For most people, the question of whether to pick up a penny from the sidewalk is not a particularly absorbing one. But for Carolyn Kellman of Miami, Fla., a lawyer whom the local press has described as a "fashionista," pennies have become an all-consuming passion. Kellman is suing Forever 21, the retail chain that hawks discounted designer clothes, for robbing her of a penny when she tried to refund her purchases — twice. Here, a guide to Kellman's finicky crusade:
How did Forever 21 steal her pennies?
On May 12, Kellman paid $14.46 for a pair of black denim shorts at a Forever 21 outlet. She returned the item on May 30, but was credited only $14.45, "or exactly $0.01 less," according to her suit. Forever 21 pinched another penny on July 13, when it credited her $11.56 for a black skirt that cost $11.57. This penny-pincher is the same woman the Miami Herald photographed in 2007 wearing distinctly unaffordable Christian Louboutin shoes and toting a Balenciaga motorcycle weekender bag.
Of what is Kellman accusing Forever 21?
Kellman says Forever 21 is orchestrating a "penny-skimming scheme" against its thousands of customers across the country, and "alleges breach of contract, unfair and deceptive practices, and unjust enrichment," says Steve Plunkett at The Daily Business Review. She is also seeking class-action status for two groups: "Anyone who has been charged 1 cent more and anyone refunded 1 cent less by Forever 21 in the past five years," says Plunkett.
Can she find others to join the suit?
It's a tall order. "The threshold for civil actions in her district is $15,000," says Rebecca Adams at The Huffington Post, which means she is citing "1.5 million pennies in damages." If you do the math, counting initial purchases and returns, "Kellman is counting on 750,000 customers to come forward and admit that they were miffed over a penny," says Staci Zaretsky at Above the Law. "Maybe others will be just as pissed as she was," but if other Forever 21 shoppers maintain a more laissez-faire attitude, she may be out of luck.
Why is Forever 21 taking pennies anyway?
It's common practice for some stores to round up or down to make change. The Mexican food chain Chipotle got in hot water for rounding up or down to the nearest nickel, and this week announced that from now on it would "only round down in customers' favor," says Martha C. White at NBC News. Chipotle insists that it never made a profit on the rounding, a strategy designed to help lines move faster.