Let’s face it: Halloween without dressing up is just Oct. 31. The costume is a big part of the holiday, and most people know that costume shopping can be a time-consuming and usually pricy outing. Depending on where you shop, Halloween displays are like visual candy for kids of all ages. This year, I went to Ricky’s, a beauty chain here in New York, to pick up my daughter’s costume, and this is where my dark tale of retail horror begins.
Ricky’s has always had a pretty decent costume selection and great sales on its merchandise the day after Halloween, but the time leading up to the holiday can get … choppy. Finding the costume I was looking for was easy, and it was clearly marked $29.99, not too bad for what it came with. All was a very easy and quick process until I got to the register. Upon ringing up the package, the woman calmly said, “That will be $62.37.” Obviously, there was a mistake, so I pointed out the neon-green sticker that said $29.99. After looking at it briefly, the cashier said, “Whatever the computer says is what we have to charge.” Really?
I asked to speak to a manager. I explained the situation to him, and he stated, “Some prices could be wrong because of last year’s clearance sales, and merchandise gets restocked for the following season, but price discrepancies such as this are uncommon.” I went back to the area where I found the costume I wanted and brought three more up to the counter. All were priced under $30 on the package and all showed up as well over $50 at the register. So I again asked the manager how that was possible, to which he answered, “All prices are subject to change.”
All prices are subject to change? I tried to explain that an advertised price generates business. It is what makes people choose your store over the one selling the same products a mere block away, but all the manager could respond with was, “Well, do you want this or not?” I chose not and walked out. While running some errands later in the day, I entered another costume shop and didn’t realize until I was inside that it was yet another Ricky’s. I found the costume — with its $59.99 sticker — and headed to the counter in defeat. I would have bought it at the first location, but after dealing with the staff’s ignorance there, it was just a matter of principle to get it somewhere else.
Imagine my surprise, however, when the costume rang up for $45.99! How is it possible that the same chain could have three different prices on the same product and don’t find a problem with it? Although I am grateful for the savings, now I can’t help but think that the chain is just making up prices on all their products. Advertising creatives work hard to develop ways to drive business, and sales are a huge part of the draw, but unethical pricing is not only not only a negative reflection on those who find creative ways to get people in the door, but is also a strike against the retailer as a whole.