posted: Jul. 16, 2012 @ 9:33p
If you don't shop at Kohls, this won't be of any interest to you. If you do shop at Kohl's, it still probably won't be of much interest, and it might be a little hard to follow, but I have some time to kill right now, and typing all of this out maybe could help someone to better understand the pitfalls of having the audacity to try to actually understand how much you're paying for crap made in China and Bangladesh.
For those who don't know, Kohls offers $10 in "Kohls cash," which is kind of like a store credit, but not exactly, for every $50 you spend in the store. Only you have to use it during a specified time period, and that time period never starts less than 48 hours after your initial $50 purchase.
So last week, on July 11, I bought 4 shirts. The first one was $13.99 and the other three were all the same style for $17.99. I asked for and received a 15% discount at checkout, so this is what my receipt looked like:
$17.99 X 3 = $53.97 for shirts #2, #3, and #4
$13.99 for shirt #1
$67.96 pre-tax subtotal
-$10.19 for 15% discount
FINAL PRE-TAX PRICE $57.77
They also gave me a $10 Kohls Cash certificate that couldn't be used before July 13.
So I go back on July 14 looking for a package of socks. I find one I like that has a regular price of $20 plus tax. While I'm there, I notice the shirts I bought three days earlier have been put on sale for one day only. The first shirt has actually gone up in price to $14.99, but shirts #2, #3, and #4 have been reduced to $14.99. I decide to ask for a price adjustment, which Kohls typically processes without any hassle. Or, at least they have a reputation for this.
However, because I received that 15% discount on the original purchase, the Kohls computer was telling the clerk at the return desk that the original purchase price of the shirts was $15.29 each plus tax ($17.99 minus the 15% discount) and so I was only entitled to a $0.30 adjustment on each shirt ($15.29 - $14.99). The computer had no way to apply that original 15% discount to the lower (and current) price of $14.99. This is where it started to get really messy.
Time to back up and explain my intentions. I wanted to use the $10 in Kohls Cash (that I had earned three days prior) to cut the price of the $20 socks in half. Even with the 15% discount I originally received on the shirts and the new lower price adjustment, the total pre-tax price of the 4 shirts on my original receipt should have still been over $50, which is important, because if it had dipped below $50, that would have invalidated the Kohls Cash I was planning to apply to my new sock purchase. To be exact, it would have been [($14.99 x 3) + $13.99] * 0.85 = $50.12 Then I would have gotten the socks for $10 minus another 15% discount, plus tax, so basically, I would have been paying $8.50 plus tax for the socks. Therefore, the newly adjusted total pre-tax price of the 4 shirts ($50.12) and the ($8.50) pack of socks, after all applicable discounts, would have been $58.62.
Ok, getting back to the moment it got messy at the return desk. The clerk told me it wouldn't be a problem, since he could just process a return of shirts #2, #3, and #4 and allow me to immediately repurchase them at the lower price of $14.99 each and apply a 15% discount to that purchase. He explained that doing this would invalidate the Kohls Cash certificate that had been activated on July 11, but then he could simply issue a new $10 Kohls cash certificate. It sounds fine at first, but remember, a new Kohls Cash certificate can't be used for at least 48 hours. And I wanted to take my socks home immediately.
So there was another option, which sounds fine at first, but this is where the highly intelligent mathematical genius chimps working in the finance department of Kohls corporate offices know they're screwing the customer. The refund I would receive on the "return" of shirts #2, #3, and #4 would be reduced by $10, and I'd get to keep my original certificate of $10 Kohls Cash and use it as partial payment for my socks. Simple, right? HELL NO.
Remember, the actual price I paid for shirts #2, #3, and #4, after the 15% discount, was $15.29 each. Multiply that by 3, and the return should have been for $45.87. We couldn't do a return and repurchase of shirt #1, because then I would have been required to pay the new higher price for that shirt. Remember, that style actually increased in price from $13.99 to $14.99 while the other shirts all got reduced. So take away the $10 for the reduction in my refund that allowed me to keep the $10 in Kohls Cash, and my refund comes to only $35.87. I've now paid $57.77 minus a $35.87 refund, or $21.90, for shirt #1 and a $10 Kohls Cash certificate.
