Save Your Pennies- Don’t Shop At the Freeport JCPenney

Stacey Dach, Highland Chronicle reporter

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“STOP  If you use the bathroom, you need to help clean it. You are all adults & it’s everyone’s responsibility.” This sign was hung on the staff bathroom door during a period of time when management didn’t want to spend payroll on a store custodian.

Contrary to what the company’s current slogan is, getting your penny’s worth at the Freeport JCPenney store would definitely be questionable. What I think you will likely get instead, is a bad experience. It is my belief that store is headed down the tubes and will probably be on the company’s list for the next round of store closures.

It’s a sad demise for a store that has held a presence in this town for over 80 years. The store has been at its current location in the Meadows Mall since 1989.  Many former associates, as the company calls them, had more than a decade (some had more than two decades) of service in at this store before recent changes led to those associates leaving the company. In less than two years, management has fired or chased away associates with more than 185 combined years of experience with the company.  At least 20 associates have left the store as a direct result of this poor management.  At least five of these former employees have filed formal complaints with JCPenney corporate and there is one lawsuit currently in negotiations filed by an associate through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. So, mostly all that is left are new people, who through no fault of their own, lack much experience and are poorly trained. This makes, in my view, the chance for mistakes to be made much higher and the opportunity to get informative answers to questions much less likely. Thus, making your shopping experience at this store more frustrating.

This reporter was fired this past June for insubordination because I refused to sign a document that stated I must get at least two customers to apply for a JCPenney credit card account each and every shift I worked- or I would be terminated.  This is incredibly ridiculous! How can an associate be held accountable for something that is ultimately out of their control? I can’t control my customer’s credit rating, their personal beliefs on credit cards, nor the fact that this store has been in this town for more than eight decades and many people already have a credit card account. Hypocritically, even some in management positions don’t have a JCPenney credit card! But, the only way I can keep my job is to make sure I can get two customers to sign up for one every shift I work?  How is that best business practices? The other hugely wrong part of this is, I don’t believe there are more than one or two associates, if there are any at all, who currently work in the Freeport store, that do get two applications every shift. Yet, I was the only one asked to sign  a document stating I must do so in order to keep my job. I’m guessing it is because I had the audacity to personally call out management about their hypocrisy.   

Working under this management at the Freeport JCPenney store was extremely difficult. Many new rules were instituted that made life miserable for those employed there. For example, for a time, associates could not punch in more than one minute prior to the start of their shift and must punch out no more than one minute after the end of the shift. Unless, of course, the store was a mess at closing time and then you were expected to stay and clean up until management was satisfied – whatever time that was. So, if you were on the closing shift, you couldn’t make plans for right after work because you never knew what time you would get out.

When management didn’t want to spend payroll for a store custodian, a sign was hung on the staff bathroom door that said if you used it you had to help clean it. Not sure when we were supposed to do that because we couldn’t be off the floor for more than a couple of minutes if we were using the restroom not on our break time and we only had one minute before and after shift to punch the clock. I don’t know about you, but I am not going to spend my 15-minute break time cleaning the staff bathroom.

Customer service has taken a big hit at this store in recent months.  As an example, this reporter was in the store on October 15th and customers were lined up on both sides of the counter two or three deep at the front set of registers and only one associate was ringing up customers. When this associate called management on the walkie-talkie for help, she was told, loud and clear for all customers in line to hear, that management was working on payroll and couldn’t help. This poor associate had to wait at least nine more minutes before another staff member finally arrived to help her with customers.

These are just some of the reasons why so many associates have parted ways with this JCPenney store’s management. Dan Campbell, a former associate with 11 years of experience, quit a few months ago because of the current management style, claiming that management “fails to treat customers and associates with dignity or respect.” Kathy Baxter, who had 17 years in with the company, retired earlier than she had wanted to because of management. “I just couldn’t deal with it anymore. I kept waiting for changes from corporate, but they never came,” Baxter said.

This brings up another interesting point: that JCPenney corporate is not very responsive to their associate’s concerns. At least five associates, myself included, filed complaints for various reasons.  Corporate said they investigate it when associates file a complaint, yet even after I contacted two levels of  corporate management, nothing was done about it. Below is an excerpt of an email I got from corporate human resources:

I do appreciate all of your concerns.  We do take this seriously and are looking at all concerns regarding the store.  If you have any additional information please let me know and we will add it to our investigation.

