Kohl’s: Cash Rich, Ethics Poor

Posted on: March 14th, 2014 by

I had found out about Kohl’s partnership with Komen, ironically, when I was at Kohl’s.

An ever-loyal customer, I was at the cashier’s with my purchases, when I was handed Kohl’s Cash and told that a portion of my money would go to Susan G. Komen to find a cure for breast cancer.

I said, “I’m a breast cancer ‘survivor.'” The unknowing cashier — who was probably expecting a feel-good story about survival and my everlasting gratitude and allegiance to Kohl’s – said enthusiastically, “Oh, that’s wonderful!” I added, “You know, I was lucky. I’ve known too many people who weren’t as lucky.”

She got really quiet, fidgeted a bit, and then started to prattle on about how much I would save on my next purchase with Kohl’s, thanks to Kohl’s Cash. But I wouldn’t let her talk of saving money and breast cancer without her paying a price.

“I know of so many who didn’t make it,” I continued. “Huh?” she said. “They died,” I said. She averted her eyes, quickly gave me my receipt, and I left the store, feeling like I had just been had.

I walked to my car in shock but with enough wits about me to realize that the cashier really had nothing to do with this partnership.

Stealing the Elephant

During my interaction with the cashier, I was so shocked, I barely noticed an in-store announcement, something about a pink elephant. It sounded familiar, yet I couldn’t place it.

Later, I realized that the retailer stole and deliberately misused a campaign from METAvivor, an organization that creates awareness of metastatic breast cancer – the kind that kills – and raises funding for research.

In October 2012, METAvivor’s campaign communicated that metastatic breast cancer was largely ignored. It showed a graphic of an elephant and reads “During the ‘pink haze’ of Breast Cancer Awareness Month Don’t ignore Stage IV. The [elephant graphic] in the Pink Room”

It turns out that Kohl’s plagiarized METAvivor’s elephant in the pink room campaign. Besides showcasing a ridiculous imitation of METAvivor’s elephant, here is the Kohl’s-blundered version: “It’s [breast cancer itself] the (pink) elephant in the room. Let’s not ignore it. Together we can start the conversation about breast cancer.”

Hullo. We don’t need any more conversations about breast cancer. I mean, who the hell isn’t aware of breast cancer? We need a cure, and we need to be aware of metastatic breast cancer. Right now, people with metastatic disease are being swept under the proverbial pink carpet.

This. Must. Change.

Oh, and that’s not all, folks; Kohl’s thievery gets more bizarre. On the same web page a picture of supposedly sold-out pink elephant pendants are prominently displayed alongside the message, “We thank you for supporting the fight against breast cancer.”

Aw, shucks, Kohl’s. Won’t you please sell more pink elephant pendants so more of the general public can wear stolen intellectual property?

I’ve been used to the Susan G. Komen shtick for awhile now, but the Kohl’s debacle really took me off guard. And I’m not surprised that Kohl’s won’t do the right thing by admitting its elephant “faux pas” and no longer using the slogan.

So, now that I have my wits about me, I’m:

photo 1

returning the merchandise,

photo 2

cutting up my Kohl’s credit card,

photo 3

telling Kohl’s to remove me from its mailing list,

and no longer shopping at Kohl’s.

Kohl’s slogan is “Expect Great Things,” but it should be changed to “Expect Distasteful Things.”

Something is rotten in the state of retail. And right now it is Kohl’s.

photo 4

Related posts, many which illustrate the graphics discussed in this post.

Komen & Kohl’s Klueless Kampaign
Integrity Always Matters
The PINK White Elephant

Please feel free to weigh in on this “pink elephant” campaign and/or Kohl’s partnership with Komen.

Update: According to METAvivor’s blog dated March 13, 2014, “Neither Kohl’s nor Komen acknowledged that the campaign infringed on METAvivor’s rights, much less agreed to discontinue it. Instead, both Kohl’s and Komen claimed lack of knowledge of METAvivor’s use of the Elephant in the Pink Room, and tried to justify their actions.”

Tags: , , , , ,

19 Responses to Kohl’s: Cash Rich, Ethics Poor

  1. Nancy's Point had this to say about that:

    HI Beth, I guess you know my thoughts on this. And thanks for the link by the way. I loved reading your take on this, but I must admit, what I really love about this post are those images of your credit card in pieces! Good for you for cutting yours up and making a strong statement via your actions too. Thanks for the terrific post.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Nancy,

      Thank you for your comment. I definitely thought your post on the topic was spot-on.

      I cut up the credit card as I was writing this post. To be honest, cutting up the card felt soooo good. Very cathartic. It was my favorite part of writing this post, too.

