Thursday, July 22, 2010

You Knew This Was Coming: The 99 Cents Only Store Gets Hit By a Frivolous Lawsuit



Remember when the 99 Cents Only Stores increased its prices to 99.99 cents?

It was well covered by the media. But just in case you missed it, the 99 Cents Only store plastered signs everywhere, explaining the price increase -- its first since opening in 1982. Every item now says 99.99 cents -- *every* one.

Given the dramatic increase in the price of merchandise since then, the measly penny increase was seen as a pretty good deal. And for the 99 Cents Only store, the small .0099 addition meant that it could keep hawking the idea of "99 Cents," even if technically everything was now a dollar.

But no surprise here: Some enterprising hucksters and their out-for-a-buck lawyers still saw an opportunity to sue the chain. The L.A. Times writes:

The move seems to be riling some customers who say they weren't aware of the nearly one-cent increase and felt duped into believing they were still paying 99 cents "only." Because U.S. currency makes it impossible to pay 99.99 cents for an item, shoppers are essentially paying $1 plus tax at the cash register.

Now the company faces two class-action lawsuits that were filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court this month. The complaints allege unfair and deceptive business practices and misleading advertising.

"If they call themselves 99 Cents Only, it should be 99 cents," said Dan Callahan, an Orange County lawyer. "We had a survey done before we filed the lawsuit to see how many people thought they were paying 99 cents, and it was just about unanimous that nobody realized that they were paying more than 99 cents. The people who go to that store are typically lower income or seniors, so the people they're taking advantage of are the ones least able to discern the difference and least able to afford it."

The lawsuits are asking for unspecified monetary compensation and contend that 99 Cents Only should have been more clear in its advertising. A judge will decide whether the cases can proceed as class-action suits.

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