Hey Kohls, why can’t I have those body bags at the sale price?

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Dolores Gillespie thinks she’s going to pay $12 for a handbag. But Kohl’s has other plans for her purchase. Who is right?

Question: I recently tried to purchase four Croft & Barrow Multicompartment Cross-Body Bags that were on sale at Kohls.com for $12 each. However, when I put the items into my shopping cart they reverted to the regular price of $40.

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I called Kohl’s and was told by a customer service representative that when I was finished shopping, I should call back and they would adjust the price. When I did that, I was refused the $12 price and offered a $20 price.

That is called bait and switch. The purses had been at the $12 sale price for two days, so if there was a pricing error they had more than enough time to correct it. I feel that Kohl’s has an obligation to sell the merchandise at the advertised price and to stand behind their company’s good reputation.

Do I have a leg to stand on or am I just being an annoying customer? The web price still shows at $12 five days after I first saw them and tried to purchase them at that price.

Dolores Gillespie, Bel Air, MD

Answer: Here we go again. We’ve had this discussion with airfares, so why not with a pocketbook?

Why not with four pocketbooks?

Ah, that’s the thing that tripped me up with your case. Why would anyone buy four of these bags? Isn’t that like booking a dozen airline tickets when the fare is obviously an erroneous one-cent price?

Perhaps, perhaps not. I could find no evidence that the body bag had been promoted on one of those “too-good-to-be-true” bargain websites (sorry, I won’t link to any of them). Also, you waited a while to give Kohl’s time to correct the mistake and you asked about the price before you made your purchase.

I think you had every reason to believe you were dealing with a legitimate offer. Why not buy four of them and give them to friends and family as gifts? If you’d bought 40, I might be a little more suspicious.

When you’ve done your due diligence on an offer like this, then Kohl’s has an obligation to sell you the items at the price it promised. Every case is different, of course, but I think you did the best you could with this one. Simply cutting the price to $20 wasn’t enough.

Kohl’s excuse was unacceptable. In an email, it said it couldn’t find the $12 sale price. That’s probably because the error had been fixed by then. Either way, a representative noted,

While Kohl’s strives to provide accurate product and pricing information, unintentional pricing or typographical errors may occur.

Kohl’s reserves the right to correct any errors, inaccuracies or omissions and to change or update information (including, without limitation, information related to text, pricing, availability and product descriptions) at any time without notice (including after you submitted your order and confirmation was received).

In the event that an item is listed at an incorrect price, with incorrect information, or discounted in error, Kohl’s shall have the right, in its sole discretion, to refuse or cancel any purchased orders placed for that item. If your credit card has been charged for any order subsequently cancelled, Kohl’s will issue a credit to your credit card.

A brief, polite email to Kohl’s by email would have been the next step, followed by an appeal to one of its executives. The email convention at Kohl’s is [email protected], so it’s not too hard to guess the right email address. You can also try its “escalated” email address: [email protected]

You sent Kohl’s a cordial email with screen shots of the offer to help jog their memory, but it didn’t work. So I decided to get involved. After I contacted Kohl’s, it agreed to honor the $12 price.

Should Kohl's have honored the $12 price?

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74 thoughts on “Hey Kohls, why can’t I have those body bags at the sale price?

  1. Chris there must be more to the story. This is the same company that will allow you to buy an item, use it for a year and a half, and then return it for full purchase price. My wife has their credit card (no interest if paid in 90 days with every purchase) and she has never had a problem with price adjustments at point of sale. (I am surprised the card has never melted from overuse).

    Their regular prices are terrible, but with the sales and discounts she receives on top of the return policy I can’t understand how they are in business.

    So for them to ball at the price she found bus a mystery to me…

    1. You nailed the issue of regular prices. They are usually 50-100% higher than you can get the same thing elsewhere. That’s why they have so many sales and send you 30% off flyers.

  2. “That is called bait and switch.”

    I can’t stand when people make claims about legal things they know nothing about. That’s called assault 😉

  3. I voted ‘Yes’.

    I just went to their website and the item is on sale for $ 24 and the regular price is $ 40. It is my guess that the $ 12 price was a data entry error.

    My reason for voting ‘Yes’ is that their ‘disclosure’ of…

    “While Kohl’s strives to provide accurate product and pricing information, unintentional pricing or typographical errors may occur.

    Kohl’s reserves the right to correct any errors, inaccuracies or omissions and to change or update information (including, without limitation, information related to text, pricing, availability and product descriptions) at any time without notice (including after you submitted your order and confirmation was received).

