About fifty years ago (yikes, how time flies), MrConsumer discovered Macy’s big “Whale of a Sale” on Columbus day. Van Heusen button down shirts were $1.99 and Levi’s were about $6. These were crazy deals, even back then.
Five decades later, Columbus Day sales are not what they used to be. But, this year Macy’s advertised $49 button down shirts for $5.99 — not bad, given 50 years of inflation.
So MrConsumer hightailed it down to the big, flagship Macy’s store in downtown Boston in search of those shirts. Walking in circles around the men’s department led nowhere. Three salespeople who were shown the ad looked like they never knew these shirts were on sale. A fourth paced the store in search of them. Having no luck, she finally called the department manager. The manager indicated to her that this was a national ad and this store didn’t carry them. What? An advertisement that is distributed locally does not have that merchandise available locally?
More incredible is the fine print footnote in the Macy’s circular:
What? A disclaimer that says we may not have what we advertise? As a friend is fond of saying, “I have lived too long.”
We asked Macy’s to comment on the non-availability of any $5.99 shirts and how they believed that their small disclaimer could overcome various advertising laws that require stores to have the goods they advertised. A PR spokesperson for the retailer replied:
The advertising that you referenced was noted as “clearance” merchandise, and the image shown was selected to represent the category (in this case men’s sportswear, sportshirts, knit tops and more – also evidenced by the range of original prices). As this is remaining clearance inventory – which varies by store based on sales in each location – we include the notation that the pictured items may not be available at your local Macy’s.
We don’t think that any reasonable consumer would expect to find THAT particular shirt, but clearly there is an expectation of finding SOME $5.99 shirts.