It seems like department stores will do anything to get more purchases, but recently several California stores have taken the cake with downright fraud. Everyone loves a sale, and the department stores know that. There’s nothing like the feeling of getting a beautiful blouse or a useful appliance for more than 10% off the listing price, but what if it’s not actually a deal? A recent fad in false advertising has revealed that several popular department store chains have begun faking sales. They put out the signs, set up sales racks, and open their doors but here’s the secret: nothing has actually been marked down. This is their little trick to use your happy ‘getting a bargain’ feeling without actually giving you a bargain. Instead, they lie with false advertising, misrepresenting the original price rather than reducing what they’ll charge you.

If you live or shop in LA, watch out for JCPenney, Kohl’s, Sears, and Macy’s. Yes, we know that’s basically the entire shopping mall, but they’re all caught in this astounding deception. What they’re doing is known as “false reference pricing” and to implement it, all the stores have to do is a little backward math. An item on sale will sell faster than non-sale items, but of course, they make less money for the company. To remedy this, fraudulent stores offer a fake 30% discount on an item they claim is worth 30% more than the original selling price without reducing the actual cost by a single cent. This way, they get to manipulate customer enthusiasm while hiding the fact that their items at un-faked retail prices weren’t selling well enough. The joke being that they definitely could not have sold the items at the false original prices.

What they’re counting on is that customers aren’t in the store every day and won’t notice that the prices haven’t changed. These stores are sure that because you aren’t the one folding and labeling their items, there’s no way to know what the original sale price was. What they didn’t expect was diligent bargain hunters and cross-store comparisons. One of their major mistakes was online listings. The inconsistencies with national sales portals and store prices revealed the deceit for Kohl’s, while Sears was found guilty of changing online prices as well as in-store tags.

For a real life example of this trickery, Kohls had a pair of belted cargo shorts on “sale” for $35.99 in January 2016. Their stickers and price tags proclaimed that this an amazing discount from the original price of $60. However, when the investigators looked into the store’s sales records, they found that the shorts had only ever sold for the “sale” price of $35.99. This isn’t the first time Kohl’s or JCPenney’s has been caught and the other stores are just as guilty. Macy’s is selling a $30 pendant they claim is worth $120 but has only ever sold for $30, and JCPenney actually offered real discounts but at fake bargain percentages from a fake original price. Sears has been found to continually claim that a $999.99 Kenmore washing machine’s original listing price is $1,179 while offering it on “sale” at its true price and a real discount price of $649 throughout the deception.

The city of Los Angeles has joined the existing Class Action suits against the offending department stores and is seeking serious retribution. The goal is to ensure that false reference pricing is permanently prohibited and establish a civil penalty fine for every violation. The proposed fine will be $2,500 for every misrepresented item, which is a hefty cost for a few fake dollars. Hopefully, we’ll see a short and sharp end to this despicable display of false advertising that will successfully prevent future transgressions by these retail monoliths.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of fraud, false advertising, or other mistreatment by a large company, you may not be the only one. Aiman-Smith & Marcy is a local California law office that specializes in employment law, consumer fraud, and class action law suits. Just because you’re the ‘little guy’ in a fraud scenario doesn’t mean you have to face the big companies alone. Contact our offices today for more information or compassionate, professional advice.

Lisseth Bayona


Education and Background

I am a Los Angeles native and daughter of Salvadorian immigrants. From an early age, my parents instilled the value of hard work and education in me and my two siblings. Their perseverance enabled each of us to graduate from college and earn professional degrees.

My interest and commitment to workers’ rights have roots in my parents’ experiences as undocumented workers in Los Angeles. Witnessing the challenges they faced inspired me to pursue a career where I can help individuals confronted with similar struggles. To help someone in those moments is very satisfying. I love connecting with people and learning about their stories. I believe that dignity in the workplace is a right of all workers, not a convenience or privilege reserved for employees of a certain race, gender, age, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Legal Experience

I received my J.D. from the University of Southern California (USC) Gould School of Law. While there, I served as a judicial extern to the Honorable Patrick J. Walsh of the United States District Court for the Central District of California, where I drafted a criminal judicial opinion. Also, while at Gould, I served as an extern for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. As a Criminal Division Extern, I had the opportunity to work closely with a trial team of Assistant U.S. Attorneys on a money laundering case which further sparked my interest in litigation.

Personal Interests

In my free time, I enjoy urban vegetable gardening, traveling, and spending time with my nephew and niece. I also love to spend time at San Onofre Beach learning to surf, although admittedly, I am not very good.