    In the event that an item is listed at an incorrect price, with incorrect information, or discounted in error, Kohl’s shall have the right, in its sole discretion, to refuse or cancel any purchased orders placed for that item. If your credit card has been charged for any order subsequently cancelled, Kohl’s will issue a credit to your credit card.”

    …was NOT on the webpage. If it was on the webpage, then I would have voted ‘No’ since it was disclosed. This will be like the flyers in the Sunday newspaper where many retailers disclosed their ‘pricing errors’ disclosure in their advertisement.

    1. Regardless of the posting of the policy, the fact that Kohls didn’t ‘cancel or refuse’ the order or offer to refund the money, thus indicating the policy does not apply in this case.

      1. What order? There was no order…the price on the website stated $ 12 but when the OP went to checkout, it reverted back to the non-sale price of $ 40 then she stopped and called Kohls customer service where they offered the OP the price of $ 20. After some e-mails, the situation became stalemate then the OP contacted Chris and Chris called Kohls and they agreed to sell the bags to the OP for $ 12.

    2. FYI — it is part of their legal notices which is linked at the bottom of every page:
      http://www.kohls.Com/catalog/common/content.jsp?pageName=legalnotices

      I bet that satisfies their legal standard for disclosure. As I see it, the problem with citing this provision in this circumstance is that if they were exercising their right to correct an unintentional error, then why did that incorrect price persist for 5 more days?

      Regardless, I don’t believe the pricing error was “obvious.” And if a customer catches a glitch on your website, IMO they deserve at least a “thank you” and probably some sort of courtesy goodwill gesture as well.

    3. I don’t know if you monitor the later comments, but I posted a screenshot of that same bag being offered between “$16 and $24, normally $40”. But there ARE no $16 bags available. I figured that the cheap purse would be in a color that doesn’t sell well, but all colors for sale are the same $24.

      What’s funnier is that @sunshipballoons:disqus found the website, and the same purses are offered from $20 to $24! Again, no $20 purses. So, it’s very possible that the OP actually had that offer – that price varies by geographic location – and that this is a problem with website design or cookies or beacons or widgets or whatever the heck. Or it’s a deliberate ploy by Kohl’s that backfired this time.

  4. Why would anyone buy four of something? Perhaps she is buying for two teenagers, herself, and her mother like I frequently do.

    In this case, it is possible that the Kohl’s website is built without the right refresh code so the price she sees is actually in her cache on her computer and not the current price. I have similar issues with another online retailer I frequent.

    1. Heck, if she wanted to buy one for herself and three to sell on eBay, that’s her right. The quantity of her purchase has nothing to do with the price changes *unless* there was a per-customer quantity limit.

      1. Actually it does matter. Kohl is probably not legally obligated to sell the bags at the $12 price. If they are going to exercise discretion on her behalf, the good faith of the purchaser became important.

        1. At the point they told her to go ahead and order them, call them after she placed the order, and that they would adjust the price, Kohls said that they would sell them for $12.

          At that point it is about the good faith of Kohls.

    2. I know quite a few females who’d buy four for themselves. Maybe in different colors, maybe they really like the bag but know it’ll be showing wear in a few months so they’ll want a new one. And at $12, it’s easy to see why they’d do that.

      1. Or for Christmas presents. Heck, I’d buy several of them at $12 for those people who you need to buy gifts for but don’t know that well and you don’t want to blow a lot of money on them. I also agree that, just like for airline website pricing, how am I as a consumer supposed to know what is a reasonable sale price and what is a fatfinger mistake? That is not my responsibility. This isn’t the price guessing game on “The Price Is Right”.

        BTW Chris, the headline said “body bags” and I was wondering why Kohl’s had chosen to expand their product line to crime scene accessories.

  5. Another point in the consumer’s favor is that I don’t think this is an outrageous discount or quantity. When my wife sees a good deal on certain women’s accessories, she buys about that number to give as gifts. A wife who wants $40 FULL RETAIL price handbags is a gem. I often see women at work with handbags costing several thousand dollars and these are the rationalizations (I am NOT making these up)

    1) This bag is well made and will last longer. (Like she wants to carry around an out-of-style bag after a few years…)

    2) It’s made of real leather! (Did they slaughter 5 cows to make it?)

    3) It’s handmade! (How many artisans paid at top rates in Europe does it take to make a $3000 handbag much less one probably working in a sweatshop somewhere?)

