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JCPenney comes under consumer fire: JCPenney loss is Belk's gain

Shoppers need to be aware that the coupons in the JCPenney sales books for the first week of May are not usable, as they do not contain a barcode.
Radell Smith with permission/No watermark

The J. C. Penney Company, Inc., also known as JCPenney, has come under fire for their misleading coupons and order confirmation system. On May 1, a Dalton, Georgia customer entered the Walnut Square Mall store seeking to purchase a home product. She noticed a sales booklet on one of the counters as she entered, according to her conversation with the Atlanta Top News Examiner today. And she said it had two coupons inside. One was for $10 off a $10 or more purchase, and the other was a coupon for $10 off a $25 or more purchase.

However, when she attempted to ring out at the cash register, she was told that the coupons were not valid, even though they are in the current sales booklet provided at each counter for consumers. The JCPenney employee said the barcode was missing from them, so they could not be used. The consumer asked to speak to a manager, as a missing barcode on a in-store provided coupon book was not her problem or mistake, she felt.

Heather Hice was the local manager called to assist the elderly woman who was the first point of contact in the conversation with the customer, but she said there was nothing she could do, as the sales booklets came to the store that way. The customer felt Hice was not to blame for the error by management in the coupons being presented in the sales book minus the barcode, making them unusable; however, she did feel that the manager could have been more customer friendly upon first approach.

This isn't the first time a customer has felt that JCPenney coupons were misleading or expressed unhappiness with the company. Almost a year ago to the day, the store was running a similar campaign online, according to this disgruntled Facebook post.

In that instance, the customer placed several orders using a singular coupon--typically not allowed by most retail stores, but some companies do allow it. Yet when the company online processing system let the orders go through, providing order delivery dates and order confirmations, then the consumer assumed it was acceptable for this coupon to use it more than once.

Usually websites display at the time of checkout...the coupon is not valid, or the coupon cannot be applied, or coupon has expired when they do not want the coupon to be used," Nanoo Alex Hisshou, the disgruntled JCPenney customer explained in her Facebook post last May.

Whether JCPenney offers their card-holding customers a special coupon discount that regular store shoppers do not receive is totally up to them, and their right, of course. But when they provide sales booklets within the store, which contain those coupons (minus barcodes), then it is confusing to consumers, who may see the coupon and begin shopping, thinking the coupon will be honored upon receipt. After all, why have a coupon in a sales booklet in a retail store if it cannot be used?

Misleading ads, coupons that aren't honored, and other practices eventually erode the public consumer's trust and willingness to shop in a business establishment. And in the case of the Georgia shopper, the consumer chose to frequent JCPenney's neighboring competitor as a result, giving Belks her business on Thursday, instead. And she said she couldn't have been treated better when she entered the competitor's business that evening.

A young brunette woman was working in the home department of Belks, and having had such a negative experience at JCPenney moments earlier, I went up to her and inquired if they had any sales going on, and if it would require I be a Belk card holder to benefit from it--or go buy a newspaper, instead of using the coupon in the store. She told me absolutely not, as the sale coupon they were offering this week was available for use at the time of check-out. And she had one at the counter, so it was no problem."

JCPenney's loss in this instance was Belk's gain. And one can understand that, as many more customers are likely to be upset if they enter one of the company's many stores this week, trying to take advantage of a coupon prominently displayed in an in-store sales booklet, only to find that it will not work for them at check-out time. So hopefully Penneys will address this issue promptly, so their faithful customers will know that this was an honest mistake they are willing to rectify.

Have comments or questions about this article? Contact the Atlanta Top News Examiner at TheRealRadellSmith@hotmail.com