Friday, June 13, 2008

Circumventing the first bit of red tape I wasn't able to cut through

Target is dead to me.

When some of the fruit and vegetables in my fridge inevitably go bad in the coming week, I will have to resist the urge to pack them into bag and let them ferment even more, drive to the store at 2 a.m. some night when I get out of work and use the giant bulls-eye sign as the literal target it is.

Because hurling gooey cucumbers, moldy melon and rubbery celery at it would feel very vindicating.

Call me crazy, but when a customer has an unused item with original packaging and tags still intact, that customer should be able to make a direct exchange without much hassle.

When perusing the baby aisles a few weeks ago, I noticed that my shopping cart protective cover now comes in pink, and I had to have it. The blue one is great and all, but, um, did I mention I could have it in PINK? With tan and white stripes? And more PINK?

Having nearly ripped all of my hair out over the store's return policy after my baby shower, Jerry reminded me that it probably wouldn't be as simple as I was assuming. Because I didn't have a receipt. And the Target police only let each customer return TWO items each calendar year without one. And they keep track of it by scanning your driver's license. And next they'll put a microchip up everyone's sphincter using an anal probe attached to their shopping carts.

But Jerry was forgetting that I am a woman with finely tuned social skills. After decades of shopping, I have perfected the art of working the customer service desk. Whatever the problem -- lack of receipt, mangled tags, unscannable bar codes -- I can always talk my way into at least a store credit.

I walked into Target with my best smile and friendliest demeanor. I explained that the seat cover had been a gift and I simply wanted it in pink. Because isn't pink just the best?

Then the sales clerk asked for the receipt, to which I replied that I didn't have one. Then he asked for my licence and discovered I've maxed out my measly return allotment until 2009. And my husband's allotment. And my mother's. And most of my close friends and relatives, too. Then he asked me to print out my baby registry, but the computer terminals were malfunctioning.

Then I asked to talk to his supervisor.

She explained there was pretty much nothing she could do. So I tried to convey to her how frustrating it is that I can't take one product and swap it with the SAME PRODUCT.

We stood at one of the registry terminals for about 20 minutes waiting for it to chug through my requests only to find out that my registry has been deleted and is no longer in the system. Which is too bad, she told me, because that would make all the difference.

At that point I was fuming. Basically, I could go home, get on a computer, create a registry, add that ONE PRODUCT to it, go back to the store and they'd return it.

When I told her that, she didn't seem to follow.

"No, because it would need to show up as purchased," she said.

"Yeah, I can do that online," I said. "I could make it say I received 10,000 of them."

When I got a blank stare and a I-don't-know-what-else-you-want-me-to-tell-you shrug, I was ready to scream.

She offered to call the company's 800 number for me and let me talk to a national customer service rep. I guess talking to someone who answers phones for a living will magically make the situation much simpler than, you know, just allowing me to hand over the blue one and take home a pink one.

Sure, I probably should've given up, but it was the principle of the thing. In my mind, it was the essence of what's wrong with corporate America. Fifty years ago, a shopper with the same request likely would've been met without any resistance. It would've been in a small store downtown, without bar codes and exchanging of photo ID and phone numbers and ZIP codes. And the clerk probably would've smiled and known me by name. And I would've known his.

Instead, I was transferred to a man with a thick Indian accent spewing fake pleasantries while asking for my first name.

"Kelly"

"C-A-L-I-Y"

"What? No. Kelly. With a 'K'."

"K-A-L-"

After assigning a phonetic word for each letter, we muddled through my first and last name. When he went on to my ZIP code and phone number, I lost my patience.

"I'm sorry, I don't see what this has to do with anything. You haven't even asked me why I've called yet and I'm in a hurry. I'm on my dinner break," I explained, completely exasperated.

After talking in circles, explaining upwards of a dozen times about the blue and the pink, and the simple exchange, and the handing over the item number and discussing the debacle that is my now-defunct baby registry, he asked me a final question:

"Do you have a receipt?"

"WHAT? ... No! Of course I don't have a receipt! If I had a receipt, why would I be calling?"

"Well, I can't help you then."

"YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME! Forgive me, but I've had it. Why bother asking for all of my personal information, including what type of tampons I use if it all hinges on a receipt? WHY wouldn't you ask that FIRST? This is ridiculous!"

With that, I slammed down the phone, looked at the guy who originally had tried to help me, his supervisor, and the crowd of other red-shirted employees that had gathered to see the crazy woman who was losing her shit, and started envisioning their heads all exploding one by one.

