Kohl’s is Krazy

After a short 15-minute visit to Kohl’s last night, I am pretty sure I figured it out. What exactly did I figure out, you ask? Great question. I figured out how the Kohl’s department store is so successful. And here is the thesis for my upcoming Masters project:

Kohl’s utilizes CIA-level confusion techniques to not only suck the buyer into their never-ending spiral of lifelong purchasing, but to also promote this behavior to their friends and family.

After the presentation of this thesis, I will undoubtedly be nominating myself for some category of Nobel prize. That is, of course, if the black helicopters that will be circling my house allow it.

So with that grand statement, I need to share some details, as I know you are all DYING to know what I saw, experienced, and barely escaped with my life and my credit still intact.


I wandered into Kohl’s last night to grab a pair of casual shoes. I know exactly where the shoe section is, since the majority of my paycheck goes to Kohl’s anyway. (You’d think they would give me some special golden cart or something, or maybe a pimped out motorized one for cruise the store).  On my way to check out the shoes, I somehow ended up browsing through three different displays of t-shirts and then was three racks deep into the big-and-tall section.

It was like I blacked out and was all-of-a-sudden holding up 2XLT t-shirts for $26.  How did I get there?

That is one of their many genius techniques – it’s like an obstacle course of “deals” along the way and unless you are super adept at avoiding them, you can’t help but wonder if you should check out those cool t-shirts. And then there were the short-sleeved polo-type shirts on “sale” as well. Wow – I could always use more of both of these.

And then, almost like they planted it, was the EXACT SAME SHIRT I was wearing that my wife bought there over the weekend. I’m certain someone put it there to lure me into the big-and-tall section, which is where I was holding up the $26 “on sale” t-shirts.

And then I saw the luggage that we bought not that long ago.

Holy cow – it was like I was at home.

And that’s part of the scheme – you feel at home, very comfortable, like you are just filling up your closet with more stuff that you clearly “need”.  Genius!

I think the most genius technique though is their pricing, which almost cause my eyes to bleed when trying to figure it out. I would have taken a picture, but I’m sure the cameras there would have detected my espionage and probably had me escorted out.

An example would be the “on sale” t-shirts. It’s very clear that they are on sale, and there is a cool digital sign showing the level of discount and final price, which gives you the deceptive belief that the pricing is clear, when it’s not.  I think the t-shirts were 50% off, but then it could have been buy 1 get the 2nd at 50% off, or it could have been graduated discount based on what you bought. I might have been 30% off unless you bought two then it was 50% off the 2nd, or maybe some combination there.

And that’s just it – THAT is the genius. It looks like maybe 30% off, could be 50% off the 2nd, clearly they are all “on sale”, so the brain is happy and you grab a fistful and move on to the next “deal”.

This mental torture, or what I might call “enhance interrogation technique”, went for the shoes I went to look at, then some socks, then there was the underwear that just when I thought I could figure out the cost, there were some that if you bought the four pack, it was really a five pack. So that has to be an extra good deal right!?

Then, I came dangerously close to getting sucked into the section for Dockers, which if I did I might still be there. But the Dockers vs the Lee brand and the sales all made my head hurt.

And then, there is the register process – oh my.

See, they trick you into believing you are saving SO much money, and you are super happy and proud, then you go to check out, and they even double down on the savings. Here’s what happens…

If you dare to glance at the prices at they show up, they also show some kind of discount there, and then, and here it comes, you get the total and THEN the enhanced interrogation really starts.

“Are you a rewards member?” Good Lord, I would not want to pass that up right? So I give my wife’s cell number and strangely they can’t find it. Hmmm…that seems odd. “Would you like to join and get weekly discounts and updates and deals and free stuff?”

Now, I start to sweat.

“Ummmm…no thanks.”  She looked at me like I just turn down a bag of cash. I think she was heartbroken.

“Sir, these socks are buy one and get 50% off the 2nd set, would you like to get another set?” Oh my – I thought I had figured out pricing, then I get this curveball. What would I possibly do with 8 pairs of dress socks when I work from home. But she’s gazing at me like some jedi mind trick. But I resisted, and said again, “Ummm…no thanks”.

She wiped a single tear from her eye. Strike two.

OK, and here come the big one. “Sir, your total is $127.86 – would you like to open a Kohl’s account? We are offering 30% off today and it will take less than a minute.” OMG how do I say no to that!? That’s is the definition of free money – I can save 30% in less than 60 seconds. She gazes more intently at me and I’m pretty sure the manager at the counter behind her started waving his hands in some jedi/magician-type move at me.

Even with the sweat pouring off me, I mumbled again, “Ummmm…no thanks.”  Strike three.

I’m pretty sure she vomited in her mouth at that point. And I may have ruined her entire year right then.

She forced a lame smile, and then it finally turned ugly.

“Ok, looks like you saved four bucks today”, she says very sarcastically like I am the moron on TV that couldn’t answer the simple question to win the game show prize of a lifetime.

I think security started to move in, so I grabbed my bag of whatever it is that I purchased, which I didn’t even recall then, and ran out the door.


Whew – deep breath now.

I share this harrowing story with you so that you can at least be informed next time you bravely wander in to Kohl’s to empty your wallets.

Good luck, and God bless…