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Ponderer983's avatar

Is this legal?

Asked by Ponderer983 (6401 points ) July 9th, 2012

I got a postcard in the mail about a sale at a store that I shop at. Now this store carries both regular and plus size women’s clothing, but the plus sizes are not sold in stores, only online. The sale went as follows: on such and such date, 40% off your in-store purchase, and on such and such date, 30% off your online purchase. Considering one could never buy the plus sizes in the store, is that some kind of discrimination? Shouldn’t the people who buy the plus sizes be entitled to 40% as well? Because the store doesn’t stock them in store, that shouldn’t be grounds to not include plus size women from an extra 10% off.

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11 Answers

bolwerk's avatar

Yes, it’s legal. No, the store doesn’t have to give everyone of different weight the same deal. Weight is not a protected class. Pretty fundamental civil rights law.

JLeslie's avatar

Seems legal to me. Online is basically like a separate store. It seems the same to consumers because it might have the same name, but many times there are different buyers doing the buying online. For instance Bloomingdale’s has completely separate online buyers (unless it has changed since I worked there) and some garments were not available in store that were online. However, they did match a sale if the garment wound up coincidently being available in both store and online and one did not have it on sale. It was up to the customer to make a sales person aware of it.

Even if they carried women’s sizes in store they might only have a sale for miss sizes, perfectly legal. Sales are determined by various reasons. One can be a preplanned system to move stock out, another can be a deal worked with the vendor who will pay the store the discounted amount. If women’s sizes sell without being on sale, no reason to put it on sale.

I can understand why it feels discriminatory. It kind of is similar to why houses within a mile of an orthodox synagogue are more expensive. Those Jews have to walk to temple, so they have to buy within walking distance and so they are held mercy to low supply and high demand. If plus size women have few places to buy clothes, and this particular store has a great selection, they have a captive audience that pays. Basic free market.

bolwerk's avatar

Playing off @JLeslie‘s comment, it might not even be fundamentally discriminatory. It might just be more expensive to source, store, and liquidate plus-size inventory.

But either way, it’s not illegal.

Pandora's avatar

I would think it is legal. It like when I buy curtains. Sometimes the special sizes are only available on line and offered at a different discount. But then they sometimes will take the shipping price off so in the end you may still make out. Although curtains are usually more expensive the larger the material.

XOIIO's avatar

Think about it, plus sized people are less common, so shipping it out, and having those items in store instead of other product is loosing them money.

For some people it may even be convenient if they have trouble walking or getting out f the house much.

linguaphile's avatar

Best Buy got away with offering in-store discounts online, then denying them or giving a lesser discount in-store. They denied the sale was for 30%, showed me a web site that said 15% off, but when I got back home, it was still 30% off on the www.bestbuy.com web site. Legal as hell. Unethical as well.

Never shopped there again and still won’t.

JLeslie's avatar

It is worth mentioning that states have differing laws on such things. Some states allow loss leaders, some don’t. Most states require a store have at least one available of what is advertised or the store is considered practicing bait and switch which can be considered illegal, depends. For instance most states a car dealership must have at least one car on the lot meeting that really cheap price adverised for a car. I leased a very inexpensive truck that way once. Going back to loss leader, that is when an item is advertised and sold below the cost the store bought it for to attract peope into the store. The argument is it gives larger stores an advantage, because small business are less able to do it. Kroger might advertise 2-litter cokes at 59¢ limit 4 bottles, so people do all their shopping in their store for instance, actually losing money on the cokes (I don’t know the actual cost, I made up numbers just for illustration).

I still think this particular situation mentioned in the Q is legal; legal in all states.

@linguaphile I don’t get it. There were two separate websites? One said one discount, the other said another discount?

bolwerk's avatar

@JLeslie: aren’t Coke prices set above a floor by the bottling consortium? I think it’s one of the few legal monopolies in the U.S..

JLeslie's avatar

@bolwerk I had never heard that about Coke, but it might be the case. I used it just as an example pulled from nowhere, not thinking certain vendors have floor prices. Interesting question. I know my husband bought really cheap 2 liters a week ago. It was around 80¢ I think? Coke can and does set up rules like if they provide a refrigerator nothing but Coke products can be stored in it (makes sense) or if they get a contract, the contract might involve exclusivity, meaning a restaurant may not be allowed to offer any other beverage from a competitor. Sometimes the store demands exclusitivity, and the vendor agrees not to sell to discount stores or sell at a cheaper retail in their own stores or online. Or, actually it is usually the vendor wanting to keep a certain level of prestige by only selling in specific stores they feel meet the standards of their brand. I worked for Mondo, a men’s designer clothing brand, and at one point they pulled out of Macy’s Aventura, even though they sold a lot of goods there, because the merchandise was always a mess.

Anyway, I don’t know the answer about Coke having a floor price. Thanks for pointing out it might be a policy. Coke is not a monopoly in most markets, but between coke and pepsi I guess it is an oligopoly?

linguaphile's avatar

@JLeslie I don’t really know- but at home I put in the regular Best Buy site and saw a specific discount. In the store, they pulled up an identical web site that said a different discount percentage—I’m not sure how they did it either.

JLeslie's avatar

@linguaphile All I can say is I guess print off the screen next time if you ever shop there again.

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