Over the Hill

Fake sales, changing banks and California’s latest water fight

Phil Dirkx.
Phil Dirkx. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

I have three topics today: 1. Discounted prices may be mythical. 2. Banks are changeable. 3. In California, “Whiskey’s for drinking and water’s for fighting,” as the old adage goes.

First, the mythical discounts: Last week, the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office sued four major department stores for allegedly issuing misleading advertising. They are JCPenney, Sears, Kohl’s, and Macy’s.

JCPenney, Sears and Kohl’s have stores in San Luis Obispo County, and there’s a Macy’s in Santa Maria. Lawsuits against their Los Angeles affiliates were reported last week in The Tribune and other newspapers.

The Los Angeles city attorney is suing the stores’ branches in that city for allegedly advertising false discounts. For example, one suit said Sears allegedly offered a certain model of washing machine in April for $999.99, down from $1,179.99. That machine, however, was never sold for more than $999.99.

As time passed, the price was reduced a number of times, until it reached $649.99. But even then, it was still shown as discounted from $1,179.99, the lawsuit said. Basically the lawsuits against all four of the retailers allege they had claimed fictitious higher “original” prices in order to advertise inflated discounts.

In California, it’s illegal to claim an item previously had a higher price unless that item really was sold at the higher price in the three months before the discount was advertised. But I think most of us realize any advertised higher original price may be fictitious. We just have to decide if the item is really worth the current asking price. If it isn’t, forget it.

And now about changeable banks: Wednesday’s Tribune reported my bank is changing again. My bank is a branch of Heritage Oaks Bancorp based in Paso Robles. That chain is selling itself to Pacific Premier Bancorp of Irvine. Pacific Premier now has 16 branches in Southern California. Heritage Oaks has 12 in this county and Santa Barbara County.

I’m unworried. I’ve been through bank ownership changes before. My previous two or three banks just continued operating in the same building, which now houses a furniture store. This latest ownership change is to be final next year. Then, the Heritage Oaks branches will be renamed as Pacific Premier. That’s too bad. Heritage Oaks is a strong name, easy to picture. I can’t picture Pacific Premier.

Now about California’s latest water fight. Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act. Rep. Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield said, “It will increase pumping. It will increase storage. It will fund more desalination, efficiency and recycling projects.”

But he didn’t say how the water will be replaced after it’s pumped from the already sinking San Joaquin Valley floor.

Phil Dirkx’s column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Paso Robles for more than five decades, and his column appears here every week. Reach Dirkx at 805-238-2372 or phild2008@sbcglobal.net.