Kohl's Is Trying to Kill Me


Picture me at the Kohl's register about to lose my last two marbles, moments away from being enshrined on the internet as a lady who has melted down inside a Kohl's on a Friday night when she should be doing anything else with her one wild and precious life. Yet here she is. In Kohl's.

I hate Kohl's! And it's not like, "Oh, please, what did Kohl's ever do to you?" No, Kohl's annoys me all the time, which I'll get to. Moreover, I hate what shopping at Kohl's says about me. It says I have given up, that I have no plans to move to a cosmopolitan city, drink raw pressed juice and buy boxy Japanese blouses at Uniqlo. I am a leggings-wearing, middle-aged white lady with a messy bun in the suburbs who gets the fries refill at Red Robin and shops in person at Kohl's.

Though I may publicly deride the merchandise at Kohl's as uninspired and pedestrian, in truth, Kohl's offers a variety of attractive and practical items at reasonable prices, from cardigan sweaters to shapewear to wet-dry mops. It carries capsule collections from aspirational ladies who probably drink raw pressed juice, like Reese Witherspoon and Lauren Conrad. Also, Kohl's has mini Sephora stores inside now. I'm toast.

And since it's the season, let's not forget that Kohl's has the market cornered on hideous Christmas attire. Kohl's is king of Dad Bar Crawl Chic. If you have ever seen a grown man wearing a three-piece green shorts suit in an alternating ornament and mitten motif, Kohl's has him by the throat. Last year, for an ugly sweater party, I dragged my sad self to Kohl's and purchased a crew-neck sweatshirt featuring holiday cats. The piece de resistance was a button that ... played holiday music in a mewling cat voice. I didn't even discover this button until I got home, at which point I gently wept.

So, yeah, this is who I am, I guess. That hard truth would feel less agitating if Kohl's didn't own me so hard. By this I mean that, via a labyrinth of coupons, store credits and subtle shame, Kohl's has won the battle of wills. I just know my photo is hanging in a break room of a Kohl's, aging while I spend my libertine late 30s buying sale-rack sweatpants and arguing about my status as a rewards member.

I was just reading about how the Kohl's CEO is stepping down amid falling earnings. This makes no sense. Even in these difficult economic times, my local Kohl's always has long lines of crazed-looking individuals gripping Kohl's Cash, which is the Mark of the Beast.

Then again, maybe customers are burning out on the math, the laborious, multi-step process that is payment. Sure, in theory, one could check out with no coupons. But if you're not that rich, you must open the veins of privacy.

You see, I have given Kohl's my personal information many times, yet proof of my existence remains elusive. We repeat a cycle, me and The System. I enter my phone number, and the cashier says I'm not a member of the dark cabal. I tell her that I spend my waking hours getting texts and emails from Kohl's, as one gets repeated instructional pamphlets from a cult. Eventually, some email address gets me in.

Now, Kohl's Cash. This is the real key to the madness, the secret sauce of retail malaise. As a reward for spending actual money, Kohl's gives you Beast Money. The credit activates days later, though. You want 10 free dollars? You must come back and view more basket-weave throw pillows from the Property Brothers. The Kohl's Cash comes with an attached coupon, and oh my God, I am boring myself.


So, there I was last Friday night, gripping my little coupons. The cashier was lollygagging, so I finally asked if she could ring in my Baphomet Hellfire Kohl's Cash.

"I was waiting to see if you had anything else in your Kohl's Wallet," she said.

"What ... is a Kohl's Wallet?" I asked witheringly, spirit rising up out of my ruined body.

"Oh," she said. "If you're going to be a Kohl's shopper, you really need to have your Kohl's Wallet ready."

I fumbled on my phone, Googling "kohls wallet," and found some extra coupon. She said, "Yeah, I can take that one." Was it a favor? Is she Don Corleone? I'll never know. She printed out my receipt and handed me a brand-new ticket of Kohl's Cash.

Twenty dollars this time, starting Friday. I will don my cat sweater and wonder if Kohl's is making any real money or just cycling coupons in and out, if I am saving or playing Monopoly, if we are all trapped in a simulation and none of it matters, and if I should just take up residence in the Kohl's housewares department from Black Friday until the end of the holiday season. See you there?


Stephanie Hayes is a columnist at the Tampa Bay Times in Florida. Follow her at @stephhayes on Twitter or @stephrhayes on Instagram.

Copyright 2022 Creators Syndicate Inc.



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