    It took a lot of gumption on my part, but my wife isn’t interested in designer handbags now that she sees so many people walking around with fakes. She often sees poor people on the bus with Louis Vuitton knockoffs so it’s not worth it to her. But boy, the work it took to convince her of that…

    1. I used to know a guy who sold the best fakes I have ever seen, I moved away, so I am not sure if he is still there. His prices were steep for fakes, I paid $80 for a coach pocketbook for my wife. The same pocketbook ran $600 or so at Coach. The best part is that she was looking at something in the coach store and the coach employee didn’t know it was a fake.

      I am still baffled by people who spend thousands on pocketbooks.

        1. I am not sure it is stealing per se; I would say it’s trademark infringement, and it is against the law (at least where I live).

          1. Buying it for personal use is legal in the US. In fact, its even legal to import or bring counterfeit merchandise through customs as long as its for personal use. That one really surprised me to learn.

        2. In the eye’s of the law, its legal to buy them in the US so long as they are for personal use, it’s selling them that is illegal. (In fact, it is only illegal to buy knock-offs in France and Italy). Though, according to my guy, he was selling the real thing at a steep discount because of his “connections”. I still doubt they were real. As I would have never bought the real thing if the knockoff didn’t exist, Coach didn’t loose any money from my purchase.

      1. This happened:
        Friend #1: Lookit my genuine diamond-encrusted Rolex. It was $10,000.
        Friend #2: Lookit my genuine imitation-diamond encrusted Lolex from Khao San Road in Bang Lam Poo. It looks exactly like your $10,000 Rolex, and it cost me ten US dollars.

      2. I firmly believe that the root of my son’s divorce was my former daughter-in-law’s extensive collection of Coach purses. Oh, and the many hidden unpaid bills. Little things like electricity bill, mortgage, car payment (all automatically coming out of her account). When *I* started getting the debt collector calls about her, all was revealed. I can’t see a Coach bag without thinking of that very sad situation.

        1. You can hardly blame her on buying the purses… where else would she stuff the bills when they came in the mail?

          And, as a side-note, if the collector revealed he/she was trying to collect on the debt of your daughter-in-law, a whole gigantic pile of laws was broken; they aren’t supposed to do that.

          1. How about the debt collectors that keep calling my home number and leaving messages for someone with extensive details about what is owed to whom? I don’t need to know about that person’s problems.

            I’m never there when they call so I can’t pick up the phone and tell them not to call because I am not the person they are looking for.

          2. We moved and got a new phone number a few years ago. Almost immediately, the state Attorney General’s office kept calling and leaving messages for the previous owner’s of that number. When I finally was at home to answer one time, I was a bit taken aback when they asked to speak to “one of the Hookers about a legal matter,” and then I realized that was their last name and had a good laugh.

          3. I moved to a small town with its own unique exchange, because at the time, I couldn’t port my landline. Phone numbers in that exchange were re-assigned within days of being released. I kept getting calls and calls for the woman who had previously had that number. I would set up accounts at utilities and dry cleaners and the like, they’d look up the number and then initially decline to set up an account, because of that woman. Finally the finance arm for Ford Motor Co. kept calling and calling, trying to collect on a debt, despite my patient explanations. That was it. In the end, Ford sent me a very nice letter of apology, while copying the state AG, the state banking commissioner, the FTC and the various media outlets I’d contacted.

          4. ROTFL.

            I know my rights under a variety of laws dealing with debt collectors (not because of anything I or my husband have ever done!) and politely informed the caller that I had never heard of ______ MyLastName (daughter-in-law) and promptly called my son to inform him. Then when those folks called *again*, I promptly reported them to my state’s AG, to their state’s AG and the FTC. Didn’t bother me after that. Much cheaper than sending them a certified letter and far more satisfying.

    2. I spend about $200/300 on a purse and literally use it every day for ABOUT 5 years. The quality does matter; a $20/40 bag only lasts a few months if you’re lucky. However, I agree with you about the thousands, that’s unnecessary. Normally, women that buy them have to provide free advertising (as my wise grandfather would say) and have their purse covered in logos. They don’t even pay for quality leather, its cloth covered in stupid logos. Those stupid coach ones are the worst, they even have other items now, like shoes, that are just fabric with logos all over it. I hate logos; I have a very difficult time finding a purse that’s well made, sized right, with the compartments I want, that zippers shut, etc that isn’t covered in logos. There is nothing that drives me crazier. And I can tell a knock off from across the room, its a hidden talent!

