Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Is the Customer Always Right? Not At JC Penney Today!

I do lots of shopping at JC Penney and especially love their clearance sales. In the past few weeks, I've been buying lots of clothing for hubby's family in Guatemala. Today was no different...or was it?

One area I like to focus on is the Women's formal party dresses. His sisters love those type of dresses and if I can get them on markdown cheap enough they can get some lovely dresses for a fraction of the price. Knowing how their sales work (I used to work for JCP way back in the day after high school) I know that their final clearance prices always end in .97 (for example $1.97, $4.97, etc...)

A few weeks ago, they had a few of these formal dresses priced at $70 regular, then marked down accordingly, 60%, 70% and even 80% off. I usually check weekly, and when they hit $4.97 I snatch them up. Within the last month or two, I've gotten about 8 dresses using this method-a great deal for a bargain hunter like myself and also great for my sisters-in-law. Plus, the store is clearing its inventory, so all is good.

Today I happened to stop by JC Penney and noticed the dresses. Most were marked down to 70% or 80% off, however there was one that was clearly marked $4.97 with the code 4/20 (which probably was the date it was marked down). I had purchased a dress with that price and date about a week or so ago no problem, so I took this white size 14 formal dress to the women's register and was waited on by an associate that had rung me up several times over the past weeks, and knows I usually buy the clearance merchandise.

This time, she tried to ring it up and told me that it was not correctly priced. I told her the item was clearly marked at $4.97. She said (with another associate chiming in as well) that it was new merchandise and was on sale for $50.00, not $4.97. She then began peeling the $4.97 sticker off quickly when I told her I did not want it for that price. Obviously someone had made an error in the pricing,she said. She specifically said that the system is always right and it was NOT on sale at that price. Um, what happened to the customer is always right? The associate in back of her said that there was a woman they were watching (and she made it clear to emphasize that it was not ME) that is known for switching the price tags. This tag was attached with one of their little guns that go right through the material, and the markdown sticker did not appear to be tampered with at all. My guess... someone screwed up on the markdown OR the system was not updated.

It's funny, because I went to Kohl's this past Monday as well. Hubby happened to find a formal suit jacket he loved. It was marked $66.00 on clearance. We'd been watching it for a few weeks, hoping that it would eventually go down. Finally, after accumulating $30 in Kohl's Cash and an additional 30% off it would have been pretty cheap. When it rang up, it rang up as $88.00. Immediately we brought it to the clerk's attention. She checked the price tag over, apologized, and told us it probably was the system that was incorrect. And gave it to us at the $66.00 price no problem. WHY JCP didn't do that is beyond me.

I certainly did not feel like a valued customer, and I even told the associate I was pretty humiliated by the whole thing, because I honestly thought the price tag was correct. I understand mistakes can happen-perhaps I should have asked them to call a manager, but the clerk was peeling off the sticker so quickly I really didn't have a chance to state my case. There was some discussion by the other associate that if it was last year's merchandise, which it was NOT, then it might have been marked that price. I told her that's what I thought it was-she mentioned it was still a pretty dress... but-as I stated when leaving-it wouldn't have fit me anyways.

It's really sad, but I think I will be shopping Kohl's more often now. JC Penney is in my home town, and I have to travel to get to Kohl's but I really felt humiliated by the whole scene. Maybe I shouldn't have taken it so badly, I tried to be upbeat and polite-and not throw a fit. I just feel as though if it was their error price wise, it should have been given to me at the price marked. And I just can't believe how the "system" can always be right. Everyone I know has had something that they've purchased that for some reason didn't ring up at the correct price... because the system was wrong. It's a human error, just as marking something the incorrect price is a human error. But most companies let the customer have it at the price marked-and make any adjustments after the error has been brought to their attention. I do not condone price tag switching in any form, as I consider it theft.

Granted, this was only one dress. And I know the others will be marked down eventually. But now, I won't go there. I will head to Kohl's or Deb Shops, or somewhere where I feel I am valued as a customer. Not treated like I am the one that made the mistake. So JC Penney, you've lost a customer. I know I probably won't be missed, but if this is how others are treated as well, those dollars DO add up. When I worked the Catalog Department years ago, and we had the wedding dresses come back (obviously used with wine and lipstick stains-even ALTERED) and the satin sheets purchased by a certain male customer every week (and returned the next week, USED and with stains from God knows what) I had to take them back-and refund their money. The customer was always right. It appears store policy changed... (and in the cases above, for a GOOD reason!)but maybe next time you should post a sign by the registers stating "Our System is Always Right-Thus, If Your Purchased Item Rings Up Differently Than Marked, You WILL Be Charged The Price As Reflected On Our System-Take It or Leave It."


Emma said...

I recently had a similiar experience with a happy ending at Fashion Bug in Augusta. I found a clearance dress for $1.99! When I went to pay for it, I was told that it should have been marked down to $19.99, but they would honor the marked price. Now, that's good customer service!

Michele P. said...

glad your ending was better than mine, Emma. I wish JCP had offered me the same solution, especially since I shop so much there. thanks for your comment :)