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If you’re going to get good deals at Kohl’s, you have to know how to play the game. But California authorities say the rules of the game ought to be made more clear – otherwise, customers will just keep losing.

So the department store chain has agreed to pay a nearly $1 million penalty, and help clear up confusion about its Kohl’s Cash and coupon policies, to settle a lawsuit brought by four county district attorneys.

Officials’ main complaint was that Kohl’s was overcharging customers. “Kohl’s charged customers a higher price than the prices advertised on store shelves and signs,” the complaint read. During several store visits, inspectors from Riverside, Fresno, Santa Cruz, and Shasta counties found “numerous occasions where the price charged at the cash register at Kohl’s stores was not the lowest advertised or posted price.”

But the inspectors also couldn’t figure out how to get the best deal using Kohl’s Cash – or at least they didn’t think the typical shopper could.

During Kohl’s Cash promotions, shoppers earn a $10 coupon that can be used like cash, for each $50 they spend. According to store policy, when a shopper redeems their Kohl’s Cash during their next visit, “Kohl’s Cash will be applied prior to percent-off total purchase discounts.”

Kohl’s has said these terms are made clear online, in store and on the Kohl’s Cash certificates themselves. But the rule still trips up some shoppers, who end up not getting as good a deal as they had hoped, when they combine Kohl’s Cash and a Kohl’s percent-off coupon. If the Kohl’s Cash is applied first, it reduces the pre-coupon total, thereby reducing the ultimate amount of the percent-off discount.


The settlement requires Kohl’s “to display signage at the register which provides how Kohl’s Cash is applied when combined with other percent-off discounts.” In addition, the rules are “required to be displayed in a manner that is clear on all printed advertising done by Kohl’s.”

This is not the first time Kohl’s has come under scrutiny for pricing problems and confusing policies. In 2013, district attorneys in Fresno and Santa Cruz counties – two of the very same counties involved in the just-settled case – along with Sacramento and Santa Clara counties, reached a similar settlement with Kohl’s involving overcharges. That four-year investigation revealed “hundreds of inaccurately priced items”. Kohl’s paid $409,500 in civil penalties to settle that case.

And about two months later, in an unrelated case clear across the country in Ohio, an unhappy shopper sued Kohl’s over its Kohl’s Cash policy. Laura Henry of Willoughby, Ohio argued that she “did not receive the full value she was expecting” when she combined Kohl’s Cash with a 20% off coupon. She, too, said Kohl’s did not make this policy clear enough, in its advertisements or in stores.

Kohl’s put up a vigorous defense, and two years later, her case is still making its way through a county court. So the store appears more willing to settle with California district attorneys, than with disgruntled shoppers.

Without admitting wrongdoing, Kohl’s agreed to pay a total of $958,686.27 in penalties to the four California counties involved in the most recent case. The district attorneys say that money will be used to recoup the costs of their investigations, and to fund further “consumer protection activities”.

Just as long as they’re not being paid in Kohl’s Cash.

Photo by JeepersMedia


  1. you, the human are a creature of addictive behavior. All Kohls incentivizing policies calculate your psyche to keep you returning. You are compulsed to score this win, get that vibe. And if Kohls puts free paper in your hand on goods which vary about 10 to 20% in daily mean sales price, you feel victorious. Like your ancesters hunt satisfaction at killing something and dragging it home. If you dislike the practice, twice a year, they run lowest prices of the season sale. All the marketing games are off, just sheer good price points. Where else can you buy ckearance rack 90% off (way under their purchase cost), apply Kohls cash, and walk out the door? Its like they paid you to clean out their dead stock.

  2. Did you all know that you don’t get any percent off discount allowance when paying with Kohls cash? $50 purchase minus $40 kohls cash leaves $10 owed. They apply your 15%,20%, or 30% off the leftover $10. When I ask the cashier about it she said well Pamela, Kohls is not gonna give you 20% off of free money! I can understand what she’s trying to say but if I were paying w cash or card I would get the full discount. Anyway…I guess I learn something new every day. You know I’m all about the discount.
    There have actually been lawsuits against Kohls over this.

  3. I’m confused about the Kohl’s Cash $10 off purchase of $30 or more.
    It says valid dates June 19 thru June 25.
    Then to the right it says valid dates
    June 22 thru June 25.
    Which is it??

  4. Correct me if I’m wrong. Please.

    Years ago, maybe 15 or more, Kohl’s cash was just like cash. We could use it on any dollar purchase and on anything. Levis included!

