The city of Poway just had a grand opening for a 99 Cents Only store within the last week. Naturally because it’s new in town I decided to check it out. However, one of the things I noticed that wasn’t blatantly obvious was a sign indicating that due to inflation, prices were now no longer 99 cents, but rather 99.99 cents. This carrying out the nines to two more decimal places essentially transforms the prices into $1.00 per item and you’d have to actually purchase 51 ones before you get one at 99 cents.
To me, this reeks of false advertising. The stores are called 99 Cents Only stores, and they’re flat out lying. The business was built on the premise that nothing in the stores would cost more than 99 cents. And according to their press release about the change, they managed to keep that true for slightly more than twenty-five years since the company was founded in 1982 until they opted to change it in late 2008. I’m not sure if they were the first company to start on the premise of charging 99 cents, but obviously others followed but decided to go for the dollar instead of losing an additional penny per item. This price increase does effectively make the 99 cent stores the same as the dollar stores, except for the fact they’ve got that problem that their name specifically states 99 Cents “Only.”
They sort of address the issue inside the store as labels featuring the slightly altered logo where a very small print blue circle containing the additional .99 cents has been added, but seems to be done in a way to disguise the fact its there. To me this just comes across as a sneaky way to go about getting another penny out of consumers. And despite the addition of the small print blue circle, nothing has been done with the exterior signs of the stores. So my opinion is until they change the signs on every store to read 99.99 cents only then I feel they’re conducting business under false promises. Yes, I know it’ll cost the company a fortune to change the signs on every single store, but at least it would be reflective of the truth.
I don’t have a problem with the company wanting to charge an additional penny per item, that’s fine and understandable, but I do have a problem with how it appears they’ve gone about it. Everything from the fine print blue circle additions of the .99, to a not very obvious sign indicating the policy, and small print notes taped to the sides of the registers, it all seems to say, “Yes, we’re now charging you a dollar instead of the 99 cents our signs outside the store promise, but we really don’t want you to notice it.”
Even the wording of their change in pricing policy on their website (Click here to view the PDF file) says that customers can dispute the charge at the register and cancel the transaction, but if you actually go through with the transaction and pay, they consider it as you’ve accepted the policy and offer you no recourse if you later figure out you’ve been charged $1.00 per item instead of 99 cents and then want to dispute the charge. It just seems really shady and I’m surprised they haven’t been the target of a class action lawsuit based on these deceptive practices.
In any case, I did choose to purchase a few items there, one of the better finds for me was they had the Sugar Free York Peppermint Patty packages from Hershey’s that sell at Wal-Mart for $1.88 a package and $1.99 in a lot of other places. so I don’t mind paying $1.00 for these, even if they’re deceptively priced at 99.99 cents.