Are sales really as good as they seem?


"I like to shop here because they have all kinds of specials. I get the discounts, you know, in the mail and that helps a lot with the budget," Kohl's shopper Shelly Harrill said.

And shopper Sherdenia Weaver told me she saved $47.52 during her trip to the major retailer.

But are the savings really as much as you think?

We went shopping undercover to several Triangle-area Kohl's stores checking price tags. It was the price tags that surprised us. We found more than one sticker on many items, with the price tag on top going up instead of down, even though the items were on sale.

We found markups as little as $2, but some were as high as $50.

In the bedding department there was a comforter set on sale for 50% off the sticker price of $139.99. Underneath that sticker was a price tag for $119.99, a $20 increase in price.

There was a clock listed at 55% off $99.99, but underneath that sticker was a price tag $10 cheaper at $89.99.

We spotted another price increase with a photo album that's 55% off. The price tag on top was $29.99, but we peeled that back and found a sticker for $21.99, an $8 difference.

But this wasn't just on house goods. On a pair of $30 athletic pants, there was a price tag underneath for $2 cheaper at $28 bucks.

We also found price hikes on items not on sale. A Kitchen Aid mixer's sticker price said $549.99, but when we peeled that bag there was a price tag for $50 cheaper at $499.99.

Right in the middle of our months-long investigation, Kohl's started changing the majority of their tags to electronic pricing. Still, we found discrepancies.

On a coffee maker the old paper price tag said $129.99, but the new electronic price tag right next to it said it costs $10 more at $139.99.

When we went to check out, we asked for the lower price with the bedding set. The top sticker said $139.99, but the sticker beneath was $20 cheaper.

Undercover shopper: "We noticed that under the sticker here there's a different price."

Cashier: "Right, that's why they put that other one over top of it. It was probably a price change."

Undercover shopper: "But its lower. This one is $119, that's $139

Cashier: "That's lower than this one?"

Undercover shopper: "Yeah, that's $139."

Cashier: "Right, it was probably a mark up, so they put it over the old UPC."

When we asked why there was a mark-up, the manager said, "The price of cotton goes up, so all our new product, the same one, like we might have had this one, but we get shipped new ones. The vendor actually says the new retail is $139 because cotton prices went up 70% in the last six months. So it's more expensive for us to make. And it's just like anything else that goes up in price, like a car from one year to the next year."

Our undercover shopper asked if Kohl's would take 50% off the old price and the manager did. But once we got the bedding outside of the store and took a closer look, we realized that the bedding was not cotton, it was 100% polyester.

Our investigation continued at the Kohl's at Brier Creek. We asked if we could be charged the sale price on a pot and pan set off the bottom sticker of $119.99 as opposed to the top sticker which was $30 more at $149.99.

Cashier: "The 30% is taken off of the original price, which was $149 and that brought it down to $99."

Undercover shopper: "Ohhh. But if $149 is the original price, then why would a price tag below it be, because obviously $119 was put on first because it's below it."

Cashier: It's probably an early bird special or something, a different kind of a discount program. Sometimes we have these programs on a Friday evening or a Saturday morning that are what they call early birds, extra discounts."

But once we asked more questions, the manager stepped in and told us the price increase was actually because of the manufacturer.

I reached out to Kohl's corporate headquarters in Wisconsin and was told, "When determining pricing, including any necessary price changes, the buyers consider a number of factors, including the regular prices of Kohl's competitors for similar merchandise as well as Kohl's costs for the goods being sold… changes to Kohl's "off-sale" prices are infrequently made. While the percentage discount offered may vary from sale event to sale event, Kohl's does not raise "Regular" or "Original" prices on a short term basis just for purposes of offering deeper discounts during a future sales event.  As is common in the retail industry, from time-to-time, product prices are increased due to production and raw material cost increases. When these types of price increases are implemented, our stores are instructed to re-ticket all items currently in our inventory to match the prices on the tags for all in-coming merchandise."

Kohl's also adds they, "constantly evaluate our competitors' pricing for similar products and are confident that Kohl's pricing remains competitive in the department store marketplace."

They encourage any customers that may be unhappy with their purchases for any reason to take advantage of Kohl's quick, convenient and hassle-free return policy.

When you're shopping this holiday season, you will see lots of sales, but look closely to see if the price you're paying is really the lowest.

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