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The Five Dumbest Things on Wall Street This Week: Oct. 19

Stocks in this article: C JCP CLWR MSFT P

5. J.C. Penney's Pusher

J.C. Penney (JCP) CEO Ron Johnson once referred to coupons as a "drug" habit that his addicted customers needed to break. Well, judging by his surprise e-mail late last week, Ron seems to be the one who cracked.

Johnson sent an e-mail last Thursday to Penney's customers -- the remaining ones that is -- which included a $10 "gift" to thank them for sticking with his struggling department store despite his radical pricing and appearance changes. In case you may have forgotten, J.C. Penney stopped offering coupons back in February in favor of an approach that stresses everyday low prices.

The coupon, er, sorry Ron, gift can reportedly be used for an in-store purchase until Nov. 4 and can be applied to purchases of $10 or more. As to why Johnson didn't extend the promotion through the all-important Black Friday weekend, we have no idea.

And that's not the only question dogging Johnson's curious coupon campaign...Darn! Forgive us. We called it a coupon again, even though J.C. Penney spokesperson Kate Coultas specifically told the WSJ that "this invitation is in no way a reflection of a departure from our fair and square everyday low prices."

Wait Kate! Is it an "invitation," a "gift" or a "drug"? Now we're really confused.

And we're apparently not the only ones puzzled by the real meaning behind Johnson's latest ploy. Oppenheimer's analyst said Friday that Johnson's maneuver, however desperate, is not a return to its prior promotional strategy, while Deutsche Bank's analyst put a note out proclaiming, "$10 Off Is A Coupon In Our Book."

"With all the changes taking place in our stores, the question I hear most often is: 'What's your vision for jcpenney?'" wrote Johnson in the e-mail.

Really Ron? That's the question you hear most often? Wow, the one we hear most is: What on earth is this joker doing to a once-proud American company?

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