Posted by: coastcontact | December 9, 2016

Buyer Beware

Caveat emptor is a Latin term that means “let the buyer beware.”

I was in a J.C. Penny store just few days ago buying two shirts and pair of pajamas.  The items were all on counters that informed me they were on sale.  When I took the items to the check-out counter I was given another 5% discount.  That of course made the purchase an even better deal.  There were sale signs everywhere.  Almost everything in that store seemed to be on sale.

A strategic mistake made in 2011 at JC Penney, regarding its pricing strategy –replacement of sales through coupons with everyday low prices. The Ron Johnson plan was implemented when he took the helm of the company, modeling the company’s stores after those of Apple.  Sales declined disastrously during his tenure.  People like to buy things that are “on sale.”

Here in metropolitan Los Angeles there are at least 20 Macy’s department stores.  Advertising is almost daily in the newspapers.  There is always a sale.  30% off, 40% off, 50% off along with One Day Sales are part of the usual pitch.  I have never believed any of the advertising.  My wife and daughter do believe the advertising.  They are probably part of the larger group than doubters like me.

Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer apparently agreed with my suspicions.  Feuer’s office has filed lawsuits against four big retailers for deceptive advertising that allegedly misled shoppers into believing that thousands of products were on sale at a hefty discount.

The attorney’s office provided examples of misleading ads by Macy’s, Sears, J.C. Penny and Kohl’s.  One example is the April, 2016, Sears online ad for Kenmore washing machine with a “regular” price of $1,179.99 and a “sale” price of $999.99. However, the purported “regular” price was a false reference price.  The argument is that the washer was never advertised at the regular price.

California law bans retailers from advertising a higher original price unless a product was actually available at that price within three months of the ad running. Feuer said the evidence his office collected focused on thousands of online transactions, but that he had reason to believe the practices also were underway at stores.

Should there be such a California law?  After all shouldn’t the words “buyer beware” apply to the purchase of any item at any price?



  1. Good points-

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