sales tactic. Walk through any retail store over a long period of time, and you'll discover what the basic prices are on merchandise.  It doesn't matter what the merchandise is--clothes, computers, electronics, books, music, cars, appliances, jewelry, groceries.  In addition, there is a wealth of pricing research on the internet for everything.  Retailers have been playing this "sales" game for decades, trying to lure shoppers into stores with sales and discounts, but not dropping prices low enough on merchandise, or only dropping prices on a few items to tease shoppers into the stores.  Or the sales prices were reduced only a few percentage points below the regular retail price, but not enough to make the sale as a "deal" for shoppers..  All the retailers play this game--they want to manipulate customers into thinking they're getting a great deal.

The issue here is that J.C. Penny got embarrassed for engaging in this open secret, and now the company is going after Bob Blatchford in revenge for confirming this retail open secret.  If J.C. Penny is performing this smoke-and-mirrors sales game in their stores, what other retailers are also performing this game?  

Nothing new here, except that J.C. Penny's got caught with their pants down.

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