J.C. Penney Worker Claims He Was Fired for Exposing ‘Fake’ Sale Prices

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That $10 shirt you bought for half off at J.C. Penney may not be the bargain you thought it was.

Bob Blatchford, who worked at a Penney’s in Florida, alleges that the department store was boosting the original prices of items and then marking the prices down, misleading customers into thinking they were receiving huge discounts.

Blatchford told Today:

“I saw a lot of pricing teams going through the store, raising the prices, mostly doubling — towels and clothing. Then they would go on sale, and they wouldn’t always go on sale for 50 percent off,” Blatchford said.

“So it was — not only was it a fake sale, but they were actually paying more than they would have been previously.”

Blatchford claims he was fired two days after the story first aired. And when he filed for unemployment benefits, Penney contested his claim, Blatchford told The Huffington Post. Now he says Penney has filed an arbitration petition, demanding that Blatchford return any company documents he may have in his possession.

HuffPo said Penney “characterized Blatchford’s revelations on NBC that the company drastically hiked prices and then slashed them in order to tout a ‘sale’ as ‘trade secret, proprietary and confidential business information.'”

Is this type of retail pricing strategy a surprise to shoppers? Maybe not. HuffPo says:

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 successor reinstated old pricing strategies, it was a largely unconfirmed open secret.

J.C. Penney Co. fired CEO Ron Johnson about a year ago after a devastating attempt by Johnson to change the retailer’s sales strategy by getting rid of all sales and coupons. As a result, sales nosedived by $4.3 billion in just one year.

After ousting Johnson, Penney reinstated former CEO Mike Ullman, as well as its tried-and-true sales and coupon strategy. But some customers and people like Blatchford are now questioning the retailer’s pricing tactics.

Dorothy Crenshaw, CEO of Crenshaw Communications, was quoted by HuffPo:

“I’m sure they don’t want people to be talking about it,” Crenshaw said. “It is very likely how many stores operate, but this is much more of a drumbeat around a particular store, at a time that they least need it. They’d love for this whole thing to go away.”

Things may be looking up for the 112-year-old retailer. Penney said it’s now on track for its first profitable quarter since early 2011, USA Today said.

Have you ever felt duped by a store’s so-called sales prices? Share your experiences below or on our Facebook page.

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Comments & discussion

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  • suz

    My daughter worked at JCP before Ron Johnson’s tenure, through his attempt at rebranding and through his firing. She was very impressed with the changes he made and bought JCP stock because she agreed with his philosophy. When he was fired, teams went through the store marking everything up. Some items went up 300%. The value in employees’ discounts was entirely eliminated. The prices to the public went up, even including discounts, sales and coupons. Our family learned a huge lesson from our first-hand exposure to department store pricing. It is not unique to JCP. I don’t see how the increase in pricing can be considered a “trade secret” since every JCP employee at the time witnessed the change-back.

  • ModernMode

    Customers abandoned JCP in droves when it went to fair pricing. The cusomers want fake sales, no, they demand fake sales. Fake sales are back and sales are going back up. People are crazy but the “customer is always right” applies.

  • W.C.

    I am a skeptical of J.C. Penny’s pricing to this very day. I still think the “original price” on sale items is very much inflated, especially their clothing. No wonder J.C. Penny isn’t doing that well. They are a rip-off game. You see a 60 dollar shirt and get 40-50% off? Yeah, right!!! Those shirts are made for pennies on the dollar in some third world country. The workmanship is cheap as is the material. Penny’s gets them for pennies and sells them for the price of designer clothing!! (My mom and aunt both spent many years working in a garment plant and can tell quality workmanship and material when they see it. They also know cheap when they see it. No brand of clothing has the quality and durability of what it was in years gone by. It’s pretty much all made in sweat-shops overseas where wages are a joke and work conditions are deplorable. Yet we pay a premium price for what is mostly a cheap, inferior product; and that’s not unique to J.C. Penny’s.

  • Trueblue711

    It’s probably the same deal with Macy’s, Kohls, and many other department stores. Look around next time you’re in one. Notice the “SALE” signs on nearly every single item? How could everything be on sale all the time for 30, 40, 60% off?