The more corporations try and take us for fools, the more people we need like Bob Blatchford
Whistle-blowers come in all shapes and sizes. While I admire Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning for blowing the lid off government spying and war crimes, I have equal admiration for those who out corporate wrong doing. Bob Blatchford is one such fellow who falls into that category.
Last summer, Bob Blatchford went on the Today Show and spilled the beans on J.C. Penney’s sales practices. He described how the department store was severely hiking prices on items, cutting them back and then advertising huge discounts.
“I saw a lot of pricing teams going through the store, raising the prices, mostly doubling – towels and clothing,” Blatchford told NBC. “Then they would go on sale, and they wouldn’t always go on sale for 50 percent off. Not only was it a fake sale, but they were actually paying more than they would have been previously.”
A few days after Blatchford’s television appearance, he was unsurprisingly fired from J.C. Penney, but it didn’t end there. Eight months after his termination, J.C. Penney is crying foul and going after Blatchford. Even in the corporate world, the guilty party needs to get even with the whistle-blower.
J.C. Penney filed a plea against Bob Blatchford with the American Arbitration Association. In it, J.C. Penney characterized Blatchford’s exposé as a “trade secret, proprietary and confidential business information.” If that’s not laughable enough, the company also claims that it was forced to bring the matter to arbitration in order to protect customers. The department store believes Blatchford holds confidential business and customer records.
The problem here, is that there is some truth to be found, at least in the first part, but it’s not much of a secret. These types of “sale scams” are industry wide. In fact, it’s something J.C. Penney had to deal with just a few years ago and it cost them billions in sales. After restructuring didn’t work, they went back to the same scam.
According to Robin Lewis, co-author of The “New Rules of Retail”, marking up prices only to mark them back down as a promotion is a fairly universal practice. But lately, retailers have become more aggressive due to intense competition.
In a retail world where you have to compete with the likes of Walmart, it’s almost impossible to know who you can trust. With competition so tight, everyone is trying to steal away customers from each other. And the only way many businesses know how to compete is through fake sales or pricing.
I would have thought this was a job for the Federal Trade Commission, but apparently the laws covering these types of practices are a little vague. It just makes the Bob Blatchford’s of the world so much more important these days.
If J.C. Penney wants to try and silence Blatchford instead of changing the way they do business, so be it, it will be their downfall. The truth is, we need more people like him out there keeping big companies in check.
You can say, as J.C. Penney did in their petition, that Blatchford has a ‘love of media attention’. But who cares, maybe he does. He did what he had to. What we all need to do. I don’t think, as some do, that Mr. Blatchford will have a hard time finding other employment. I’m sure there are still honest businesses out there looking to hire an honest man. I would do so in a heartbeat.