HIDDEN CAMERA: JC Penney Marks Up Prices, Then Holds “Sale”

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Signs for deals can be found at JC Penney stores at the Viewmont Mall in Dickson City, the Laurel Mall in Hazleton, and the Wyoming Valley Mall near Wilkes-Barre.

"When ever I go shopping, I go there," said Alyssa Evans of Kingston.

Shopper Anna Rittenhouse adds, "I just bought shoes the other day, and they were 20 percent off and I thought that was nice.  I like sales when I go shopping."

But here`s what shoppers didn`t see, but our hidden cameras did:

  • A T-shirt with a $20 price tag slapped over a tag that lists a price of $15,
  • A purse with a $44 dollar price tag that when peeled back lists a price of $40,
  • A soap dispenser with a price tag of $22 covering a price of $16.

We found a lot of merchandise at area Penney stores that have stick-on tags of higher prices covering the old price tags.

"(JC Penney's) has actually been increasing their price, then telling the consumer they`re getting 20 percent off that so they`re getting the same price," said Dr. John Mellon, a business professor as Misericordia University.

Mellon says it stems from Penney's decision last year to stop issuing scrapped coupons and seasonal sales, and replace them with lower year-round prices on all items.

But Penney's admits that didn't work, so it recently returned to offering coupons and holding sales.

But Mellon says Penney`s looks like it raised its prices to cover the discounts, and didn't tell its customers.

"Because in 2013, customers are going to blog, Facebook, tweet, everything about it," said Dr. Mellon, who predicts the move will hurt Penney's image and sales.  "Penney`s should have sold all their inventory, and then came back with their new prices."

At JC Penney in Dickson City, tags with higher prices covered old ones with lower costs.

At the stores Wilkes-Barre and in Hazleton, someone blacked out the old prices before tagging on new ones.

"I just think they`re being secretive about it and not telling us the truth when they`re making it seem that its better for us, when its better for them," said Alyssa Evans who says she's a disappointed shopper.

JC Penney corporate responded with this statement from Communication Director Joey Thomas:

"Our prices continue to represent a tremendous value.  We now understand that customers are motivated by promotions and prefer to receive discounts through sales and coupons applied at checkout. So we are returning to a pricing model that is commonly used in the industry to give customers the value they are looking for. "

Penney's never commented on why the company apparently raised prices before the items went on sale.

That practice is legal, though most shoppers clearly don't like it.

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