      1. I spent $15 on a wallet and have used it every day for 15 years. Still looks OK and still does what I bought it for. I could have spent $150 or probably $1500 if I wanted to. Just don’t see the need. 🙂

      2. I bought my current bag about three years ago. It’s not really designer but a nicer brand name (Brighton) and it cost $300. It still looks really nice. It’s a color that you wouldn’t think would go with just about everything, but it does, and it give my outfits that Stacy & Clinton “pop of color”, and I get quite a few compliments on it. I have a Kate Spade bag that I bought about ten years ago and it still looks brand new and stylish. Quality does count, but I think at a certain price point there are diminishing returns as far as the $300 range vs. the $1,000+ range. Past a certain point it’s all about the designer aspect.

      3. I similarly spend a decent amount for quality bags. I have bags by Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, Dooney and Bourke, Brighton, etc.. “mid-tier” designers that I pay in the $300 range for and they last, they look classic, AND they come with quality warranties that I’ve taken advantage of in the event of a broken zipper, etc… I would never pay more than $350 for a bag, but likewise, I don’t buy $35 purses, either, because I don’t carry “useless junk” as one poster called it, in mine and after a handle broke off in the middle of running thru an airport, I stopped buying the cheap ones. But, to get back to the topic at hand, I am glad Chris got this resolved for the OP. Whether she bought 1, 4 or 14 of them for her own use or for gifts, if the website said $12, she should have gotten them for $12 and I am surprised Kohl’s was so intractable. I worked at Kohl’s customer service part time when finishing up college and we were taught to never argue or haggle over prices. If a customer said, “Oh that’s supposed to be 30% off” we were told to give it to them. So, glad this had a happy ending.

        1. I bought a Coach purse (regular store product) at the exchange on base in Japan and it was on clearance for $198. A clasp broke on the long strap so I took it to the regular Coach store in Hawaii (was visiting there at the time). I paid $20, they sent it off for warranty repair, and then I got a call a week later saying they couldn’t repair it and were sending me a gift card for the full value of the purse.

          Since the purse was not a factory (outlet) style, it was fairly pricey originally… $400. I paid actually I think $175, no tax, because of the clearance price and then another percentage off with a coupon the Exchange had.

          And Coach gave me a $400 gift card to replace my purse because they didn’t or couldn’t send me just the strap.

          Coach is pretty classy. It’s all I buy. If that’s my worst habit, I think I’m doing okay, lol 🙂

      4. I never spend more than $50 on a purse and I’ll normally keep them for 2 years or so. I’ve had the lining rip after a year or so on a few of them, but mostly they hold up pretty well. I usually buy them from Marshall ‘s, where you can find some decent quality bags. My current purse I’ve had since last Dec and it’s in great shape. I just can’t see spending hundreds, let alone thousands on a purse. It literally spends 70% of the time on the floor under my desk. On the weekends I switch it out for an easier to carry, lightweight cross body bag, so an expensive purse would be wasted on me!

      5. Go to Italy and have one made for you, will last a lifetime. I have 2 pair of all leather wingtips (one brown one black) made by a cobbler, took a month but they are amazing shoes. France also has the best silk and i mean silk stockings, but they have to b e fitted to you.

  6. I voted yes, it was the right thing to do and didn’t seem like an obvious error. In fact, I am shocked as to how stubborn they were. I was wondering why someone would want 4 of the same pocketbook, but then I realized it was Kohls. They will fall apart so quickly you need 4 to make it last as long as 1 regular pocketbook.

    I feel that Kohl’s has an obligation to sell the merchandise at the advertised price and to stand behind their company’s good reputation.

    This made me laugh. Good reputation? Yeah, they have great prices, but their coupons are always scams to get you to spend more, and they have high pressure sales tactics for their card. I’ve found some good deals, but they are always too good to be true. The clothing I have bough unravel after a few uses. I bought a nice looking suitcase for $50 once and the zipper fell apart before I even traveled with it. I returned it and they would only give me $30 because according to their computer that was the “Current” price, even though I had the receipt for $50, they said that was their return policy to give the current price on defective merchandise if it was purchased on clearance. You live, you learn.

    1. That’s interesting because we’ve had good experiences with Kohl’s over the years. And I know we’ve done returns and gotten full purchase price back. Shoot, they’ll even give you money back if an item goes on sale shortly after you purchased it at a higher price.

      I just did a web search and not only does Kohl’s website make no mention of them not honoring full purchase price on returns, but Kiplinger’s has them on a list of stores with the most generous return policies. Was your experience quite a while back?

      1. Oh wow. This was about 3 years ago at the only Kohls near me. I haven’t been back since. It could have been a rogue employee.

        I use to buy a lot of clothing there, and it never lasted very long. I have since switched to Macy’s and while clothing is a little more expensive, it tends to last longer. When I have bought brand name clothing at other stores, for even more money, it lasts much longer even than Macy’s.

