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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Post #6 - Target Winter Coat Fiasco

It was a snowy day in January.  My daughter's zipper on her winter coat broke.  We went to Target to get a jacket.  We found swimsuits where winter coats should be.

My letter, sent 1/29/09:

Dear Target,

Put-out, dejected, forgotten, alone. Betrayed. These are words that describe my most recent and possibly final visit to Target, last week.

I have always been a Target Loyalist. When people would enter my Tapestry Shoppe wearing a new pair of trousers, I'd say "Those look great. You must have purchased them at Target." If the answer came back "No", I would say something like "Well, I know they're having a sale, at Target." I figured, even if those particular trousers aren't on sale, they would be sure to find something else in your store, helping your bottom line, keeping my favorite store viable. When you gave us a Starbuck's, I'd say "Guess where I bought this?! Target! You should go." I have always been a walking, talking Target Billboad. People would say, "Do you work there?" I would reply, "No. I wish."

Every morning, my seven year old daughter, Trina-Mae, walks down the street to the bus stop. Last week, the wind chills in Michigan reached, get this, -30 degrees Fahrenheit. Obviously, I drove her to school those days, leaving the keys to my store in the trusty hands of my henchman Hans. (Hans doesn't speak a lick of English, but I have him hooked on your Archer Farms White Chocolate Macadamia Nut cookies). Regardless, Trina-Mae depends very much on her winter coat. Well, last week, Trina-Mae's trusty coat failed her--the zipper broke.

I deal in the tapestry industry, which can be a fickle mistress, if you know what I mean. My rolodex doesn't contain a "zipper" expert because zippers in the tapestry industry are heavily frowned upon. My only resort was to venture to my favorite store to buy a new jacket. The wax had been freshly applied to the floor. Melvin the security guard greeted me as he always does.

Imagine my dismay when, in mid-January, the racks were filled with shorts, swimsuits, summer wear! I asked the clerk, "Where are little girls' jackets?" She responded "those have been off the shelf since November." I said, "Pardon?" She went into a detailed explanation about how summer and winter stock work, when items go on clearance, and why, It all sounded like decisions made in some cigar smoke -filled boardroom, by big wigs who don't have seven-year-old daughters with broken zippers. I thanked her for her explanation, and bought a roll of duct tape. Along the way, I passed the Easter candy, which is a whole different topic (It's January, people!).

I am currently duct taping my daughter's zipper shut, on the coat that we purchased at Target last September. Do you think she complains about carrying a giant roll of duct tape to school, so she can retape it shut for the trip home? Is it embarrassing to her? I'm sure it is. Do the kids poke fun at her on the bus? I bet they do, but she is a trooper. I should think it would be embarrassing to Target as well. Maybe one of those cigar-toting big wigs should have to walk around the office all day with a big piece of duct tape over the pants zipper on his three piece suit. Then, and only then, might the rigid policies change.

I'm sure you have an explanation that makes sense, in terms of dollars, to Target. Put yourself in my shoes--how do I predict in November that I might need another coat in January because the zipper failed? When Trina-Mae's swimsuit rips in July, am I going to encounter the same dilemma? It might make sense to think of the customer and revise your policies and keep a few of everything on hand in case of such an emergency. How many silver pieces did the betrayal of a seven-year old girl net you?

In the mean time, I'm pondering changing my allegiances to Kmart, where I am told, coats are still available. I would appreciate a written explanation.


January 24th Reply from Target:

Dear Jerry, I'm sorry your recent trip to our Woodhaven Target store didn't meet your expectations. One reason we change our merchandise from season-to-season is to always offer you the latest styles. We also know it's important to have what you want and need - when you want and need it. To help us serve you better, I've shared your experience with our Buying team for further review. If you ever have concerns during your visit, please visit Guest Service and ask to speak with the Guest Service Team Leader. They'll make every attempt to resolve the issue during your visit. We appreciate your feedback because it helps make Target even better.
Target Guest Relations
My January 28th reply to Samantha at Target:

Dear Samantha,

I appreciate your prompt response. I understand you're doing your job, and I appreciate your effort. I deal with unhappy people all the time with textiles—people complaining about fiber count and stain protection. It drives me bonkers. So I can relate.

Yes, I understand changing your merchandise season to season, but the current season is still winter, the wind chill factor was subzero, and bathing suits are only the latest styles in tropical places. Here in Michigan, where your customers are, emergencies happen, and people need replacement coats, same day.

The guest service team member didn't really do anything to help us. She didn't send us to the Guest Service area. Maybe that should be covered in Guest Service Training. Maybe you should have a pop quiz--sort of a role playing exercise where team members encounter planted "guests" asking for reasonable things that are not in stock. And if they don't refer the "guest" to the Guest Service desk, they get a little shock.

I'm just curious--do they have a rack of coats back there behind the desk? That's really the only thing that would have solved this issue cleanly. Maybe they could have called their warehouse, or referred me to and maybe I could have doubled my expense, by having the coat expedited. Or maybe, as we go back to my original suggestion, you should keep a few extra seasonal items for people who need them.

Until I walk in and see seasonal things that correspond to the weather outside, I'm afraid I'm heading to Kmart, where, by the way, we found a winter coat.


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