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Big retailers have been lying to you about “sales,” now they’re in trouble

(BUSINESS NEWS) Retailers have tried creative sales, and some methods have been the source of lawsuits, another of which is making national waves.

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Liar, liar, pants on fire

My mom loves to shop, but she’ll never pay full price. After a day of shopping, she loves to show off her purchases and brag about what a “deal” she got. She’ll say “these pants sell for $200 but I got them for $50 on sale, isn’t that amazing?” The bigger the difference between the original price and the discount, the better she feels about her bargain-hunting prowess.

Sorry to break it to you mom, but some of those deals are fake.


Big retailers in hot water

This week, the city of Los Angeles announced that they will file suit against retailers Sears, JCPenney, Kohl’s and Macy’s for misleading customers by posting false “original”, “regular”, or “list” prices on discounted items.

For example, Sears sold a washing machine for $999.99, claiming that this was a steep discount from the original price of $1179.99 The problem was, Sears never sold that washing machine for the original price. Lawyers call these fake price listings “false reference pricing,” and it’s actually illegal under California law, since it dupes customers into thinking they’re getting a better deal, or a higher value product, than they truly are.

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This isn’t the first time retailers have been in hot water for this misleading practice. Kohl’s endured a class action lawsuit in 2015, and shoppers in California and Florida have also taken Macy’s to court in the past.

Hoping for justice

According to LA City Attorney Mike Feuer, “Customers have the right to be told the truth about the prices they’re paying – and to know if a bargain is really a bargain.” He’d like to charge a $2,500 fee for every violation in order to “hold retailers responsible for their practices and to ensure consumers can make informed choices when spending their hard-earned money.”

Only time well tell whether or not Feuer will win his case, but it’s worth noting that, right or wrong, customers feel screwed over when companies seem dishonest about their pricing.

Businesses will want to avoid both lawsuits, and dissing your customers, by accurately pricing merchandise.

And absolutely do not list an “original price” on a sale item if you never actually sold it for that price.


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Ellen Vessels, a Staff Writer at The American Genius, is respected for their wide range of work, with a focus on generational marketing and business trends. Ellen is also a performance artist when not writing, and has a passion for sustainability, social justice, and the arts.

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