Hallie L. Von Rock

Attorney (SBN 233152)

Education and Background

I moved to the Bay Area from Washington after graduating high school. I had been accepted to UC Berkeley through a program where I could defer for two years while getting my California residency and attending community college, which was significant since I was paying for college on my own. I began working for Randall Aiman-Smith and Reed Marcy in 1996 as an office manager while taking night classes. My first foray into the legal world was soon after starting at the firm when I was ready to transfer to UC Berkeley. Rather than accepting my resident status, the Board of Regents took the position that California residency required a student to be in California “two calendar years.” Randall and Reed took up my case with the same verve as they helped their actual clients and I got the chance to comb through the UC Berkeley library to read their codes and regulations to support my position. In that experience, I learned what is was like to feel helpless against a big organization and then to have dedicated attorneys in my corner to take up my cause.

After a break to pursue my major in art history, I went to UC Hastings College of Law and continued working with Randall and Reed. Having worked together now for over 25 years, we have a unique ability to work collaboratively and finish each other’s sentences. I have strived throughout my career to make a difference in the lives of our clients. At the end of the day, if I am helping someone to get compensation for losses they suffered, then I know that all the work put into a case has been worth it.

Legal Experience

I have extensive experience in civil litigation and class action cases, including conducting discovery and depositions, calculating damages analysis, preparing motions for certification, writing appellate documents, and overseeing claims administration. We have handled several class actions against retailers where plaintiffs claimed they were forced to purchase clothing to wear to work and were not compensated for these purchases, including against Abercrombie & Fitch, Hugo Boss, Armani Exchange, Uniqlo, Dollar Tree, and Ross. Recently, I was trial counsel in a defamation claim against Bank of America on behalf of a former employee who claimed the Bank blacklisted her with future employers. The jury found Bank of America liable, including for punitive damages.

Personal Interests

Aiman-Smith & Marcy has sponsored me in the Boston Marathon and New York Marathon. When I race, I often wear a “Rockstar Ronan” shirt to support research for childhood cancer through The Ronan Thompson Foundation.


University of California, Berkeley, B.A., 1999

Hastings College of the Law, University of California, J.D., 2004

Randall Aiman-Smith

Abogado (SBN 124599)

Aiman-Smith & Marcy. Oakland consumer fraud attorneys.

Educación y antecedentes

Fui afortunado. A pesar de no haber terminado la escuela secundaria o la universidad, pude -aunque con mucho trabajo- ser admitido y sobresalir en una de las mejores escuelas de derecho del país: La Facultad de Derecho de la Universidad de Berkeley. Mientras estuve allí, tuve el privilegio de ser editor de la California Law Review y miembro del Moot Court Board, asesorando en la redacción de escritos y en la defensa de apelaciones a otros estudiantes. Después de salir de la escuela de derecho, en mis primeros años de práctica, enseñé la escritura legal y la defensa de apelación en la Universidad de California, Hastings College of the Law. También, a lo largo de los años, he sido presentador en eventos de educación legal continua.

Experiencia legal

He sido abogado durante 35 años. He dedicado mi práctica exclusivamente a representar a empleados, consumidores e inversores en los tribunales estatales y federales de primera instancia y en los tribunales de apelación. Me gusta ir a los tribunales por mis clientes y he llevado muchos casos con jurado en los tribunales estatales y federales.

¿Ejemplos? En 2010, fui la abogada principal, junto con los otros abogados del bufete, en el caso Williams v. Union Pacific Railroad donde, después de cuatro años de preparación, el bufete obtuvo un veredicto del jurado de 1.670.000 dólares para una empleada afroamericana. En Rivero v. Surdyka, fui el abogado principal en el juicio y la apelación de un caso de derechos civiles que duró 15 años, incluyendo un juicio completo y tres apelaciones al Noveno Circuito, concluyendo finalmente con una sentencia para los demandantes de más de 2.300.000 dólares. Estos casos ilustran el lema del bufete: compromiso – resultados. Hay que comprometerse con un caso, a veces durante mucho tiempo, para obtener el resultado que el cliente merece.

No siempre ganamos en el juicio. Cuando eso ocurre, el compromiso significa llevar el caso al siguiente nivel y recurrirlo. En el caso Rivero, antes mencionado, eso fue lo que ocurrió: el tribunal desestimó el caso -habíamos perdido- pero apelamos y conseguimos una victoria para nuestros clientes que mantuvimos a través de dos apelaciones más. Desde entonces, el bufete ha conseguido muchas victorias en apelación que reivindican los derechos de los empleados y los consumidores.

A lo largo de los años he sido abogado de los demandantes en numerosos casos individuales y acciones colectivas. Puede sonar cursi, o difícil de creer, pero después de todo este tiempo, y después de todas las grandes experiencias que he tenido, mi parte favorita de ser abogado es cuando consigo dar un cheque a mi cliente.



Facultad de Derecho, Universidad de California, Berkeley, J.D., 1986