JC Penney Archives - I Hate Working In Retail


10 reasons why you shouldn’t work at a retail clothing store

Working in retail stores is not always glorious, however, as a college student it might just be one of the easiest jobs and the most available. (Courtney King/Emerald)

Working in retail stores is not always glorious, however, as a college student it might just be one of the easiest jobs and the most available. (Courtney King/Emerald)

Plastic: That’s how I would sum up my experience working in a retail clothing store environment. That’s how I would sum up my months spent slaving away at Gap Kids and J.C. Penney for 10 cents over minimum wage.

It didn’t always seem like such a bad idea. At the tender age of 16, all I wanted was a summer job – it would be a ticket out of the house and a great way to earn some pocket money, I reasoned. Plus, I love clothes. What could wrong? … So much.

Let me put it this way: Retail work is like the sketchy prescription drug that gets pulled from the shelves months later because of its unforeseen side effects – In this scenario, you’re the FDA and your job at Dick’s Sporting Goods is the medicine you were duped into approving, only to realize a short time later that you’ve made a terrible, terrible mistake.

If you haven’t had the unique displeasure of employment at a retail-clothing store, and are considering selling your soul to the polyester devil this summer, allow me to impart some wisdom that could ultimately spare you from the hell that is retail. Here are 10 reasons why you should toss away your application to work at a clothing store.

1. It makes you hate humanity.

Thanks to the dreaded “customer always comes first” policy that is practically inserted as a chip into the minds of consumers, as a retail employee, you’ll get to meet a variety of individuals that have very little regard for common courtesy and human emotion. You’ll be expected to handle everything from arrogant soccer moms to racist senior citizens with nothing short of a smile on your face. Try that for a few months, with no tips, and you’ll understand why some prefer cats to people.

2. You have to stand on your feet for hours at a time, but can’t wear comfortable shoes.

When I worked at J.C. Penney, I wore through the linings and soles of a different pair of shoes every month. Since comfier and more supportive shoes were too informal for the dress code, my feet were condemned to flats. Dr. Scholls was no match for my persistent, weekly blood blisters.

Aside from the injuries I sustained, my legs were in almost constant agony. Eight-hour shifts were the bane of my existence, and we weren’t allowed to (heaven forbid) tarnish the aura of professionalism in the store by sitting down for a few minutes. And — just like aSaw movie — security camera footage would record our every movement in case we should ever take our relationship with the chair outside the fitting room to the next level.

3. Fitting Rooms.

Cleaning out a fitting room is like living the game of Tetris, except you aren’t afforded the sweet release of “game over.” Imagine your room at its messiest. Then throw in a few screaming babies, and perhaps a little boy jumping back and forth at the fitting room entrance, hoping to trigger the motion sensor and produce a chorus of doorbell noises that he finds endlessly satisfying. The only solace I ever found in fitting rooms was the fact that they were security-camera free. During slow shifts, I used to lock myself in one of the stalls and sit down for a few minutes.

4. “Go-backs”

I overheard this phrase in a Forever 21 the other day and it still made me shudder. If you work in retail, you’ll spend 95 percent of your shifts in an endless loop trying to return all of the clothes left behind from returns and fitting rooms to their original location.

5. You have to stalk people.

If you’re sick and tired of the following charade, so is the sales associate.

“Hello!” he or she proclaims.

“Damn it,” you think. “I’m trying to look engrossed in this clearance rack for a reason.”

“Thank you for coming to [insert name of clothing store here]! Just to let you know, all of our jeans are ‘buy one get one half off’ today!” she says with a plastic smile. “Are you shopping for anything in particular today?”

“No. Just browsing.”

6. Sales quotas

Just to get this out there: I absolutely hate selling things. So it’s no surprise that I consider this a drawback to the profession. But it’s one thing to ask your employees to show off merchandise, and quite another to guilt and shame them into selling. At the beginning of every shift at Gap, we’d get briefed on sales for that day and then told how much was needed to meet the goal. The consequence of not meeting target? Corporate would make cuts to the payroll. As a result, our managers would make us redirect the focus of customers off of the clearance rack and to the more expensive parts of the store.

