For the past few years, Stephanie Lugo and Jose Irizarry made JCPenney the first stop on Black Friday.
The embattled retailer would typically give out coupons at the door that would save them anywhere between $10 and $500.
This year, they were disappointed to find that there were no coupons available.
"I'm very surprised and annoyed," Lugo said outside the midtown Manhattan location. She added that the prices were good enough for her to make some purchases, but that she "absolutely" would have shopped online if she knew she would have a different experience this year.
JCPenney is one of the many retailers struggling to stay afloat as Amazon lures away shoppers with low prices and hassle-free shopping. On Black Friday, which is expected to be the busiest day of the year for brick-and-mortar stores, the department store could benefit from a smooth operation. But the new coupon policy seems to have confused its customers.
On Twitter, JCPenney has had to explain to frustrated shoppers how the coupons work.
There's a reason people are struggling to make sense of JCPenney's new system.
Last year, shoppers received coupons when they visited the retailer on both Thanksgiving and on Black Friday and could use the coupons once Black Friday mark downs expired.
This year, coupons were handed out on Thursday, and will be handed out again on Saturday. But no coupons are available for Black Friday itself.
JCPenney representative Kate Coultas explained that this year, Black Friday deals started on Thanksgiving and remained in place through Friday night. Previously, those Black Friday deals started on Thanksgiving but expired earlier on Friday and coupons served as a way to give shoppers a break on their purchases.
It's not a great time for JCPenney to disappoint customers. In October, the retailer warned that it will lose twice as much money as it had expected to this quarter.
Penney has lost $242 million in the first six months of this fiscal year. And while it did manage to post a narrow $1 million profit last year, that came after a string of five straight losing years in which it lost a total of $3.5 billion.
The chain also closed 127 stores during the second quarter, more than 10% of its locations.