  2. Margie Hudson had this to say about that:

    I am so tired of ad campaigns that try to make cancer look cute. Its not cute, its not pink, or purple, or green, or blue. If anything, its black – because it obliterates. I’m waiting for Kohl’s to start some equally ignorant ad campaign with a “survivor” who was helped by their plageristic campaign. Thanks for adding to the outrage – I hope there will be enough to get Kohl’s attention.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:


      You are completely right: breast cancer is not cute, nor should it be used to sell merchandise. I hope we all can continue to pressure Kohl’s and “persuade” them to stop this horrible campaign.

      Thank you for commenting.

  3. eve harris had this to say about that:

    Was aware there was an issue but I wasn’t tracking the details prior to this post. I bought a few things at Kohl’s about 3 weeks ago & they gave me the pink voucher (I grimaced). When I got home I realized I would have to return one item. The pink voucher stayed in my wallet with the receipt until last week, when I stood in front of the cashier for the return. I turned over the receipt & absentmindedly began tearing the pink voucher into tiny pieces.
    OH, THE LOOK ON HER FACE! Priceless.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Eve,

      I LOVE it!! Tearing up things from Kohl’s is downright fun, isn’t it. I’m so glad the pink voucher bit the dust. Good for you!!

  4. Susan Zager had this to say about that:

    You got this one just right. It is so upsetting and very frustrating. I was glad to see that METAvivor got attorneys pro bono and I hope they take Kohl’s and Susan G. Komen to the cleaners. They made millions from their theft and misuse of METAvivor’s campaign and continue to ignore Stage IV.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Thanks, Susan. Kohl’s needs to take this matter seriously. And, like you, I hope METAvivor does make Kohl’s and Komen pay dearly for their dishonesty and using a disease to sell, sell, sell. And, yes, they do ignore Stage IV. Apparently it’s not pretty enough to sell.

  5. Pat E. Parker had this to say about that:

    I am so sorry that you have gone through this. I have not shopped at Kohl’s in over five years – I was pushing my daughter in her stroller into the local Kohl’s one day , and was told I could not use my own stroller – I HAD to use the store ones. Hello — I had just adopted my daughter in China, and there was NO way I was going to put her in a stroller that may or may not have germs. I get it – the stores have tiny aisles, and their strollers are smaller than most. Whatever. I have not missed the place. This is just another reason for me to tell others NOT to shop there.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:


      Interestingly, my experience at Kohl’s was always pleasant — until this fiasco. I had no idea about the stroller policy; sounds weird.

      On a lighter note, I also adopted a child from China. It’s the best thing I have ever done.

  6. Pingback: Weekly Round Up: The Spring Edition | Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

  7. eileen@womaninthehat.com had this to say about that:

    Good for you, Beth, for taking a stand. Expect great chutzpah!

  8. karen sutherland had this to say about that:

    dear Beth,

    thank you for taking the time to speak out about this absolutely appalling and unacceptable kohl’s/komen debacle. I love how pro-active you were cutting up the kohl’s card. right on! hope lots of others do the same – there’s power in numbers and in voices like yours. thank you!

    much love and light,

    Karen xoxo

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Karen,

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post — especially when I cut up the Kohl’s card. It felt so good to do this. I also hope more people boycott Kohl’s. You are right: “there’s power in numbers.”

  9. Stephany had this to say about that:

    You realize that by cutting up your Kohl’s card, it actually does nothing, right? You still have a bill to pay. And you still have an account with Kohl’s, until you physically pick up the phone and call them to cancel the account. Secondly, while I understand what you’re trying to say, do you realize how often cashiers are bullied like you bullied that cashier? He/she did not know you had cancer, nor did she know you were bitter about it. Raising money to fight such a terrible disease is amazing. Whether or not Kohl’s did it to your standards, doesn’t matter because they raised money. Kohl’s isn’t all about profit to better themselves, they are constantly giving away money to different places/things because they care. Shame on you for making that cashier feel like an idiot because you couldn’t focus on the positive and you had to be negative about it. As someone who has lost many family members to cancer, I hope places like Kohl’s does raise enough money to make a difference and people like you don’t ruin it.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Actually, Stephany, I am all paid up on my Kohl’s bill and have canceled my account. Cutting the card up was a symbolic gesture.

      Would I do it all over again?


      I’m sorry you’re so angry about the content of my post. You have every right to disagree. Let’s leave it at that.

  10. Andrea had this to say about that:

    While I think it’s good that you made people aware of Kohl’s theft, it’s really disgusting the way you bullied that poor cashier. Did that make you feel nice and powerful, harassing someone who was just trying to give you good customer service with a happy attitude? Please rethink your treatment of other human beings who may be ignorant to the things you know. Your behavior was downright nasty and crazy.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Andrea, no, it didn’t make me feel nice and powerful. And, no, I’m not a bully nor a harasser.

      That’s the problem with a happy attitude; it glosses over the reality of breast cancer. It’s not a disease with pretty ribbons. I wish more people would realize that.

Add Your Comment, Feedback or Opinion Here

Your email is safe here. It will not be published or shared. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>