7. Pushing the company rewards card.

Most retail clothing stores will also make you sell the living shit out of rewards cards that may or may not benefit the customer in the long-run at all. You’ll have to advertise its existence with every transaction, and pretend that signing up is not just a credit disaster waiting to happen.

8. Afterhours cleanup, or recovery.

If you’re working a closing shift, expect to stay at least one or two hours after you’re scheduled to end. While this can be a great bonding experience with your coworkers (suffering fosters a sense of belonging), it sometimes takes enormous amounts of work to ready a store for opening the next morning.

9. Coupon arguments

I love a good bargain. Who doesn’t? But when you make me split the purchase into seven different transactions just so you can combine coupons, you’re pushing your luck. And no, ma’am, your vision is perfectly fine and this offer expired three years ago.

10. Black Friday, Christmas and Back-to-School sales

Take everything from this list and multiply it by a hundred.


Sourced from dailyemerald.com


This J.C. Penney Worker Was Fired For Telling The Truth About Its ‘Fake’ Prices


J.C. Penney is going to war against a former employee who outed the department store for its questionable discounting practices.

The department store was drastically hiking prices on items, cutting them back and then advertising huge “discounts,” the former employee, Bob Blatchford, told the Today show last July. In one case, a “rack of $7 shorts became $14, and then they were 50 percent off,” a separate J.C. Penney worker told the Today show.

“I saw a lot of pricing teams going through the store, raising the prices, mostly doubling — towels and clothing,” Blatchford told NBC’s Jeff Rossen. “Then they would go on sale, and they wouldn’t always go on sale for 50 percent off. Not only was it a fake sale, but they were actually paying more than they would have been previously.”

Ominously, Blatchford told Today, “I don’t think Penney’s will survive if they keep doing this.”

Now it’s Blatchford who is fighting for survival. Two days after his appearance on the Today show, he was fired from J.C. Penney in St. Petersburg, Fla., where he was a custom decorating studio coordinator. When he filed for unemployment benefits, J.C. Penney contested his claim, he said. J.C. Penney also recently filed an arbitration petition to get Blatchford to give back any company documents that he might have. But Blatchford thinks the arbitration is really just an attempt to discourage him from speaking out about the company.

J.C. Penney declined to comment on Blatchford’s situation or its pricing strategy.

The fight between Blatchford and J.C. Penney belies an open retail secret: Discounts, sale prices and big promotions are largely a game of smoke and mirrors. But until J.C. Penney ousted its CEO last year and his predecessor reinstated old pricing strategies, it was a largely unconfirmed open secret.

Retailers use the sly tactic to manipulate customers’ minds, said Mark Elwood, author of Bargain Fever: How To Shop In A Discounted World. Once customers are taught to crave discounts, it becomes addictive, and they keep coming back for more. “We are chemically programmed to respond to sales,” Elwood said.
Shoppers go through racks of clothing on sale at the J.C. Penney Co. store inside the Glendale Galleria shopping center in Glendale, Calif., U.S., on Friday, Aug. 16, 2013. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

J.C. Penney’s trouble with sale pricing started with CEO Ron Johnson, who in 2012 pledged to eliminate “fake prices” — inflated prices used throughout the retail industry to convince customers they’re getting a great deal. Johnson eradicated coupons, sales and discounts at the 112-year-old retailer.

Coupon-crazed shoppers revolted, with devastating consequences for J.C. Penney. Sales plummeted by an astonishing $4.3 billion in the first year of Johnson’s turnaround plan. “Coupons were a drug,” the CEO admitted on a 2012 conference call with investors and analysts. “They really drove traffic.”

Johnson was fired in the spring of 2013. But even before his ouster, J.C. Penney began jacking up its “everyday prices,” then discounting them to create the perception that customers were nabbing a deal, according to a report from Reuters.

When Mike Ullman retook the reins as CEO in April 2013, mass sales and coupons returned to the department store in a forceful attempt to regain the bargain-hunters.

That’s when the scrutiny began. Consumer groups investigated the discounts, releasing numerous examples of sale prices that were actually higher than the original price tags. Local news stations probed stores through hidden-camera investigations. Time declared J.C. Penney’s prices “faker than ever.”