Then I took a deep breath.

"I know it's not your fault, but can you at least see how absolutely crazy this is?" I asked.

They all nodded. Every one of them.

And the supervisor handed me a postcard-sized comment card.

"Oh, believe me, my complaint won't fit on this card," I said. "I'll be writing a letter."

I turned to leave, but I was so enraged, my feet took over. I walked back to the baby department, set down the blue seat cover, picked up a pink one and walked out of the store.

And I know it's nowhere near as groundbreaking as Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on the bus at the pinnacle of the anti-segregation movement, but it felt every bit as vindicating and justifiable.

Every time I put Alli in that seat, I'll know I stood up for what should've been.

68 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have the same problems with Target. I know exactly how you feel. I think you could also have bought the pink one and then with your receipt returned the blue one!

Timberly said...

No way -- you totally just took the pink one?!? That's so ballsy. Rock on!

Anonymous said...

So technically you stole it? And just admitted to it?

Randall said...

I do love my Target and fortunately haven't had the run in with the "return police" in customer service.

A family friend of ours, at 8 months pregnant, tried to return a tiki bar set that had gone on sale a day after she purchased it. They wouldn't help her with the price difference exchange so she had to return the original one, walk around to the garden center, repurchase the now sale priced item and lug the whole thing home. Niiice.

Alison said...

You're my hero!

the plainsman said...

KELLY, I NOMINATE YOU FOR CONSUMER HERO OF THE YEAR!

You acted where others who should have acted in not only your, but their own company's self interest, failed to act.

It is a sad commentary on not only today's corporate mentality, but that of employees themselves, where they fail to act in simple human common sense that flies in the face of rules. Not just in retail, either.

Product safety and workplace saftey files are full of instances where employees did not act in the face of common sense because of rules and they or others were ultimately injured or even killed. In the extreme, but the same principle.

People, whether employee or management, fail to understand that rules are rules, not absolutes.

Target just lost a great customer over a trivial matter. If there was a glimmer in the corporate light bulb, they might have "found" another rule that had been overlooked in your favor (and blame someone), but still miss the big picture completely.

If they want rules, since they have your file and life history already, they should also factor in how much profit they make off of each customer and tailor the rules to them. High profit customers would have more liberal policies applied than the abusers who buy, use and trade in items.

I could rant more, but this is not my blogspace!

Well done!

Ps. I guess I have to give those employees a bit of credit, though, in that they saw the logic of your action and the stupidity of their corporate rules. They did not call security, although it would be hard to credibly shout "STOP, Unauthorized Exchangee! STOP, Unauthorized Exchangee!"

Anonymous said...

HAHA! Good for YOU!

Jennifer said...

I was going to suggest you just buy the pink one, then use the recepit to return the blue one. If its the same product, they probably won't notice the color and even if they did I'd just shrug and say "I dunno, that's the receipt I got".

I still love target regardless.

Dana said...

I had the same experience trying to return items from my wedding registry!! I know EXACTLY how you feel. I vowed to write a letter as well and have yet to do so. But this reminds me that I need to write one.

Kelly said...

I actually asked the supervisor if I could buy the pink one and return the blue one, and she said it wouldn't work because the numbers would be different.

IT ALL COMES DOWN TO NUMBERS. And tracking systems. And codes. And it's crazy.

Katie said...

hahahaha, I can't believe you did that!! It'd be hard to get target out of my life though... That's so great.

Tanya said...

We recently registered at Target for our wedding registry, but after seeing what happened to you, I think we will not be using them anymore.

Anonymous said...

Holy Crap, you're my hero!

I was in retail management in a previous life, and corporate policies are rediculous at places like Target and Old Navy. There is a cycle, where they will do everything for the customer for about a year, then switch gears and totally give the customer no wiggle room the next.

Target does have very stringent LP though, and I'm surprised they didn't stop you...

C said...

Go you! Having worked in a stupid retail shop like that, I know how obnoxious it can be. There would be times as the clerk where I'd be tearing my hair out because I couldn't do something for a customer that was obviously not that hard. The problem with most clerks is they just mindlessly follow protocol. I instead refined the way to bend the rules on returns or coupons or whatever. Clerks need to realize that it's not that hard to bend rules if you do it right. Ironically, I was top cashier at my shop and considered for a promotion over the others who did follow rules like sheep.

Melissa said...

