Macy’s, Sears And Other Retailers Sued For Phony Markdowns

If you've ever looked at an "original list price" and wondered if it was accurate, you're not alone.

Have you ever seen a big markdown in a store and wondered if the “original list price” was really the original price?

Maybe you got suspicious because it seemed the item was always at the markdown price? You are not alone.

California’s Los Angeles City Attorney has just filed suit against Macy’s, Kohl’s, JC Penney and Sears, accusing the department stores of what is officially known as “false reference pricing.” 

Consumers call it something else: “phony markdowns.”

Macy’s Complaint

The lawsuit against Macy’s claims that among other items, Macy’s was advertising a sterling silver cross pendant necklace at a sale price of $30, marked down from $120.

But the suit claims the necklace was always $30.

Sears Complaint

At Sears, the suit claims a Kenmore front loader washing machine advertised at $999 was always $999, and never sold for the “original” price of $1,179.

Kohl’s Complaint

At Kohl’s, the suit claims the store was selling cargo shorts for $35, “originally $60.”  But investigators say the shorts were never offered online for more than $35.

JCPenney Complaint

The suit against Penney’s claims JCP offered a swim suit for $31, “originally $46.” It was later marked down to $21. But investigators say the suit never sold for more than $31.

Those are just some of the hundreds of items that investigators found with questionable list prices.

Macy’s and Kohl’s are already facing class-action lawsuits from consumers over the same issue, but this is the first time a city has pressed charges against them over this.

Los Angeles is asking for a civil penalty of $2,500 for each violation. The stores are not commenting on the cases, citing pending litigation, according to the L.A. Daily News

What you can do

When shopping, don’t make your decision based on the so-called “original price,” “suggested price,”  “reference price,” or the most questionable of them all: “compare-at price.” 

Compared to what?

If you think $39 is a good deal, buy it. But don’t buy it because the retailer says it was originally $60 or $70.

That way you don’t waste your money.

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“Don’t Waste Your Money” is a registered trademark of Scripps Media, Inc. (“Scripps”). The information included in this article was obtained independently by Scripps reporters.  While purchases from links inserted in this article may result in a commission for Scripps, no Scripps reporter benefited from that commission.

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