That was in June- this is October and no management changes have occurred even after giving them lists of multiple issues (some documented with photographs), asking them to look in to customer service satisfaction survey results, and asking them to look at turn-over rates. I was told that my claims could not be substantiated even though I sent photographic proof of two and said I would provide the names of multiple associates who would attest to these same complaints, as well as many other issues. All to no avail.

Many customers have also suffered the consequences of the way this store is managed. Mary Tregloan, who used to be a frequent shopper at the store, recently waited nearly a half hour at the jewelry counter for someone to come and wait on her. The associate at the front of the store, who told Tregloan that she couldn’t help her at the jewelry counter, called four times on the walkie-talkie for someone to report to jewelry. Yet, it took 26 minutes for an associate who could assist her to appear. Tregloan was told by one of these associates that management was in the store at the time, but was busy and couldn’t assist her. “I used to be a really good customer, but I’m not going to be a good customer anymore,” Tregloan said.  Fran Terry, another regular Freeport customer said, “The management has poor customer service and some of the other staff isn’t friendly when you go in there either.” 

So, my dear readers, if you are planning on starting that Christmas shopping soon, it is my opinion that you should think twice about spending your hard-earned pennies at the local JCPenney.  Management at this location does not deserve the support of Freeport shoppers in my book. And if you are looking for a part time job for extra money for said holiday shopping, I would definitely recommend applying elsewhere.  Believe me, you’d be glad you didn’t punch a clock at the Freeport JCPenney.




6 Responses to “Save Your Pennies- Don’t Shop At the Freeport JCPenney”

  1. Matie Suggs on October 19th, 2017 7:50 am

    Stacy, great message and letter – the current manager is a bully and has no people skills.
    I left the company, because the manager did not understand the concept ” The Customer is always right” no matter what you must treat all customer with respect and try and solve the issue to make that customer feel they are important. I did not appreciate the lies she told and the way she treated associates who did not agree with her method of abusing customer and associates. And she never seemed to understand that a person should always think before they speak. However, you are well aware in corp business it is about the numbers. Hopefully more individual will stop “spending their pennies” at JCP in Freeport.

  2. Mary Tregloan on October 24th, 2017 3:33 am

    Well written Stacey! I too called corporate & was told I would be receiving a call from the Freeport manager. When no call came I went to the store. The manager told me she had not been notified. Her apology was very weak. I was also told by 2 former associates current management used my name in a complaint against them & this was put in their evaluations. I loved all the former associates & never once complained to current management. Unlike the former associstes I would consider friends, the current manager is unfriendly & unapproachable. I miss the friendly faces, extremely helpful service of the former associates. They felt like family.

  3. Jill on October 24th, 2017 2:54 pm

    I agree completely with this article, although I never worked there, but shopped there many times over the years. I found the Sterling JC Penney to be much nicer, and more accommodating, but told the same management handled both. Sterling’s store did not have nearly as much product in the past few years, and Freeport’s store was jam packed so badly, it was difficult to shop. Jewelry counter badly managed for many years. Stopped to buy a birthday gift one day, and waited 20 minutes for an associate (there were 3 standing near the counter gossiping and saw me), got ticked off and went to another store to make my purchase. Left a very bad feeling with me. Never had that problem in Sterling, and upper mgmt closed it due to poor sales. Dumb!

  4. Troy Collier on October 30th, 2017 7:19 pm

    The Manager of Freeport JCPenny is a very rude obnoxious person with no respect for customers. I am looking to file a complaint against how you treated me in your store! I will never ever shop at Freeport JC Penny as while you exist and never as long as you live slam an object in my hand than turn and say “if you don’t like it you can leave my store.” I will reserve further comments until I talk with JCPenny Corporate!

  5. STACEY DACH on October 31st, 2017 5:03 pm

    I have phone numbers of who would be good people at corporate to talk to if you would like them. Just email me and I will get them to you.

  6. Linda Lauper on December 12th, 2017 4:41 pm

    I stumbled on this article and the opinions and honestly it sounds like a lot of sour grapes on the part of former employees. After working retail for a number of years, I can say that many of the requests made by management are pretty standard requests. As far as cleanliness in the restroom it only makes sense you would pick up after yourself. I know stores are allotted so much money for payroll and maintaince of the store. It is very difficult to make budgets stretch. There is a lot of name calling in this article, I’d be interested in hearing the other side of the story. Always two sides.

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Save Your Pennies- Don’t Shop At the Freeport JCPenney