LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Bargain shoppers know that you often can peel away layers of sale stickers to get to the original price of an item – but what if you found the lowest stickered price was actually buried under a bunch of higher prices?
CBS2's Sandra Mitchell reports on a hidden camera investigation into the popular department store chain Kohl's. The report found that over and over again items were marked up with stickers covering lower prices underneath before they went on sale.
Kohl's customer Patty Woody thought she got a deal when she bought Vera Wang sheets that cost $209 for 50 percent off. However, when the shopper brought them home a price tag inside the packaging revealed the sheets were originally $169 – a $40 difference.
"It really surprised me," Woody said.
So is Kohl's raising its prices before they place merchandise on sale?
According to a store manager, "The price always fluctuates. It's always different depending on what sells. I can't guarantee that it will be $249 tomorrow. It might be more or it might be less depending on what sale's going on. But, you'll never pay full price for it."
The CBS2 investigation examined seven Southern California Kohl's store locations, from Seal Beach to Monrovia to Westchester, and found questionable price tags at each location.
Several times we found price tags on top were higher prices than the tags below.
A pair of Levis 501's at a Cypress location were priced at $64 but peeling back the price tag revealed a tag for $58. Peel the tag again and the original price tag read $48.
The jeans were marked up $16 and then placed near a digital sale sign that read "Buy One Get One Half Off".
After examining the investigation's hidden camera footage the CEO of a retail consulting firm was surprised by what we found.
"If it's sloppily done and you can see two price tags then we're kind of curious. We like to see what's under the covers, sure," said CEO Harry Friedman.
Friedman said Kohl's has every right to raise its prices but, according to federal law, it cannot be in a way that deceives customers.
The Manufacturer's suggested retail price, or MSRP, is just the beginning, said Igo Reyes of the L.A. County Department of Consumer Affairs – stores cannot raise prices just for a sale.
"If a store simply raises the price just temporarily for a few days so that they can then claim that the item is discounted substantially off the inflated phony price, then that's very deceptive. And clearly that's what the legislation intends to prohibit," Reyes said.
California state law bans companies from making false or misleading statements about the amounts of price reductions.
CBS2 contacted Kohl's and specifically asked about price changes and special sales. They responded via e-mail:
"...From time-to-time, product prices are increased due to production and raw material cost increases. When these types of price increases are implemented, our stores are instructed to re-ticket all items currently in our inventory..."
Despite what the investigation found throughout their stores, Kohl's said price increases are not common.
If you feel you've been a victim of deceptive sales practices contact the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer Affairs at DCA@dca.lacounty.gov or call (800) 593-8222.
for more features.