  7. I have not used a handbag in years Just have no need to carry one around. Why women pay so much for a bag to hold useless junk is beyond me. I have a dozen or
    more designer ones that perhaps my daughter wants. No need for one for me.

  8. I’ve shopped at Kohls for about 3 years now and no one has any idea what anything is going to cost until its rung up = I routinely see prices half of the lowest tag price – Kohls does not have a leg to stand on just given my personal experience.

    1. That’s my experience too. I always try to use their price checking machines so I can make a better decision. I might not like a blouse for $30 but love it for $15!

    2. I have never bought anything at Kohls. We have two in our area. One is disgusting like Walmart, but the other is a nice store. I get the same price at Macy’s and points, so stick to Macy’s.

          1. Ooooh – looooooove Nordies! Had them in Minneapolis and Seattle. There are penalties to living in the Plains states.

  9. Kohl’s sells body bags? Really? No they sell Cross Body Bags. Quite a different product. This use of inappropriate terminology has hit a low. There is a blog on these type of finds. I’ll submit this one!

  10. Hey, Christopher Elliott: The bag under discussion is advertised on their website as $16 to 24 on sale, normally $40. But if you actually click on the handbag to select a color, all of the colors are being sold for $24. See picture attached.

    I want either the grey or the denim blue one for $16, please. I’m not picky Let me know. 🙂

    1. They are saying they have some that they want to sell at $16. So where are they? Why can’t you get to them? Sounds like false advertising to me.

  11. I’m skeptical of the story. I went to Kohl’s website and when you search for the bag, it says prices from $20-$24 and you can click on a link to a page where you actually place the bag in your shopping cart. I assume when she looked, this first page said something like $12-$24.

    However, when you go to the second page — where you can put the bag in your cart — the only price the bags are offered at is $24. There are no $20 bags available. I suspect THIS is what happened to her. She saw an initial page that said the bags were offered in a price ranges as low as $12, but when she actually went to put it in her cart, it clearly said $20.

    That still might not be okay, but it’s a very different story from the one told here.

    Note, I don’t think she is being misleading; I think she was confused.

    1. I don’t think she’s confused at all – please see the post I wrote up about 3 hours ago, with a screenshot of the website and that purse. Like you, my screenshot says that the purses are available at prices between $16 and $24. (I must get better deals in Nebraska than you do, LOL). But when you click on the purse, there are no $16 purses available, only $24 purses, just like you. I see something similar when shopping on Amazon or Lands End or whatever – only one color or size is available at that lowest price. But not in this case. There are no purses to be had, in any color, for anything other than $24.

      So, you and I and a couple of other folks who went looking at that website all saw something similar: a range of prices offered on the front page and only one, higher price on the actual page. The OP contacted Kohl’s; they initially said they would honor the front page price; they ended up not honoring that price.

      So again, I don’t think she’s any more confused than the rest of us. Since I happen to think that I and most of the other folks on this forum are pretty bright, this was 1) poor website design (if I’m being charitable); 2) poor advice from the person she first talked to at Kohl’s; and 3) a reneging of the promise made by the first person she spoke to.

      1. Your experience was essentially the same as mine (and I’m not surprised purses are more expensive hear in California compared to Nebraska!). I’m now more sure than ever that she was confused.

        She says the higher price appeared when she put it in the shopping bag. I say, no, the higher price appeared when she went to the part of the site where she could put it in the shopping bag.

        I’m not saying Kohl’s handled it right. I am saying that her story doesn’t quite seem to line up.

        1. Or it could be that she didn’t notice the price until she put it into her shopping cart. I’ve had those kinds of days. At least she caught it before checking out!

          I still want a grey or denim blue cross body bag for $16, not $24, and am waiting for @elliottc:disqus to line one up for me. 🙂

          1. Fair enough. In that case, “confused” would be the wrong word. “Incorrect in her description of the facts” would be more accurate.

  12. Even given that this is Kohl’s we’re discussing, is there any chance that the $12 price could have been a fat-finger error?

  13. This is classic deceptive trade practices, a merchant can not opt out or policy away a deceptive trade practice, no more than they could have a disclaimer or warning that they reserve the right to defraud you.

    I would have taken a screen shot of the price, bought the bags and disputed the difference with my bank, then if failing to do that I would have gone to small claims court.

  14. The first thing I was thinking of when I saw the title was “Kohl’s sells body bags?”

    Actually – $12 would be a pretty good price. There are retail websites where the only products sold are body bags. I guess it pays to specialize.

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