Why JCPenney’s New “Fair and Square” Price Policy Takes the Fun Out of Shopping

When I go shopping, I like to leave the store feeling as if I’ve just robbed them blind.

I arrive equipped with a stack of coupons, two forms of ID for a possible store credit card application, and a thirst for savings. Then I comb through the racks and don’t stop until I see red.

Red tags. Sales.

Sale stickers on a price tag are like the before and after photos of a Biggest Loser contestant. It’s all about contrast. A 180 pound woman never looks so skinny as when she’s placed side by side with her 280 pound former self. You need the sight of inflation for effect.

Which is why, if the sale sticker is covering the original price, I peel it off. How am I supposed to decide if I like a shirt unless I know its full retail value? Neon plaid isn’t really my thing, but if I’m saving over $50, I can make it my thing.

To cap off the entire endeavor, at the register, I slap down one of the 25% Off Entire Purchase coupons that arrive in the mail more often than Catholic charity donation solicitations.

But with JCPenney’s everyday low prices (which is 40% off 2011 full retail prices), I’m missing the satisfaction that comes with feeling as if I’ve legally ripped-off  a corporation. There is no radiating $18.99 sticker stuck haphazardly beside the perforated-edged $30. There is just the sullen, unembellished $18.99. Sure, my wallet doesn’t notice the difference, but the frugal part of my heart does.

Is the new policy fair? Yes. But the thrill is gone.

The most blatant difference in the shopping experience presented itself after I checked out at the register and walked down the aisle toward the parking lot. I pulled out the white ribbony receipt, my pulse quickening.

In the good old days, my eyes skimmed over all the items with their original prices and, just below it, their individual subtracted amounts, until finally landing on the grand total. Below that, JCPenney used to list your grand total savings. It was there that I found the ultimate confirmation that my purchases were sound investments. If I was thrifty enough, I saved more than I spent. On those days, I slept well, mentally spooning my bank account, completely ignoring the fact that, no matter how much I saved, I never paid the $1.50 it cost to make the item a Korean factory. Come to think of it, I also never lost sleep over the idea that these garments were manufactured by Korean factory workers making only $2 an hour. I guess I’m a horrible person, but that’s another story.

Now, without sale tags or coupons, the receipt only offers the grand total and, although I’ve spent the same amount as I would have before, the disappointment in my core suggests that I’ve accomplished nothing. I just stood there and let JCPenney charge me their “fair and square” prices, without putting up a fight.

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10 thoughts on “Why JCPenney’s New “Fair and Square” Price Policy Takes the Fun Out of Shopping

  1. Living in the Great White North aka Canada,,I wasn’t really grasping why everyone was in a uproar regarding J.C. Penny and their changes,,,,NOW, I totally understand!!!
    Take heart my friend, if all the shoppers feel the same as you (and I believe they will),,this preposterous idea of their marketing team, will NOT last long!
    Because every woman,,likes the thrill of the hunt of getting that special deal!
    Oh yeah,,and awesome post 🙂

  2. I agree. At the end of the day, for me anyway, it’s not how much I spent but how much I saved!! I love looking at the difference between what I would have paid and what I did pay. It’s usually this “ta-da” feeling that lets me splurge on a latte on the way out of the mall. So this new set up does not work for me either. Thanks for another great post! 🙂

  3. Having worked a retail store for a few years, I find their new policy a relief. I can honestly say that at the store I worked at, we NEVER, EVER sold anything at the “retail price” on the tag. It was an inflated number to make people feel like there were getting a good deal, since everything was constantly on “sale.” I always felt like we were ripping people off, especially when they felt like they had to buy something NOW because it was ON SALE.

    But even worse, some customer got mad when they saw the “regular” price and thought, what does this place this it is, Tiffany’s? And they wouldn’t return thinking that unless they only came when they got sales papers, everything would be too expensive. Not exactly a good marketing move from this perspective.

  4. Hey, at least they are marking stuff down. My favorite thing ever is when Walmart (not to rip on Walmart my family and i just shop there a lot) will put out items in the isles as if they are on sale, when the price isn’t marked down, at all — and is still full retail price. But the way their signs look, it would make a person who might not ordinarily buy something, think oh hey, better stock up, it’s on sale. When in reality, it’s the same price it’s always been, it’s just in a different spot in the store.

    Or like today when they had graham crackers, marshmallows and Hersey bars all next to one another. Those were deconstructed smores waiting to happen. I could imagine them in my belly. Sadly my new healthier way of living at the moment doesn’t allow for this indulgence as I already have others calculated into the plan this week. But in a moment of weakness I could see someone being all over that ..

  5. I, too, am in the JCPenny-free Canuck North, and didn’t ‘get it.’

    Now I do. It’s like going to the casino and blowing $20 in one bet. I’d rather play the nickel slots and get my money’s worth in entertainment and excitement.

    Either way, I’m still making my $20 donation. It’s just more fun the long way!

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