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Kohl’s sued: allegedly jacking prices up before cutting them

The 9th circuit court of appeals has ruled that a shopper has grounds to sue Kohl’s for allegations of deceptive pricing for marking prices up so a price reduction looks more dramatic than it is. The outcome of this case could have a widespread impact on retail.

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Alleging deceptive pricing practices

One of the most gratifying aspects of shopping is going into one of your favorite stores and seeing that an item is one sale for a significantly lower price than it is normally sold at. The art of the sales discount has been shoppers’ siren song for decades, even though many know that the original advertised price has been marked up in order to make shoppers feel that the discount is a great deal.

However, a shopper in California is seeking legal recourse against Kohl’s for what he alleges is deceptive price representation. The case was dismissed in 2010 by the U.S. District Court, but the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision last week.

“Price advertisements matter,” Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote for a three-judge panel. “When a consumer purchases merchandise on the basis of false price information and when the consumer alleges that he would not have made the purchase but for the misrepresentation, he has standing to sue.”

Marking items up so discounts are void

The shopper, Antonio S. Hinojos, argued that Kohl’s advertised 50 percent off of its originally priced $299 Samsonite luggage, and discounts on Chap polo shirts were misleading because the sales price came out to be what these items would normally sell for. By substantially marking up items in order to then slash prices through discounts, it can be argued that retailers deceive consumers on the original value and quality of the items being sold.

To provide an example, if consumers think they are receiving a deal because of a discount, buy those items and then try to sell them for the original price, they would find that they would not recoup that original sticker value because it was highly marked up, thereby losing money.

If the court ultimately decides against Kohl’s and implements these restrictions for other retailers as well, it will dramatically change the way that stores conduct sales. Perhaps at that point, more stores will have to implement JC Penney’s recent experiment of doing away with sales and regularly offering lower prices overall. Shoppers have been trained to chase markdowns, but now, they may have to get used to less drastic price slashes.

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Destiny Bennett is a journalist who has earned double communications' degrees in Journalism and Public Relations, as well as a certification in Business from The University of Texas at Austin. She has written stories for AustinWoman Magazine as well as various University of Texas publications and enjoys the art of telling a story. Her interests include finance, technology, social media...and watching HGTV religiously.

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Business News

How to handle an acquisition like a boss

(BUSINESS NEWS) One way to grow your company is to be acquired. Here are some tips on how to not blow an acquisition.

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Acquisition

One way that a small business can become a big business is by being acquired. Maybe your business plan has always been to sell, or maybe it has never occurred to you.

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But if you find yourself being wooed by a potential suitor interested in buying your business, John Warrillow at Forbes.com has some advice to make sure you don’t blow it.

No harm, no foul

He says that, whether or not you are ready to sell your business, there is no harm in meeting with a potential buyer. Even if you don’t think you’d like to sell at the moment, the meeting could be useful for gaining “competitive intelligence” that could help you negotiate later.
For the most part there’s not much too lose and much to gain from meeting with a potential buyer, but Warrillow does warn against a few rookie mistakes.

First of all, he says, like a teen hoping for a second date, it’s important not to appear too “eager.”

Even if you’re desperate to hand over the business, play it cool, and insist that your company is not for sale, but that you are willing to meet for “a strategic discussion.”

Strategery

During said discussion, “let them do 95 percent of the talking.” Warrillow suggests writing out and rehearsing a list of questions so that you can control the conversation and get more information out of your suitor than they get out of you.

Part of holding your cards close to your chest includes refusing to name a price.

No matter how much they insist, hold true to your claim that the business is not for sale, and don’t give them even an estimate of the price range you’re looking for. Wait for them to name a number first, in a formal expression of interest.

Once you’ve received the expression of interest, hire an intermediary broker to help you with the deal. And whatever you do, don’t sign a Letter of Intent that prevents you from shopping around for other competitive offers.

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So you were asked an illegal question in an interview, now what?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Interviews are nerve racking enough without having to wonder if your potential employer is playing by the rules. Be aware of these tips in case you find they aren’t.

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Under pressure

Interviews are universally nerve-wracking. You’ve got the resume, the references, the outfit – but you never know what your interviewer(s) are going to throw at you.

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You expect questions relating to your skills and your ability to do the job, but sometimes a question comes out of left field and you’ve got to scramble for a coherent answer.

Interview questions

“If you were a pizza delivery man, how would you benefit from scissors,” asks Apple. And Gallup wants to know, “What was the last gift you gave someone?”

Well, when I ordered a pizza last night, I tipped the delivery person with scissors . . .

Unfortunately, some questions that seem just wacky, or harmless and friendly, are not just inappropriate to ask in an interview, but are actually illegal.

Illegal questions are generally those that request information irrelevant to the job description. Here are the most common categories of illegal questions, shared across all states:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Sex/Gender/Orientation
  • Military discharge
  • Religion
  • National origin
  • Birthplace
  • Age
  • Disability/Health status
  • Marital/family status

Watch out for tricks

Any of this personal information could be used, intentionally or not, to discriminate against them. A direct inquiry regarding any of these topics is obviously off-limits, but sometimes the question might come from a tricky angle.

