Retailers Gaming their Sales Techniques

Eddie Bauer was sued by a consumer who paid $6.00 for a pair of leggings originally priced at $12.50. The consumer discovered that the original price was not $12.50, but much less. An Amazon customer complained that a $114.99 vacuum seller changed its list price to  $249.99.  The seller  then reduced that price to $189.95 for two days.  After that “special sale price,” for two days only,  the seller changed the price back to $114.99.  Amazon says that it now has a system for monitoring such practices. Patrick Coffee, “Stores Accused of Fake Sales,”  Wall Street Journal, August 24, 2023, p. B5.

Known as “fake sales,” retailers are using the tactic more and more as consumer purchases decline. The Federal Trade Commission does not dabble in pricing guidelines.  The states do the regulating of fake sales, and not much regulation is taking place there.

Consumers have been filing suit against the sellers  who inflate original prices to lead customers to believe there is a sale item. However, a recent dismissal of such a case has put the kibosh on these class actions.  The judge dismissed  the suit against Eddie Bauer for the $6.00 leggings because plaintiff purchaser could not show any harm.

So, the risk of being caught is small.  Now the risk of having to pay any damages has been reduced as the suits go nowhere.  However, the retailer gains market share and revenue boosts.  To the retailers it is worth the risk to look better financially, at least on paper.

There is always a way to game the system.  The law may not cover the situation, but ethically speaking???

About mmjdiary

Professor Marianne Jennings is an emeritus professor of legal and ethical studies from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, retiring in 2011 after 35 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in ethics and the legal environment of business. During her tenure at ASU, she served as director of the Joan and David Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics from 1995-1999. In 2006, she was appointed faculty director for the W.P. Carey Executive MBA Program. She has done consulting work for businesses and professional groups including AICPA, Boeing, Dial Corporation, Edward Jones, Mattel, Motorola, CFA Institute, Southern California Edison, the Institute of Internal Auditors, AIMR, DuPont, AES, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Motorola, Hy-Vee Foods, IBM, Bell Helicopter, Amgen, Raytheon, and VIAD. The sixth edition of her textbook, Case Studies in Business Ethics, was published in February 2011. The ninth edition of her textbook, Business: lts Legal, Ethical and Global Environment was published in January 2011. The 23rd edition of her book, Business Law: Principles and Cases, will be published in January 2013. The tenth edition of her book, Real Estate Law, will also be published in January 2013. Her book, A Business Tale: A Story of Ethics, Choices, Success, and a Very Large Rabbit, a fable about business ethics, was chosen by Library Journal in 2004 as its business book of the year. A Business Tale was also a finalist for two other literary awards for 2004. In 2000 her book on corporate governance was published by the New York Times MBA Pocket Series. Her book on long-term success, Building a Business Through Good Times and Bad: Lessons from Fifteen Companies, Each With a Century of Dividends, was published in October 2002 and has been used by Booz, Allen, Hamilton for its work on business longevity. Her latest book, The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse was published by St. Martin’s Press in July 2006 and has been a finalist for two book awards. Her weekly columns are syndicated around the country, and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Reader's Digest. A collection of her essays, Nobody Fixes Real Carrot Sticks Anymore, first published in 1994 is still being published. She has been a commentator on business issues on All Things Considered for National Public Radio. She has served on four boards of directors, including Arizona Public Service (1987-2000), Zealous Capital Corporation, and the Center for Children with Chronic Illness and Disability at the University of Minnesota. She was appointed to the board of advisors for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators in 2004 and served on the board of trustees for Think Arizona, a public policy think tank. She has appeared on CNBC, CBS This Morning, the Today Show, and CBS Evening News. In 2010 she was named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Ethics by Trust Across America. Her books have been translated into four different languages. She received the British Emerald award for authoring one of their top 50 articles in management publications, chosen from over 15,000 articles. Personal: Married since 1976 to Terry H. Jennings, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Deputy County Attorney; five children: Sarah, Sam, and John, and the late Claire and Hannah Jennings.
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