That's awesome! I mean, that you took the pink one...not that Target sucks. Their return policy is exactly why I didn't register with them. I haven't known ANYONE who hasn't had all kinds of trouble with them.

amanda said...

I know you were frustrated, however they have to have rules like that to help with product shrink. I worked at the Gap one winter in college and there were people who would steal like 20 onesies and 10 bottles of the same gap scent and then come in a few days later for a return. We'd have to give them a store credit everytime, even though we knew the stuff was stolen. While your customer service was less than stellar, they have inventory they have to track and report to corporate and rules they can't bypass because not everyone has an honest issue like you.

Anonymous said...

...so...u STOLE the pink one...and then POSTED the fact that u did it?

Traci said...

OMG. I never would have done that! I'm way too nice and compliant. You rock, sister!

Suzy said...

If I had know how much Target's return policy sucked, I'd have NEVER registered there for my baby stuff. Ever...the one here in MO won't even do the 2 times a year thing...no reciept..no go. End of story.

gorakagaz said...

*applause* well done! that's an awesome story.

Bitchy Mom said...

WHOOOT!

You GO girl!

* does little victory dance *

Anonymous said...

Kelly,
you took the one you had out, used it for how many months...then wanted to exchange it? I think YOU are in the wrong here. You could have sold the one you had on craigslist to someone that needed it, then used that money towards your new one. Instead, you STOLE the new one and just told the whole world about it.
What you did was wrong. It was against store policy and I believe morally wrong. Accept it and move on. Life isn't always fair Kelly and you won't always get what you want exactly how you want it.

PUT ON YOUR BIG GIRL PANTIES AND DEAL WITH IT!

Kelly said...

It was unused, in the original packaging, never opened.

Wendy said...

Whoo hoo! You go girl!

You should have tried the, "I received a blue one, but look, I had a girl, not a boy (especially considering you had a blue one)."

Janice said...

Oh, that's AWESOME!!! Perfect ending to a frustrating day. You just traded is all :) I bet the pink is adorable.

Ray said...

WOW! That was an awesome post. Especially the ending. I STRONGLY ADMIRE your perseverance. You didn't give up and in the end (even though the whole event was stressful) you won! Allison is very lucky to have such a STRONG and AWESOME women (and of course mother) in her life, who fights for what's right.

You're right though about fifty years ago it wouldn't have been a big deal. Nowadays, not bringing a receipt to stores means that: you've infused a bomb in whatever item you've purchased and you're bringing it back to blow up the whole store. It's ridiculous what you had to go through and it sucks that it's not going to change. Yes times are changing but not for the better, for the worse unfortunately.

I loved when you wrote, "And next they'll put a microchip up everyone's sphincter using an anal probe attached to their shopping carts." When you go through crap like this in life sometimes you jokingly think, "Where is life heading?" I admire your sense of humor.

On another note: I'm SURPRISED that the man actually got the supervisor for you. Usually they'll say that the supervisor isn't there, or they'll lie and say that it's them. I guess now though we all just have to be all aware of receipts and all, so we don't have to go through the DEVIL of, "Store Policy." Or we can all look up to inspirations like you and fight back. ;o)

Take, care (I hope the rest of your shopping days don't end up like this one).

P.S. What is it with everyone getting thick Indian accent men when they call customer service ?! =P Not that there's anything wrong with that, but I just find it funny. I mean I know now that when you call you're speaking to someone from a totally different state, but that's just a big coincidence.

Anonymous said...

I am in awe that almost everyone here is applauding the fact that you stole something because you didn't get your way. But um, yeah, I hope you enjoy your stolen merchandise. :/

Lioncloud said...

I've had a store refuse to take things back when I _did_ have the receipt, because I foolishly ripped off the tags before I decided not to keep it. In fact, the saleswoman told me that the tags were _more_ important than the receipt.

And, no, I hadn't worn the garment.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and for the person who said Target lost a great customer - I'm sure there will be ten more "great" customers to take her place.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and for the person who said Target lost a great customer - I'm sure there will be ten more "great" customers to take her place.

Anonymous said...

Randall - I don't understand why your friend felt she was entitled to a price difference exchange. The fact that she returned the original, bought a sale-priced one, and lugged it home isn't Target's fault. Just sayin'.

Anonymous said...

That's awesome Kelly! None of the Targets even keep their security alarms on anyways..I have friends who work at a few of them. You could've walked out of there with two of them. =]

Sarah said...

