Everyday Low Prices? JCPenney Worker Says He Was Fired For Alerting The Media About Its ‘Fake’ Prices

March 21, 2014  |  

JCPenney is no stranger to accusations of practicing price trickery. The troubled retail company has fired a worker who spoke out against the price-fixing practice after he revealed it to the Today show last July.

“I saw a lot of pricing teams going through the store, raising the prices, mostly doubling — towels and clothing,” Bob 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.”

Another employee gave the following example of a “rack of $7 shorts became $14, and then they were 50 percent off.” JCPenney wasn’t too pleased about Blatchford’s media appearance and the company fired him two days later from his position in the St. Petersburg, FL, store as custom decorating studio coordinator. And when he sought unemployment benefits, JCPenney contested his claim and filed an arbitration petition to get Blatchford to return any company documents that he might possess.

According to Blatchford, it’s all part of an effort to pressure him not to speak out against the company. JCPenney isn’t the only retailer who uses this price switcheroo. Mark Elwood, author of Bargain Fever: How To Shop In A Discounted World, says it’s used to attract customers who love sales. “We are chemically programmed to respond to sales,” Elwood said.

This is not the first time JCPenney has gotten into trouble for messing with its prices. In 2012, then-CEO Ron Johnson pledged to eliminate “fake prices.” He also cut out coupons, much to the dislike of coupon-loving shoppers. As a result, sales dropped by an incredible $4.3 billion in the first year of Johnson’s so-called turnaround plan. Former CEO Mike Ullman returned in April 2013 and reinstated mass sales and coupons, but it triggered more scrutiny of the pricing standards, reports The Huffington Post.

Consumer groups started looking into the discounts and found major discrepancies. So much so Time announced JCPenney’s prices “faker than ever.” Consumers are fighting back. “JCPenney and department store competitor Kohl’s were each slapped with class-action lawsuits in 2013, claiming their sales tactics violated consumer protection guidelines in the state of California, which has specific rules to protect consumers from misleading deals,” reports HuffPo.

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