J.C. Penney workers say sale come-ons are bogus

One former and one current employee report that goods get marked up before getting marked down with promotional prices.

By Jonathan Berr Jul 25, 2013 2:40PM
Shoppers at a J.C. Penney store in New York, NY on October 23, 2009 (© Mark Lennihan/AP)J.C. Penney (JCP) recently sold a pair of shorts for $7, advertised as 50% off their regular price. This may not be as great of a deal as it seems.

According to NBC's Today show, a Penney employee in Virginia named Gena Stone was asked to mark up the garments before they went on sale, something she was uncomfortable doing, to make it appear to consumers that they were getting a bargain. Stone has since quit her job with the retailer.

"Today" also quoted current Penney employee Bob Blatchford regarding the practice of marking up goods before marking them down for sales. When asked why he would jeopardize his job by coming forward with such information, he replied: "Because I thought it was wrong and I thought the public had a right to know. . . . And I don't think Penney's will survive if they keep doing this."

Consumers may not realize this is a common tactic among retailers, because shoppers can't pass up a good "deal" -- even if it may be one only in name, according to independent retail analyst Stacey Widlitz.

"Value is in the eyes of the consumer," she said in an email to MSN Money. "And that comes in the form of ANY sale sign."

Penney was also in the news earlier this year for faking sales. But the retailer insists it isn't doing anything wrong, telling "Today" that the goods that went on sale were sold at their higher price for a "reasonable period of time." The statement wasn't any more specific.

Ironically, former Penney CEO Ron Johnson had vowed to do away with "marketing gimmicks" and instituted what he called "fair and square pricing." Customers, though, found the strategy confusing, and the retailer eventually went back to having sales. Johnson, who made his mark running Apple's (AAPL) retail stores, was subsequently fired.

Jonathan Berr does not own shares of the listed stocks. Follow him on Twitter @jdberr.

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Jul 25, 2013 3:24PM
Have you ever purchased anything not on sale at Kohl's?  No, you haven't.
Jul 25, 2013 3:05PM
This article is brought to you by DUH!!!
Jul 25, 2013 3:15PM

ALL STORES DO THIS!!   They had everything marked down to give the public the sale price all the time and they didn't like it. So now they have to go back to the way it was(no one had a problem with it back then) so they could offer the "sales" that everyone wanted and you don't like that either. So just what is a store suppose to do to satisfy ya'll. JC Penney is trying real hard to please everyone but you know the saying," you can't please everyone..." JC Penney is no different than say Kohl's or Macy's. They just didn't try something different. Come on now give them a chance to get back to normal like every other store who marks stuff up for sales.

Jul 25, 2013 3:16PM
oh wow!!! who knew!!! good thing those employees came forward and enlightened us!
Umm... a store that doesn't do this would be hard to find.
Jul 25, 2013 4:09PM
They went from the coupon on sale , to the everyday low price, which people hated and wanted sale prices and coupons back, even firing the CEO..........and back to the coupon on sale deal, and still people bitch.........what the hell, should they just give it away? Nothing makes people happy.
Jul 25, 2013 3:12PM
I buy my clothing form Penney's and everything is still together after 4 years. Everyday price $9.99 now $10.99. Penney's doesn't charge more for plus sizes like Wal-mart & Target. Buy a polo shirt from  either one and see how long it will stay together or fades. Remember if you're a XXL or bigger you will have to pay $2.00 per item, then go to Penney's and most can see the higher quality on the shelves. As for the mark up, most stores will raise prices 10 to 25 percent so they can have a sale of 30% OFF SALE especially electronic items that are discontinued or refurbished.
Jul 25, 2013 3:22PM
I would say most of your retailers do this...
Jul 25, 2013 5:22PM
I don't usually weigh in on stuff like this but I'm annoyed people are making a big stink about this in the first place. JCP , JCpenneys whatever they chose to call themselves are still offering good products with reasonable prices! They can't just give the clothes away.  And why aren't places like Abercrombie, who jack up their prices to ridiculousness and discriminate against any body type that has a BMI of 18 or below, getting more static.  it's really simple to me if you like the product and you can afford it Buy It. If not then don't.  Why must we spend our lives dissecting and over analyzing everything.  I feel better after that tiny rant thank you for your time I'm done.
Jul 25, 2013 3:39PM
ALL stores do this!  Excuse me, but what do you think grocery stores do every week.  In one month, the refrigerated Tropicana orange juice container would be $3.00, $1.99, $2.50, then back down to $1.99.  Their prices are never the same.  How do you think the stores make money?  They don't think we keep track of what prices are so maybe we'll buy them at the lower price, maybe we'll buy them at the higher.  It's called strategic marketing.
Jul 25, 2013 3:49PM
Msn is getting to be very pointless.  Regurgitate crap is all they do now.  When my girlfriend comes home and says "look, I saved 57$."  I say "you didn't save shite, you spent 245." 
Jul 25, 2013 5:17PM

