Lower Prices, Crappier Experience

Last year I spoke about the risk of JCPenney when then-CEO Ron Johnson changed everything without any input from customers. As a result, the guy was canned and as I predicted, the clearance sales are indeed epic. (Their clothing from the Johnson/Wooster days was not amazing, but was certainly good enough and definitely fit well.)

So then, I'm enjoying said clearance sales. A month or so ago I wanted a new blazer, and I found one in store that I liked. I checked online and found it to be the same price on their site, but of course, they participate in the "everything is on sale always, every day, with coupons" phenomenon now; I played along and got a deal.

But here's the thing. The blazer exists at my local store (I tried it on!) but it was substantially cheaper for me to order it online... and have it shipped to my local store. Now, you'd think, "Oh, they'll just pull the one from the floor and offer it to you later that day like Target does, right?" Nope. My order went to a distribution center, and they sent a new one to the store. The same store where they already have one.

That's incredibly inefficient and bad for several reasons.

  1. First, and most importantly, JCPenney had me ready to buy in store and lost me. They could have had my money right away. Instead they made me wait a week or so. Thankfully, this isn't something I wanted immediately. Their loss.
  2. Second, JCPenney does not price match their own website. They're competing against themselves. Stupid.
  3. Third, they took on the cost for picking, shipping, and storing the item to the store. I don't know how much that is. I know they have built up this distribution system, and it now may cost them almost nothing... but this was unnecessary as they had the damn thing in the store!

In this case, JCPenney penalizes customers buying in store versus online price-wise, all for the sake of immediate gratification. And what did Ron Johnson do to combat this zaniness? He set all prices the same in-store and online (and with rounded numbers too, like $40 instead of $39.99). Simple. Clear.

Note that it didn't address any of the technological problems here - the poor e-commerce experience, the poor mobile site, the worthless app - but it was an attempt to address the problem. It failed. And while I know I got a better deal, I got poorer service and a worse experience as a result of it.