Rewind..... shirt #1 was originally $13.99, so with the 15% discount, it was actually $11.90. Then add the $10 I had to "pay" in order to keep my $10 Kohls Cash, and we can easily arrive at the same total of $21.90. I've effectively invalidated the "free" $10 in Kohls Cash and purchased it back from them with $10 in REAL MONEY.
Now I have to repurchase the 3 shirts I've just "returned." I put that in quotes because I didn't even have the shirts with me. Remember, I never had any real intention to return the shirts. I only wanted a price adjustment on them. So on the new purchase receipt, I'm charged $14.99 * 3 for the shirts plus $20 for the socks. Before any discounts, my subtotal here is $64.97. Knock off $10 for the redemption of the Kohls Cash that I kept, and we're down to $54.97. Then apply another 15% discount, and we're at $46.72.
I've just paid $46.72 plus $21.90, or $68.62, to get 4 shirts and a package of socks. Go up six paragraphs, and you'll see the total price of these 4 shirts and socks should have been $58.62. I'VE BEEN RIPPED OFF FOR $10. What happened?
It's simple really. The $10 I was "charged" by having my "return" reduced by $10 washed out the $10 discount that was applied to the new purchase. They effectively confused the crap out of me to the point where I had no idea what had even happened until I got home and analyzed all three receipts in agonizing detail. People who aren't as determined as I am would have surely gotten frustrated and given up, unaware of the scam they'd just suffered.
I wasn't about about to take this lying down, so I decided to return the socks and shirt #1, since I didn't like that style all that much anyway, and instead purchase a 5th shirt off the rack, which when combined with my purchase of shirts #2, #3, and #4, would total over $50 and get me a new $10 Kohls Cash certificate that I could then use starting either July 16 or 17, at which time I would make yet another trip to this dump of a store to purchase a package of socks with the applicable $10 Kohls Cash discount. I would have to wait a few days to start wearing those socks after all.
But of course, it didn't work out that way. I went back there with a very specific plan. I'm going to return the socks and shirt #1 for a refund. I'm also going to (yet again) return and repurchase shirts #2, #3, and #4, as well as a new shirt off the rack, shirt #5. Very politely and quietly, almost under my breath, I say to the girl who is now working at the return desk (totally different person than who was there earlier in the day) "I know this isn't your fault, but I'm very frustrated at the confusion I'm suffering because of all the restrictions on Kohls Cash and how that interferes with simple price adjustments for previous purchases. I would like to return these socks as well as all four of these shirts, and then I'd like to repurchase three of the shirts along with a totally new shirt that I just took off the rack." She seemed inclined to help, but had absolutely no concept that the root cause of my frustration and anger was due to being ripped off for $10 by the Kohls computer that only the genius chimps at corporate headquarters can fully understand.
The most angering part of this entire experience happened next. The total refund upon this return would be a little over $70 including tax, which was correct. However, because of the $10 Kohls Cash discount that was applied to the most recent purchase (the one that came to $46.72) I'd only get a $60 cash refund, and I'd have to take the final $10 in a gift card. Ultimately, it didn't matter, because I was repurchasing more than $10 worth of crap anyway, but the point here is that the computer was rigged to prevent a complete reversal of all transactions that had taken place from the very beginning. They figured out a way to force me to buy something in the store after returning EVERYTHING I had purchased, even if I hadn't wanted to. They do everything they can to get you to keep coming back, day after day, hour after hour, whether you want to or not. As I'm writing this, I feel like I have some incurable mental disease that causes me to keep going back there even though I hate the place.
The total price for shirts #2, #3, #4, and #5 had to stay over $50 so I can get another $10 in Kohls Cash that I will then use to repurchase the socks later in the week. But the girl at the return desk decided to be nice at give me a 30% discount instead of the 15% discount, you know, for all my trouble and frustration. And that knocked the total price down below $50, which therefore means no $10 in Kohls Cash. Which also means no socks. In the end, I got 4 shirts for something like $43.73 including tax and everything, which is a great price when only considering the bottom line. But the hassle of going back there and the anger and frustration of knowing I'd been scammed made it so not worth it. I still need socks, and I'll be buying them at Target. If anyone wants to borrow a shirt, let me know.