Bob Sullivan, in the Red Tape Chronicles: ‘Fair and square’ pricing? That’ll never work, JC Penney. We like being shafted. The story notes that the “massive, creative and aggressive new advertising and pricing campaign that promises simplified prices” “appears to be a disaster. Revenue dropped 20 percent for the first quarter compared to last year. Customer traffic fell 10 percent.” The reason? “If a firm tries to educate consumers on tricks and traps, and tries to offer an honest product, a funny thing happens: Consumers say, “Thank you for the tips,” and go back to the tricky companies, where they exploit the new knowledge to get cheaper prices, leaving the “honest” firm in the dust.”
The point of interest to me (and perhaps the sort of people who read this) is that when I noticed that this was Ron Johnson of Apple, I thought of the way that I’ve never wondered when the best time to buy hardware from them was, or who from. Apple’s pricing is amazingly consistent - there may be 10% off on Black Friday, but probably not on the thing you want, and anyway, it’s not worth waiting for - and that’s true even across stores. (Try finding anyone undercutting the list price on an iPad.)
The product release schedules have also, generally, been well flagged, if you care. The iPhone generally goes on sale in June, and although last year’s 4S was late, pretty much everyone who cared knew it was going to be. iPods are announced in September. Intel’s chip launches are usually followed by refreshed laptop designs (and these days, the advances tend to be incremental enough that missing a release by a month isn’t usually heartbreaking).
Compared to the simplicity and honesty of Apple’s offerings, though, I can imagine the JC Penney product lines, of clothes, shoes, and other household goods, all of which are available from multiple chains and for variable amounts of time, is just so different that Johnson may have to back down from a promise that consumers don’t want him to keep.