“When did you graduate college?” = “How old are you?”

With this information, employers could decide you’re too young or old for the role, no matter how qualified you may be.

“Orizaga is an interesting surname – is it Spanish?” = “Are you Spanish?” A biased interviewer could use this information to determine that you are or aren’t a “good fit.” Similarly, “Is English your native language?” = “Are you from an English-speaking country or not?”

“Is that your maiden name?” = “Are you married?” And so on.

These questions are often asked innocently, by untrained interviewers looking to make conversation. Nonetheless, you don’t have to answer them, and your best bet is to tactfully avoid the question without demanding your constitutional rights in the middle of the interview.

Handle the heat

Tone is everything, but if you respond to an illegal question with something along the lines of, “Is that relevant to this role?” in a calm, mild voice, most interviewers will take the hint and move on.

If the situation allows for it, you can keep your answer nice and vague without avoiding the question.

For example, if you’re asked about your college graduation date, you could say, “It’s been a while, but I still view college as one of the best experiences of my life.”

Asking isn’t the most illegal part

It’s important to note that asking an illegal question is not equivalent to committing a crime. The information must be used in a discriminatory manner, as determined by a court.

If you believe that an act of discrimination has been committed, you should contact a labor attorney, or file a charge with your local Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) office. Then order yourself a pizza and ask the delivery person about their scissors.

#Interview

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The 7 communication hurdles stifling your company’s efficiency

(BUSINESS NEWS) Whether communication is too little or too much, or delivered poorly, every company has room for improvement.

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One of the biggest sources of inefficiency in your company is going to be communication. It underlies almost every productive action within your business, whether it’s conveying instructions to a subordinate or disclosing your results to a client or investor; accordingly, even a small inefficiency in your lines of communication can result in a major loss of time/money.

Fortunately, knowing the key hurdles to effective communication—and learning to overcome them—can help you smooth out these problem areas and build a more efficient business.

How Communication Affects Your Efficiency

Ultimately, your business’s efficiency is impacted in three key ways:

  1. Message accuracy. If you convey the wrong information, or the right information in a confusing way, it can lead to errors and misunderstandings.
  2. Time consumption. Every message you send and receive is going to cost time from both the sender and recipient. If that time is excessive, it could result in waste.
  3. Cost. You also need to consider what you’re paying for your communication solutions, and whether each solution is worth it.

The Biggest Hurdles

These effects tend to manifest in response to these seven major hurdles:

1. Obsolete or unreliable tech. If you’re trying to save money by relying on old devices, or platforms that haven’t been upgraded in years, it could have a substantial negative impact on how you communicate. You might experience delays when making phone calls, missed messages in your chat logs, or a serious lack of mobility. Thankfully, making upgrades can make most of these problems go away. For example, investing in newer devices can dramatically improve your connection speeds and mobility, and switching VOIP providers can be a relatively easy transition to prevent delays and hiccups from interfering with your phone calls.

2. A lack of clear communication standards. How are your managers expected to relay instructions to subordinates? How are your subordinates expected to communicate progress to managers? How are your meeting recap emails supposed to be structured? If you aren’t sure of these answers, it’s a sign that you don’t have clear communication standards within your business. Formally documenting these expectations can keep communication clear and consistent for all your employees, in virtually all areas.

3. Inefficient modes of communication. If your employees aren’t using communication mediums correctly, it can also lead to problems. For example, if they frequently call meetings that could have been communicated in the span of a single email, it could waste hours of company time. If they use email instead of having a conversation over the phone, it could lead to confusion and unanswered questions. Each type of communication requires a different approach.

4. Departmental silos. Another major problem is departmental silos, which can make communication more difficult or nonexistent between two groups of people within the company. These silos tend to develop when different departments have different standards and expectations for communication, and when those departments rarely intermingle. You can correct this by integrating your departments more frequently, and getting everyone on the same standards for communication.

5. Unstructured meetings. Meetings are a major source of time waste in companies, since they involve many people at the same time, and often recur on a consistent basis. All your meetings should have a designated leader to keep the meeting on track, a specific intention or goal, and a time restriction to keep things tight and concise.

6. Poor listening. Listening is a vital skill for effective communication — and we aren’t doing enough of it. Too often in business environments, participants in a meeting or conversation are more focused on talking than listening, but listening is more effective for understanding and collaboration. To develop better listening skills, avoid distractions (like checking your smartphone during a conversation), allow time for the other person to speak, and use active listening tactics, like rephrasing what you’re hearing.

7. Overload. Too much communication can be a bad thing. If your employees are sending emails back and forth constantly, or if you’re paying for so many communication apps that you can’t keep track of them, it’s only going to result in confusion. In many ways, fewer, more concise messages are superior modes of communication than message bombardment—and you’ll pay less if you have fewer apps to worry about.

If you can overcome these seven significant communication hurdles, you can make your business far more efficient. While some of these changes may take a few weeks to settle in, others may grant you a positive change immediately — so inspect your company’s internal and external communication, and work hard to make things as streamlined as possible.

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