Hey, Kohl’s, Why Can’t I Have Those Handbags 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.

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 1 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 canceled, Kohl’s will issue a credit to your credit card.

A brief, polite email to Kohl’s 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.

Elliott’s latest book is “How to Be the World’s Smartest Traveler” (National Geographic). Email him at [email protected]

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Stacy Johnson

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