  5. Kohl’s Cash originally works like a coupon. BUT, if you you use the “coupon” (usually under pressure on an item that has an inflated price because of an expiration date) and then return the original purchase that earned the Kohl’s Cash, you are penalized that amount. No other coupon works this way. I feel it is a marketing scam and no longer use it. And, it affects the return price on the gift receipts also.

  6. Kohl’s is one of those few stores who are always offering discounts to the customers. If they are a problem in the retail world, I dare say there are not many who do better.

    • Kohl’s Kash is a rip off if you have to return. We spent $75 in real cash and used $15 in Kohl’s Kash. We returned the item and they would only refund us $60 in real cash and $15 in Kohl’s Kash. I told them I only wanted the real cash amount returned to me and they could keep their Kohl’s Kash. They would not do it. So, I lost $15 in real cash.

      I will never ever shop their again. Kohl’s is a rip off.

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  8. This isn’t a question of reading the coupon it’s a question of dishonest retail principles. Think of it like this, you purchase a gift card, visa maybe, then you go to a store and purchase merchandise with a 20% off coupon. You purchase $100 worth of merchandise and present your $100 gift card for payment. You should have paid $80 for the merchandise and still have $20 available on your gift card. Not at Kohls! Remember, kohls cash is nothing more than a kohls gift card that you’ve already paid for! You’ve given them your hard earned cash and they in turn give you a certificate with a fixed dollar value. How is this a coupon?

    • You are incredibly mistaken on all fronts here. Kohl’s Cash is not a gift card in any way. Kohl’s Cash is a coupon. A coupon you get for spending a certain amount of money at Kohl’s. Kohl’s is not required to offer this coupon, it is a promotional tool. Kohl’s is allowed to redeem said coupon in whatever way it deems appropriate. If the value of the coupon is applied before percentages, that is Kohl’s prerogative. Kohl’s cash is not cash. It is not legal tender. Kohl’s Cash is a Coupon. Kohl’s Cash is not in any way a gift card as stated in your comment. A gift card is a form of tender. A coupon is not. Kohl’s Cash is a coupon. Anywhere you go, coupons come off before tax and gift cards and other tender are used after tax. This concept is used everywhere coupons are accepted, therefore every store uses coupons in exactly the same manner. Kohl’s Cash is a coupon.

      • I have to disagree. First the Kohl’s cash have a balance, if you didn’t spend it all the remaining balance can be use for the next transaction. Second they used the term “cash” NOT reward, promise, value, coupon, or certificate. CASH, what other stores force shoppers to pay with cash before applying discount? If that’s the way I’ll open a business and give out 90% discount on a daily basis and the only requirement is customers have to pay the balance before applying that 90% coupon to that transaction.

      • “Kohls Cash” is absolutely a “Kohls Coupon”. It has an expiration date, a very AGGRESSIVE expiration date at that, sometimes only lasting 3 days and never more than about 2 weeks tops. It cannot be combined with other coupons or discounts (note, even saying “other” coupons or discounts classifies Kohls Cash as a coupon or discount). It cannot be converted into a gift card. Kohls must cease and desist from calling “Kohl’s Cash” (slogan “It’s like being paid to shop!”) Kohl’s Cash, and call it something more honest such as “Kohls Coupon” (“it’s NOT like getting paid to shop, but IF you return immediately, we will give you a non-stackable discount!”)!!

  9. They also charge you money if you return something that was paid for by a gift card that was used in helping to get kohls cash. They give you merchandise credit back for their store for the return and charge you money for the kohls cash, so you get less back as store credit and still have to use it at their store, so you shouldn’t be charged for the kohls cash since you still will be purchasing crap from their store. Not to mention the horrible customer service when asking the representative why and she is just rude to you and never actually answers your question.

  10. If you can’t figure out how to get a deal at Kohl’s you’re a dumb ass. All you have to do is read the coupons and you use common sense to get a deal.

  11. Maybe dalloe general will be sue next

  12. It clearly states on the Kohls cash that is first then the % is applied on the balance. Another example of people not reading. Like putting a cup of hot coffee in ones lap as you drive. Coffee is hot people and Kohls cash comes before real money.

  13. You mean to tell us because people can not read you are penalizing Kohl’s. It’s a freaking coupon that was given to you “NO CASH VALUE” so no discount on it. Come on people are you that ignorant?

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