I have to admit, I feel bad for the employees who were doing their job. They can't change store policy (protecting them against fraud) because you're nice and have "finely tuned social skills" of yelling at people who make minimum wage over the color of a seat cover, matter of principle or not.

Marina said...

Yeah, seems like a big fuss to make just to get something pink, to me. But then I guess I'm not a mom.

Ray said...

OH: and I think we need a photo of that infamous, "PINK" seat cover! ;o)

Anonymous said...

1. To the person who was asking about the price exchange, Target (as well as many other stores) have policies where if an item goes on sale within a certain amount of time after you bought it they will refund you the difference. The person wasn't asking for special treatment. They should do it for anyone who is knowledgeable enough to ask.
2. That is silly that they wouldn't let you exchange it. It was never opened and as long as Target is still selling the item they can put it on the shelf, someone else will buy it, and Target won't be losing any money.
3. She wasn't stealing it she just decided to save them the hassle and exchange it herself! She took the pink one, they'll sell the blue one for the same price, and no harm will be done!

Anonymous said...

You are my hero.

chelsea said...

Thats crazy! I hope you and Target make up, despite terrible service they have some awesome deals! Thats awesome you had the courage to just take the pink one! Once again I learned something from your blog, Target only lets you return 2 things a year, never knew that!

cafechick80 said...

ridiculous.

Karen said...

I love it! And I would definitely write it up in your column.

Gisela said...

you are
DERANGED.

miss you so.

april said...

I turned to leave, but I was so enraged, my feet took over. I walked back to the baby department, set down the blue seat cover, picked up a pink one and walked out of the store.


I had to read that thrice to make sure that you indeed took the pink one and left them the blue one to save them all the hassle from pulling their heads out from their butt. :D

Wooohooo! Go Kelly!

Melissa said...

haha I love how all the people who are criticizing you for your actions post anonymously.

Anonymous said...

I don't blame you. I would have done the same thing.

Good for you. You rock chica!!

~ Kirs

Anonymous said...

Wow - I just read the comments. I don't think it is stealing if the exact product is put back on the shelves. It is ridiculous they would not simply exchange it. And the policy is in place due to people that abuse the system, not to avoid someone exchanging a brand new product but that is what happens.

Corporate America exists because of people like you that call this stealing.

~Kirs

theZanyOne said...

I printed this out. I'm giving it to a friend tomorrow.

This made me laugh at 3:30 in the morning. GREAT GREAT GREAT

Anonymous said...

Because of inventory controls and product counts, it is obvious what you did was stealing. You should be ashamed, not brag about it. I am sure Target executives will love to read your post. How sad that so many people think what you did was okay.

Anonymous said...

Nicely done. :-) I can see both sides of the story, but not to exchange for the SAME EXACT ITEM is ridiculous. It's not like you were asking to return a pair of shoes for your cover. If they don't want people stealing items and then returning for money then they should up the ante on their security systems that they supposedly don't turn on. That's their fault, not yours, so good for you for standing up! Hope you enjoy your pretty pink shopping cart cover!

Elizabeth said...

I don't think she was bragging at all! She was merely pointing out the problems with mega conglomerates and how the simplest requests can turn into a corporate nightmare. The focus clearly isn't on the customer anymore, but rather on the paper trail -- or digital trail -- they leave. A necessary, sure, but it has affected the way we do business.

And Target executives SHOULD read this. They should be appalled that there isn't a solution in place for such a simple request.

Anonymous said...

SHE MADE AN EXCHANGE. It's not stealing because the company is going to get the same dollar amount in the long run.

Laura said...

good for you!

Uh oh, I did my wedding registry at target. Should I be scared now?

MandyElvins said...

OH MY GOD PEOPLE! Seriously, why does it matter to you that she "stole" the same product that she returned. It's not stealing, it's an exchange, and I don't see why you people are making such a big deal out of it. If it doesn't affect you, why get all upset about it? Kelly, you stood up for what was right, and I admire you for that. And to all the people who are complaining about it: get over it!

Deidra said...

To those defending her, she did NOT make an exchange. If it was an exchange, they would have done it for her at the store. What they were saying was if she wanted the pink one, she would have to buy it. She took the pink one without paying. It doesn't matter that she left the blue one there since the store told her it had no buyback value without the receipt.

Anonymous said...

Fun.

Anonymous said...

Dont compare yourself to Rosa Parks. She did something for the good of many. You did something only to benefit you.

joanna said...

