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Kohl's purchase regret shows why it's important to do comparison shopping

Posted by Mitch Lipka  April 1, 2013 03:02 PM

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Q. Does Kohl’s use fictitious prices in order to give discounts? I recently purchased a coffee maker at the Walpole store for $39.99 on sale for $34.99, using a 15 percent off coupon. I later found what appeared to be the same coffee maker online with a list price $10 less than I paid with the discount – and selling for $19.99. I’ve tried to get an explanation from Kohl’s, but they don’t respond.

David Riseman, East Walpole

A. The price does seem high, but it is the price Kohl’s has set for that item. What happened here is good illustration of why shopping around before you buy – even if that involves just poking around online for a few minutes – can be beneficial.

There is a subtle distinction as to why the Kohl’s coffee maker has a higher list price over what appear to be similar models. The machines sold elsewhere look identical, but are sold with different model numbers and slight variations. I asked Kohl’s about their price and why they wouldn’t answer you.

They ended up forwarding me a note they say they sent. In it, a Kohl’s customer service representative explained:

“I contacted our buying personnel to investigate the pricing of the Mr. Coffee 5-Cup Programmable Coffee Maker you inquired about. They advised that this model is exclusive to Kohl’s with features that distinguish it from other Mr. Coffee Coffee Makers in the market place.

“Kohl’s Mr. Coffee 5-Cup Programmable Coffee Maker includes a Gold Tone Filter, which is a factor that impacts price for this product. Of course, any pricing that may be available elsewhere in the market will be among the factors taken into consideration by Kohl’s buying staff.”

Kohl’s offered to help you return the coffee maker. Given how frustrating this experience has been, returning it would seem like a reasonable solution.

This situation demonstrates how retailers can create subtle distinctions that only the most astute consumers would notice. But unless getting the reusable “Gold Tone Filter” was really important to you, shopping around would have left that higher price coffee maker on a Kohl’s shelf. What really throws salt in this wound is Kohl’s was advertising the same coffee maker this week for $29.99.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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About the author

Mitch Lipka is one of America's leading consumer journalists and advocates. He is an expert in product safety, recalls, scams, and helping consumers get out of jams. He is a nationally known consumer columnist and runs TheConsumerChronicle.com. He lives in Worcester. You can find him on Facebook or reach him at ConsumerNews@Aol.com

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