This letter is not about the product I tried to buy but rather the experience I had in your Champaign, Illinois store and with a Manager named Lisa. I and 8 others were at the store on August 1st to buy your exclusive Gi Joe Cobra Island figures. I know what you are thinking, here is another whiney 40something complaining about toys. I get the notion of a bunch of toy collectors arguing over toys is probably what comes to mind. There have been movies about this, comedy sketches, and Simpson’s episodes.
I get it. Hear me out.
My wife and I drove 90 minutes one way at 5AM in the morning to wait outside your store for an hour because I did my homework beforehand. I clarified with @asktarget on twitter that they were for sale on 8/1, and the 8/14 date was just available online. I checked the online stock checker to make sure they were at this store. We arrived about an hour before the store opened and stood in line. For the first 45 minutes, it was just us. Then 10 other people joined and stood outside on the Saturday morning drizzle to give the store our hard-earned money.
Now, before I go further, you must understand a little about the Gi Joe collector. There have not been Gi Joe product in the store for years up until a month ago. Part of the attraction to some folks is the thrill of the hunt. Add on the fact that Target is releasing these exclusives gets young and old collectors excited. New product announcements take off like wildfire in the Joe collector community.
Now, back to the story (Que fresh prince of Bel-air music). After we all hurriedly made our way back to toys, we saw no product on the shelf. This was to be expected by most of us due to the information we saw online. However, we came prepared. We had seen the tweet from @asktarget about the Joe figures being available on 8/1. There was confusion about 8.14 being the online date, and we thought the tweet would clarify any misunderstanding as it came from @asktarget, which is an official source.
We found a stock person. He was accommodating. I did not catch his name tag. This whole mask thing has really messed with my ability to place names with faces. That is one of my memory techniques of remembering folks. This guy had very cool curly hair that had a couple of colors in it. He asked for the stock numbers, which I pulled up. He said he would go in the back and look. He returns a few minutes later and says he has several of the various figures, but they have an 8/14 date on them. We show him the tweet and realizing he is the low person on the totem pole, ask if there is a manager he can call or something to work this out.
Over comes another helpful gentleman. Again, the name escapes me. He is a blonde-haired guy with glasses. He has been briefed by the first guy and asks to see the tweet. I show it on the twitter feed. He shows genuine interest in. He says corporate has not told them anything directly about what the tweet says but will see what he can do. We briefly talk about corporate communication and how this whole G.I. Joe exclave deal seems to be a debacle. He genuinely cares about our problem. I ask if anyone can check with corporate to see if they can tell them what to do. This is when they get Lisa to come over.
The moment toys were mentioned, you could see the disdain on Lisa’s face. At one point during the interaction with Lisa, she said, “I do not have time to deal with toys today.”. At this point, the stigma of being a toy collector was apparent. I get the notion of a bunch of whiney 40-year-old’s arguing over toys is probably what comes to mind. There have been movies about this, comedy sketches, and Simson’s episodes. Some collectors may get overzealous.
Some collectors may have poor social skills. They are no different than any other “type” of person. I get it. I would think Target would be a store that accepts folks outside the norm. All of us were very respectful. We tried explaining the situation and the @asktarget tweet to Lisa. She was not interested in even looking at the tweet. 8/14 was the date, and that was it. She told us it would not ring up at all, and the computer would not allow it to scan because it was locked until 8/14. One of us asked if we could try scanning one just to see. Lisa said, “No way it will scan. I guarantee it”. She then walked off.
At this point, I don’t care what I was buying. It could have been a .89 cent Bic pen. I, and the others there to buy Gi Joes, were marginalized and treated as second rate shoppers in your store. Just because we were looking for Target-exclusive toys, we were not significant. On our way out, we noticed one of our group had found an exclusive beachhead and was doing the self-checkout. Apparently, according to Lisa later, that was put out by mistake. If it rang up, we “got lucky”.
This isn’t about buying a piece of plastic. It’s about the experience a lifelong shopper of your store underwent. I have been shopping with my parents at Target since I can remember. I remember being 8 years old and going into Target and buying my first Gi. Joe. I remember being 16 years old, with my freshly printed driver’s license walking into Target to Buy Gi Joes. Target was the first store I thought of when I could drive on my own to buy things. Not Toys R Us, Not Kaybee, but Target. As such, I have purchased every Gi Joe exclusive you have had.
Anyhow, back to my long-winded story. Two of us went back in and asked for a manager. Up comes Lisa. We confront her with the fact that they do in fact, ring up. Honestly, the fact she was so staunch in her resolution about it when we had evidence of them being purchased at other target stores was insulting to me. Her demeanor added insult to injury.
This was when she told us, “she had two trucks coming in a day and did not have time for toys.”. This marginalized us as a customer even further. We were then told she did not have time, nor could she pull things out of the back before the date.
Target has missed the boat big time on this. The communication on the various dates from corporate to their stores has led to confusion and downright anger among customers and Target staff. I get the managers may be jaded by toy collectors. Probably no other type of product in your store generates such fervor and enthusiasm.
Just like any group, we are not all the same. There are good ones among us as well as bad ones. Target also needs to realize this is the age where information speeds around the Internet in minutes. This is even more true of things like exclusives. Some folks analyze every aspect like who has what according to various websites, aggregation of data, and other items brought about by modern technology.
Many times, customers are more informed than the workers on certain things. This is okay. They are the fans. This does not mean many of them are trying to tell folks how to do their job. They are aggregating all this data themselves to help streamline the buying process for them. At the end of the day, Target wants to sell things.
All indications of how Target stores across the country lead to Target have an overall disdain for toy collectors. This is apparent in things like Store #1092 Case: 81441706. If, after reading all of this and you think it is still about the inability to buy a hunk of plastic, then the boat has been totally missed.
I am sure I will get the default response of “thank you for your feedback, we will take this concern and see how we can do better next time.” This does not help me today. I made sure I was very respectful to your store employees. I can only imagine the things they deal with when it comes to public interactions daily. I am very disappointed in my experience. I want to know what Target is going to do to keep me as a customer. I still want to purchase the figures, but I highly doubt there will be any in the stores on 8/14 due to the mishmash of information. Those of us who were the loyal faithful who showed up when you said they were available are now being punished for that loyalty. Again, I ask, what is Target going to do to keep me as a customer. Maybe the answer is you aren’t going to anything because I am a cog in the retail wheel, and you don’t have the time like Lisa says. I certainly hope that is not the case.