Friday, February 15, 2013

AP Jones Bra Shocker

Dear Ladies,
         This is something you are not supposed to know.
         An upmarket, store that stocks expensive brands like Pringle is selling you bras made for a middle to lower income, predominately cash only chain, with the labels removed.
         At least that’s what’s supposed to happen, one of the owners told me. But oops - on this occasion the labels were left on.
         And when I tried to establish who was supposed to remove them, that’s when the mystery really deepened.
         It happened at AP Jones the 80 year old, family owned clothing shop at Fish Hoek in Cape Town’s southern suburbs that has been patronised by generations of the area’s high society elite.
         Nothing attracts them more than an AP Jones sale. It’s the talk of the town.
         A tennis enthusiast friend looking for a bargain tried on a black Shock Absorber bra made by Playtex. It was marked down from R200 to R89.
         It fitted perfectly, but she didn’t like the colour so the shop assistant brought her a white one which she bought, assuming it was the same fit as the one she had tried on.
         But when she got dressed for a game it was uncomfortable. The fit was different so she looked at the label.
         It was Mr Price’s Maxed brand and there was no absorber for the shock she felt.
         At a Mr Price store I was told that their most expensive Maxed bra was R179.99.
         When my friend returned to the AP Jones shop she looked at the sports bra section and there were numerous others with the Mr Price label on them.
         Furious she spoke to Rick Bing one of the owners and a nephew of the founder. "He went a bit red in the face," she said. "He told me, ‘This is very embarrassing. We got these from our wholesaler and they should have cut the labels off before supplying them to us.’"
         She returned the Mr Price bra and was given her money back even though notices in the shop say, Sales Goods - No Appros; No Returns; No Exchanges.
         The scandal spread rapidly through the tennis club where it was dubbed Bra Wars.
         When I spoke to Bing, who runs the business with his brother Greg, he said he knew about the incident. He then told me, "She’s misunderstood me the way I meant the label should have been taken off. I prefer this wasn’t printed."
         He went on to say they often did stock clearance from factories and, "We would buy it from Playtex or whom ever and usually what happens is Playtex would obviously remove that label so that we didn’t know that it was a Mr Price style and more importantly the customer wouldn’t think they were buying Mr Price garments from us."
         So it’s clear that the last thing he wanted was for his posh customers to know about this devilish merchandising ploy.
         "It’s a style that we carry as a regular product," he went on. "And it just so happened they had 120 units at a significantly better price which we bought and sold on. I’ve taken it up with Playtex today and I’ve had no response."
         However John MacDonald the Managing Director of Playtex denied that his firm cut off Mr Price labels; relabelled Mr Price stock or that they did this for any other brand.
But they did supply Bing with end of range Shock Absorber stock and a similar range that had been made for Mr Price "got mixed up in the distribution area and ended up being sent to Mr Bing as part of his order, although labelled corrected as Mr Price product."
What was Mr Price’s reaction?
Paul Knoop, the Merchandising Direct of Mr Price Sport, appeared extremely agitated when he phoned me. He said things like, "We feel seriously aggrieved. It is fraud. We take steps to close people down for something like this."
In emails he added, "It is for the law to investigate and for a magistrate to rule. Our supplier manuals are exceptionally clear as to protocols that any supplier needs to follow and we cannot just let them sell our stock anywhere.
Strangely enough, believe it or not two similar situations were discussed with our CEO and my MD this week."
However when Rick Bing told me there was "nothing untoward" about what had happened my conversation with him went like this.
Jon - I have spoken to Mr Price and they say it’s extremely untoward.
Bing - Yes, of course it is.
J - They say it’s a criminal offense.
B - Mr Price is more than welcome to take it up with whoever they wish to.
         It was so "untoward" that a couple of days after my friend had seen all those Mr Price bras and spoken to Bing I went there with my wife and we couldn’t find any of them.
         So there you are ladies. If you continue to shop at AP Jones and you see bras or clothes without labels on them I’ll leave it to you to work out who might have removed them and where they might have come from.
         But one thing is certain. I’m sure you won’t appreciate having the wool pulled over your eyes.
         Jon, your Consumer Watchdog who will always expose what you are not supposed to know. 

Note: AP Jones is a one shop business whereas Mr Price is a huge group with branches all over the place and a 10-billion a year turnover.

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