Thursday, December 16, 2010

I had a hissy fit at Target, aka Abdicating Thought

I have a problem with my temper.  It's funny, because around friends and family, I tend to hold my tongue fairly well.  But get my dander up for some reason and put me around a stranger (who probably has no control over whatever it was that got my dander up in the first place, but more on that in a second) and I'm liable to go off on a loud-voiced, indignant (and sometimes tearful) rant.  Last night at Target was no exception.

It started out innocently enough.  I had a couple of items to return to Target that had been laying around the house for a few weeks, so I threw them in the car so I'd have them with me when I did some shopping while the kids were at AWANA.  I started with the returns, waiting only a moment before it was my turn at the customer service desk.  First item up: A package of 3 Hanes boys' Boxer Shorts.  I even had the receipt, which is the exception for me; usually I just have them look up items using my debit card.  I handed underwear and receipt over to the customer service rep.  She scanned the receipt, then handed the both items back.

"I'm sorry, you can't return these.  Your receipt is more than 90 days old."  She reached for the next thing without waiting for my response.

I took the boxers back without comment.  Well, actually, I think I said, somewhat slowly "O...kaaay" before I took them back.  She did a return for the other item and then turned away to go back to sorting through the returns.  I walked away, somewhat frustrated.  Okay, so Target has a 90 day return policy.  Fine.

But as I walked through the store, filling my cart with the items on my list, I started wondering.  Why couldn't they take them back?  Was it because they no longer carried the item?  Carried them, but now at a lower price?

Well, I happened to have one item that I needed to get from the boys' section, so while I was over there picking out socks, I checked the underwear aisle.  Okay, interesting.  They still carried the item - same size, same style, same color, same UPC on the back.  The price was not, as I'd thought, marked down, but rather marked up.  Dander?  Officially up.

They carry this item.  I don't want or need this item.  Why, besides the fact that I purchased it 4 months ago instead of the requisite 3, would I not be able to return them?  I drove my cart around picking up a few more things while I tried to think through any plausible explanations.  I couldn't think of any.

Shopping finished, I headed back toward the customer service counter.  I drove the cart back and forth through the men's department several times, trying to get up the nerve to ask again to do a return.  Finally, I marched back over there.  There was now a different clerk, and I explained my dilemma to him.

"Hi.  I tried to return these a few minutes ago, and the person working told me that I couldn't because my receipt is more than 90 days old.  But I just looked and you still carry this item in stock, and at a higher price. So I don't understand why I can't just return them."  The guy takes my package, scans it, and then says,

"I can give you $5.24 back as store credit."

"That's fine."  Okay, technically, they're ripping me off for sixty-four cents, since I originally paid $5.50 plus 7% tax for these.  But I'm not going to fight for that sixty-four cents, because right now all I want is to be rid of this package of boxer shorts that I can't use.  And I'm shopping here anyway, so the store credit is fine with me.

"I'll just need to see your ID."  I actually hesitated for a moment, because my first instinct was to laugh.  I'm sorry?  You need my personal identification so I can return a set of boy's boxer shorts?  Am I missing something?

Well, it just so happens that I don't have my ID on me.  I'm not a girly-girl - the only time I carry a purse is when I go to the movies, so I don't have to stuff my pockets with tissues, socks and foot-warmers.  When I shop, I generally stick a card in my pocket and go.  And it isn't my ID card.

But that's beside the point.  What possible reason could they have for needing all my personal, private, identifying information, when all I'm trying to do is return underwear?

"I don't have an ID on me.  All I have is this."  I pull out my debit card.

"Sorry, I can't do a return without your ID."  I pulled back from the counter.  I imagine that I inhaled a large lung-full of air, because I'm pretty sure that the rest of what I said came out in one breath.

"You have got to be kidding me.  I'm trying to return underwear!  I have a receipt, so you can see that I bought it here.  You still carry this, and at a higher price than I paid.  I'm not even asking for ALL my money back, because all I want is get rid of this underwear, which I don't need.  But you can't return it without my private, personal information?" Voice goes up an octave.  "Because I might be some underwear-returning scam artist???  You could take this back today, and turn around and sell it for $2 more than I paid for it.  Well, forget it.  It's not worth this.  THIS...IS...RIDICULOUS!"  I said this last part as I'm marching away from him, all fury and indignation.  I'm pretty sure that everyone on the south side of the store heard me.

