This Sale Depends On What The Meaning Of "Everything" Is

If you see signage in a store that says “40% off everything,” what do you assume that might mean? While shopping at Ann Taylor Loft, Mike had this wild idea that such signs mean that everything in the store is marked down 40%. He was wrong. The sale specifically excluded new spring merchandise in one corner of the store…which most of the store signage failed to mention.

I wanted to share a recent experience my girlfriend and I had this past weekend at Ann Taylor Loft (ATL) in [redacted], NY.

We were at the mall looking for Christmas presents for my Mom, sister, my girlfriends mom, and sister-in-law (among others, but we were in ATL for them).

There were signs all over the store that read take 40% off everything, and on all clearance items it was an additional 40% off the already reduced prices, so we thought, for sure, that not only could we find some good gifts, but also get some good deals. Of course when every placard in the store reads 40% off and has the teeny-tiniest fine print underneath it, being a good consumerist reader, I knew we had to take a closer look for exclusions. The sign I grabbed was up on the third shelf, I took it down and the only fine print was “Discount taken at register.” Sweet!

So after shopping around for a while we didn’t find a ton of stuff, but a few things we really liked and a few more we liked even more because it was on sale. We bring it up to the register and of course the second thing in our pile doesn’t ring up as being on sale. The girl at the cash register, is extremely nice and apologetic and asks if we got this item in one small section of the store, and informs us that this is a ‘New Arrival’ and they don’t count towards the sale. She isn’t sure why these items don’t count toward the sale and said that they were the Spring items they received just this past week.

Now I feel like this was some sort of a bait and switch, but the girl at the cash register, was both extremely nice and apologetic and said there was nothing she could do, but we could talk to her manager. So we voided our transaction, because if we’re not getting 40% off, we’re not buying we came into the store for the sale.

We talk to the manager who immediately looks around and goes to one of the placards in the store and points to the fine print, on this particular sign it read “Discount taken at register. Excludes New Arrivals” Apparently I had looked at the wrong placard, a quick glance around and I notice that some of the signs are apparently the old one that I looked at when I first came into the store and some were the new signs that included the ‘Excludes New Arrivals’ verbiage. She also got extremely defensive at the notion that this was a bait and switch to get people into the store, and said that if we had a problem we could call corporate, but that she wasn’t going to give us any discount.

This is frustrating because:
1 – We didn’t ask for a discount, we really just wanted an explanation as to why some of the signs are right while some are wrong.

2 – If she had apologized for the inconvenience and not been so defensive we may have been at least inclined to shop at ATL again in the future, we definitely won’t be

3 – It just so happens that my girlfriend worked for ATL back in her summer job days, and remembers that this type of thing happened to her store back in the day. There was apparently a sale on all sweaters, except for one (and of course it was the prettiest or nicest sweater ever) and every person who came up to the register had this sweater among their items. The manager of her store, immediately took down all of the signs advertising the sweater sale, made a hand written sign for the non-sale sweater table explicitly saying the sweater was not on sale, and called corporate to explain the situation. My girlfriend said the manager also gave a small percentage off to customers who were confused by the signs. Not only were the customers kept happy, but corporate immediately (as in next day) sent out updated signs to help alleviated confusion over the sweater sale.

It just all seems so convenient to advertise a sale on everything and then have one sign with fine print that you can point to to show that an item is in fact not on sale. Saving 40% would have been a great deal, but we should have known it was too good to be true.

If you were Mike, would you have been satisfied with the store’s response? Should Mike take this up with corporate, or give up on shopping at Ann Taylor altogether?

Related:
At The Gap, “50% Off All Sweaters” Is Essentially Meaningless