Hell yeah Kelly! Oooh this just makes my years-long love cyberlove affair with you even better!

And for those of you who are whining about her "stealing"-- you're just like those pesky CS reps. Take your head out of your rectum and breathe a little.

Ugh, I swear, tight asses are so annoying.

Anonymous said...

GAAAAAAHHHHH! Some people could construe what Rosa Parks did as selfish too! She was tired and didn’t want to get up!

Rachel said...

I had problems with Target too. I swore never to shop there again, but it's hard to resist. I need to be strong! Way to go Kelly, doing what needs to be done for all of us who have been wronged by Target on wedding and baby registries!

Teme said...

Hooray for you! I would have left, stifling tears and that awful volcanic feeling when you know you're in the right, but it's hopeless anyway. Good for you! You pulled a victory out of da'feet.

Morgan said...

Why was it such a big deal to have the pink one instead of the blue on in the first place? O.o

Anonymous said...

Those "pesky CS reps" are just doing their job. They didn't make the rules. They're just paid to enforce them. If I had a dime for every time I was blamed by a customer for something beyond my control, I wouldn't have to work anymore!

For those of you who think corporate America is such a terrible thing, and that private businesses are the way to go, I beg to differ. I work for a privately owned business, and it definitely isn't all that.

ilovemycop said...

Target registries SUCK, as do their return policies. I've had several friends and relatives who have registered for baby showers and weddings, and they received many of the same items because the system wasn't showing that the items had been purchased. And, in some cases because of the lack of receipts, they had to just settle for five of the same item that they only needed one of.

ilovemycop said...

To the brave, anonymous posters criticizing Kelly like she's just murdered someone: grow up and crawl out of the hole you live in. Having such a judgmental, ANONYMOUS statement to make is so ballsy. And the fact that you returned to this comment page to view the response(s) that your rude comments elicited, and to comment even more shows a great deal of weakness (and don't act like you didn't, because the person I'm talking about has made about five comments at least). You must be dying for attention somewhere. Your mommy must not have loved you as much as Kelly loves her child. What may seem small and meaningless to you doesn't mean that it isn't important to someone else.

Tanya said...

I could comment to all of the anonymous people criticizing you, Kelly, but they're not worth either of our time.

I just wanted to post again and let you know that I'll be going to Target to close the boy and my wedding registry. I will make sure to let them know that this is due to their return policy.

The boy agrees - we don't need the hassle. Looks like Bed Bath and Beyond will now be getting a new wedding registry! Thanks so much for letting us know about your experience.

Candi said...

I don't get the whole 2-per-year thing. It makes no sense. And how they scan your license to make aaaaaabsolutely sure you don't commit the unthinkable by returning the forbidden third item. It's a little much.

And really pathetic.

Allison said...

Wow, this post really got the comments coming in. I've been reading your blog for awhile after seeing you leave dooce a comment with your site listed in it. I really have enjoyed reading it, and I have to say that this post has been one of my favorites. I have wanted to do this so many times. About a month ago, I was at a store making a return when they informed me that they couldn't scan the barcode on the receipt (their fault since it was their machine that printed the faulty receipt). They did return the merchandise, but it counted as one of my allotted "no receipt" returns. Even though you could clearly see the item was on the receipt. Ughh!!!

sandra said...

Not only do I work at Target, I work at the guest service desk. I have had nothing but respect for you Kelly but this was just wrong. It's not ok to steal something or make your own "exchange" just because you didn't have a receipt. And at this point because the receipt was more then 90 days old, seeing as Allison well over 3 months, even WITH a receipt they wouldn't have been able to do squat. Policies are set in place for a reason. You don't get to violate them because it doesn't work out to your advantage. I would suggest that you and all readers keep your receipts from now on and ask friends to provide gift receipts (which print out with almost everything but food) because now there is talk of not taking anything back without a receipt, no ID needed and who cares if it's 20 cents or 20 bucks.

Not cool Kelly, not cool.

Hannah said...

Blogger ilovemycop said...

Target registries SUCK, as do their return policies. I've had several friends and relatives who have registered for baby showers and weddings, and they received many of the same items because the system wasn't showing that the items had been purchased.


That happened with my fiance and I. We registered for two shelves and got both of them but our registry showed we received only one. The people who bought them for us ended up having to call the 800 number and had to speak with a man from India to get it to say that both were purchased. It was very frustrating for them.