I huffed all the way to the other end of the store to check out, and then smiled sweetly at the cashier, as though I hadn't just had a hissy fit and yelled at one of her co-workers.  She looked exhausted, as I imagine most people who work in retail are at this time of year.  I felt a twinge of guilt.  Then a poke, and then a huge nudge.

It wasn't his fault that I couldn't return the underwear.  I mean, take a look at Target's crystal-clear return policy:
A receipt dated within 90 days is required for all returns and exchanges.
According to this, it's obvious why I couldn't return the underwear.  I was outside the limits of the policy.

But I'm going to be a pill and ask "Why is this the return policy?  What is the reasoning that lies behind it?"  I did a little online digging and came up with this:
You probably bought the item in question, but some people (gasp!) steal the item, or buy at another store to return for more credit/cash than they bought it for. Don't take it personally, it's why there is a policy.
So, I can't return the underwear because I might have stolen it, or bought it somewhere else for cheaper, and I'm just trying to scam Target out of the money?  Except...I actually could prove that I bought the item at their store.  Just not within 90 days.

So it must be the 90 days thing.  What's that all about?  I suppose it would make sense that they wouldn't want you to have an indefinite period of return.  The longer you have something, the more likely it would be that you're trying to pull a "use and return", or that the item is no longer made or carried in the store.  Except...again, I could actually prove that the item was still carried in the store, and anyone who's seen underwear packaging should be able to easily tell that the pack had never been opened, much less used.

What's my point?  My point is that a "90 days with a receipt no exceptions" rule is ridiculous.  Take Kohl's.

Kohls has a "hassle-free" return policy, which allows you to return any item to their store, without a receipt, whether you bought it there or not.  And no, they do NOT ask for your ID in order to process the return.  If they carry said item in their store, you can return it there.  Somehow Kohls manages to stay in business this way, so the argument that Target's return policy keeps people from taking advantage and driving them out of business doesn't hold water.

Maybe things would be better (and you could be off reading something more interesting) if I just left well enough alone.   I can understand the need for a policy.  I can understand the need for a receipt to make a return.  I can even, somewhat, understand the need for a time limit on returns.  Obviously returning last year's iPod and expecting to get all your money back - the same amount it costs to purchase this year's iPod - is unreasonable.  Even if last year's iPod is brand new in the unopened box.

But why can't the policy have enough wiggle room it in that my 3-pack of boxer shorts is not treated the same as last year's iPod?

Here's my theory: Because that would require training the people working the customer service desk.  It would require allowing them to (gasp) THINK.

So you had to wade through all that, to get to this.  When is the last time you saw someone working in retail that had to think?  Come to that - when is the last time you saw someone in any customer service-type job that had to think?  How long have the buttons on the cash registers at fast food restaurants been labeled with food items, instead of numbers?

It's funny - for years we've read about how American schools are not graduating students that can compete with their counterparts from Europe, Japan or China in math or science.  My guess is that none of these countries even care about graduating students that can think for themselves.

If I went back to Target with the offending package of underwear, and managed to keep my temper under control, what do you think would happen if I asked the customer service desk personnel to really think through the situation and give me a reasoned answer for why I can't return said package?  Would they parrot the return policy?  What if I asked a manager to give me a reasoned answer?

That's a social experiment I'd be interested in seeing.  Or...I have a 3-pack of boys' boxer shorts up for grabs.

1 comment:

  1. similar thing happened to me last Christmas time at Michael's. I had purchased some cords to go with pendants someone had given the girls. But they did not work they were too thick. I wanted to return them, I could not find the receipt but that was okay because I was getting something else. They wanted to charge me a 20% restocking fee. on a $2 item. I told them to keep their cords because I couldn't/wouldn't use them and to keep their money because it was a gift card the purchase was made on and not mine anyway. I used to work retail management and we had a philosophy of make the customer happy. Apparently Target and Michael's don't have that philosophy. I through a fit in the store too and through the cords up in the air as I left the store saying keep them, I don't want them or your store either. I vowed never to go back again, and I have kept true to my word.