Since this practice started with the invention of "the store", it seems that our trusty media is now simply on a witch hunt to burn JC Penney. Perhaps the writer (or their editor) of this "story" didn't stop to consider that shoppers actually know what they like and want, do comparison shopping and know what their preferred brands generally cost. In this example, Penney's often compares quite well.

Jul 25, 2013 3:55PM
Like most people are posting, this is not news. People see the word SALE, CLEARANCE and their little minds are like dogs who sees a squirrel. This has been going ever since retail stores were born. They are doing nothing new. (Include bait and switch antics among so much more because people are STUPID) Even as a kid working retail I caught onto that right away as I grew in upper levels of upper management all the tricks that are played makes David Copperfield look like an amateur.  (Not limited to retail stores add  travel /  hospitality, services, banking, list goes on and on so why is are people surprised by the normal?) Next Zzzzzzzz.
Jul 25, 2013 4:47PM
If you are getting a pair of shorts for $7, it is a bargain, not matter what the specifics of the sale are.
Jul 25, 2013 4:45PM
The consumer didn't want "everyday fair pricing", complained and complained, now they are complaining that the prices are being marked up.  #1, the merchandise is still coming from distribution with the old "everyday" price, and they are being marked up so the consumer can have their precious coupons......gimmee a break.  You can't have it both ways, and finally the consumer is realizing the fair pricing was just that...fair.  As to these 2 employees, sounds like they have no clue what's going on.  How do I know....because I am a JCPenney's employee and I do pricing as my job.
Jul 25, 2013 3:16PM

The garments  that we purchase are not the quality of past years. These large companies

employ people overseas to make these items and pay them disgustingly, low wages.

The markup on retail items is outrageous. No one should buy at full price because the

quality is not there.  I personally wait until the sales are at least 50% because  these companies

are still making the big bucks.

Jul 25, 2013 4:26PM

Echoing others, this is done by many stores. But like the article says they tried to streamline the process and I believe that there were even articles stating that customers would actually save more with JCP new option but it didn't matter. No "sales" made people think they weren't getting a good deal and it didn't work. So now they go back to the old way and sudden it isn't good either. What the hell do you people want? They tried and you didn't like it and wanted the old way back, now its back and people are complaining about that. I don't care as I don't go to JCP much but honestly what was wrong with the new plan? How was it confusing? To me when I've been in the store the current pricing and random sales model seems to be more confusing.

JCP has made some mistakes of their own doing but here I feel sorry for them. There is a fine line to walk with this strategy but some people just can't seem to be happy.

I think its time

Jul 25, 2013 3:02PM
To be ignorant of corrupt marketing today is to live your life getting cheated on. Any idiot can season the floor planning for big anything and always buy at the lowest price. Every initiative is designed to attract a stooge, but retail sales suggest fewer consumer stooges, more administrative losers working in the Home Offices. Penney's is growing desperate but Sears will beat them to the has-been crypt for outdated enterprises.  
Jul 26, 2013 10:16AM
$7 for pair of shorts is, indeed, a good deal.  Who cares how it got there.  I think it's time to back off JCP now and let them regroup.
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