J.C. Penney insiders told HuffPost that customers have responded well to the price changes since their implementation. A regional executive, who spoke on condition he not be named for fear of retaliation by his employer, said customers don’t understand that they’re often “overpaying” for much of the merchandise, even though sales make prices appear cheaper than before. “Guess that’s retail,” he mused.

Take J.C. Penney’s “Michael Graves Design Bells and Whistles Stainless Steel Tea Kettle,” for instance. Originally priced at an even $40 under the previous CEO’s no-sales strategy, J.C. Penney suddenly bumped the kettle up to $58 after discounts were reintroduced — a 45 percent price hike. But J.C. Penney made sure to offer a sale, bringing the price back down to $39.99. It appeared that customers would save $18 by making the purchase.

J.C. Penney’s Michael Graves kettle priced at $40 before the strategy shift in 2013, compared with the $58 price (on sale for $39.99) after the change.

J.C. Penney and department store competitor Kohl’s were each slapped with class-action lawsuits in 2013, claiming their sales tactics violated consumer protection guidelines in the state of California, which has specific rules to protect consumers from misleading deals.

The federal guidelines against deceptive sale prices are more vague. According to the Federal Trade Commission: If the original price being advertised has been “offered to the public on a regular basis for a reasonably substantial period of time,” then there is a basis for legitimacy. But if an artificially inflated price was created in order to promote a sale, that’s considered a false bargain — and could potentially be taken to court.

Marking up prices only to mark them back down as a promotion is a fairly universal practice, according to Robin Lewis, co-author of The New Rules of Retail and CEO of retail industry newsletter The Robin Report. But lately, retailers have become more aggressive due to intense competition.

“The sales seem to be getting deeper,” said Lewis. “They’re figuring out all kinds of different ways of discounting. Retailers have to fight tooth and nail for a share of the market. The growth is coming from stealing the customer away from a competitor, so the weapon of choice becomes price.”

Lewis stressed that current CEO Ullman — who also held the reins at J.C. Penney before Johnson’s tenure — had no choice but to return to the old ways of discounting, since the idea has been used for decades to great effect: “Ullman had to get the business righted. He had to stabilize it, and he had to do everything in his power to get the customers back. He had to go back to the tried-and-true pricing process,” he said. J.C. Penney suffered a whopping $985 million loss in 2013, bringing the retailer to the brink.

Compounding Ullman’s problems is a widespread loss of customer trust. For years, J.C. Penney customers perused the aisles for the best deals and discounts. Suddenly, that experience disappeared, and the betrayed shoppers left. “They threw their hands up, shut their wallets and walked out the front door,” said Lewis.

In this Oct. 23, 2009 photo, Mike Ullman, Chairman and CEO of J.C. Penney Company, Inc., visits a company store in New York. Mike Ullman was named CEO of J.C. Penney after Ron Johnson was ousted on April 8, 2013, after restructuring backfired. Photographer: Mark Lennihan/The Associated Press

Outspoken employees like Blatchford are interfering with J.C. Penney’s path to repentance. Eight months after his firing, J.C. Penney filed a petition against Blatchford with the American Arbitration Association. In it, J.C. Penney characterized Blatchford’s revelations on NBC that the company drastically hiked prices and then slashed them in order to tout a “sale” as “trade secret, proprietary and confidential business information.”

J.C. Penney accused Blatchford of having an “unbalanced vendetta” against his former employer and a “love of media attention.” The company claims that it was forced to bring the matter to arbitration in order to protect customers, and says Blatchford holds confidential business and customer records.

The struggling retailer must tamp down on the constant condemnation of its pricing tactics if it wants to reclaim the droves of customers it lost, according to Dorothy Crenshaw, CEO and creative director at public relations firm Crenshaw Communications. J.C. Penney knows this, she added.

“I’m sure they don’t want people to be talking about it,” Crenshaw said. “It is very likely how many stores operate, but this is much more of a drumbeat around a particular store, at a time that they least need it. They’d love for this whole thing to go away.”

Sourced from thehuffingtonpost.com