Why I love Target Shopping (again)

November 26th, 2013

Tis the Season. Thanksgiving is around the corner and my son’s birthday is in a few days. The last time it was his birthday I went with my daughter to get him a present and had a terrible Target experience.

It sent me into action. I was going to be heard. The blog post was just the beginning. On the anniversary of this monumental event, I thought I would followup with the rest of the story.

Although cathartic to compose, the blog post and Tweets about Target really did nothing but get a few laughs from some friends and family. It seems my blog readership and following is dismal. At any rate, my Social media noise making had zero effect. I wasn’t being heard.

So I went a more traditional route – a letter sent by snail mail. The letter was very similar to the blog post except I didn’t use bad cartoon pictures. And it wasn’t just a single letter, I looked up the top executives at Target and sent them all a copy – 15 in total.

As it turns out, snail mail to corporate executives works! I could tell the day my letters were delivered. I received 3 calls from different people at Target, with more calls on subsequent days. The third or fourth call came from the local store manager at the Northlake Target store. Like the executives before him, he was incredibly nice and apologetic. He heard me out and assured me he would “make it right”.

And he did.

Within days I received a package from the Northlake Target manager. He sent me a $25 gift card and actually added some small gifts for my son – some Thomas the Train stickers and other goodies, and a stuffed animal for my daughter. He also included a thoughtfully composed, hand-written note.

He made it right.

On the executive front, I received about 7 letters back from the various leadership groups. Four of those were really well done. The person clearly read my letter and apologized for my experience. A few responses even included additional $10 gift cards.

A couple of the executive letters were standard bad experience form letters with a blanket apology. One actually suggested that next time I have an issue with an employee that I should visit customer care center, totally missing the point that it was the customer care group that was responsible for my bad ride at the Target.

All and all, Target stepped up and responded in a way that won me back. To be fair, I don’t actually love shopping at Target, as the title states. But I’m cool with it. We’re good. And I’m relieved. They are too dang close and convenient to boycott.

Target Shopping a Joke – Just Not a Funny One

December 1st, 2012

I haven’t posted to this blog in almost a year – mainly because I’m busy with the kids and I usually write things for my work. But Target inspired me yesterday. Thanks Target.

My son’s birthday is tomorrow. And my daughter wanted to pick a present for him. So I left work early yesterday so I could pick her up from school and have a little time to shop for a present. A little father/daughter time is always a good thing.

After looking at a number of trains, tractors, cars and other boy stuff, we found the most awesome gift ever – a Thomas the Train pillow. My son LOVES Thomas. It was the perfect gift for a soon-to-be two year old Thomas fan.

Thomas the train pillow

And then came the fun.

When I went to check out, the cashier person was super nice. She was friendly to my daughter and greeted me warmly. But when she got to the Thomas pillow, she couldn’t scan it. She apologized and said that it wouldn’t scan. And she said she would have to call someone for a price check. And she apologized again. No problem.

When her call was answered, a mid-manager person came over and looked at the pillow and tried to scan it again. Then she looked at me and said, “I’m going to have to do a price check.”

“Right”, I said. But she didn’t move. She stood there looking at me with a furrowed brow as if she expected me to give up and go about my day without my son’s most awesome gift. “So…are you going to do a price check?”, I asked.

Target price check

With an audible sigh, this person called another person. Soon, there were 3 Target employees gathered about 10 feet away with Thomas pillow in tow. The cashier moved my other things to the side and began checking out the next people in line.

After about 5 minutes, I noticed that the price check was not happening. The 3 employees holding the Thomas pillow were having some sort of discussion that involved a lot of laughter.

So I walked over to them and asked, “How’s the price check going?”. To that, they started asking me questions about where I found the pillow, were there others, did I see a bar code, etc. Now I’m starting to get annoyed. So I offered, “Should I look it up online? I can do that quickly”. No reply.

I pulled out my handy iPhone and about 20 seconds later had the Thomas the Train Toddler Pillow loaded from Target.com – score!

Thomas pillow at Target.com - cheaper than store

Proud of my quick search abilities, I hand my phone over to the cluster of Target employees engaged in the “price check”.

“It’s $12.99,” I say. They fiddle around a bit with my phone and then ask me, “does it have the numbers?”. “Yes”, I reply. “It’s $12.99″.

Unimpressed, the one manager-type informed me that I needed the numbers and their website didn’t have the numbers so she wouldn’t be able to ring it up. “So, you’re going to refuse to sell me this item that is posted on your website, with the price clearly stated, because of some other missing numbers?”.

It was at that point that one of the 3 walked away and, finally, went to conduct an actual price check.

After about another 5 minutes the guy returns and says, “It’s $19.99″.

“Seriously? It’s $12.99 on the website and $19.99 here?” I just wanted the pillow. So I shelled out the extra money just to get out of there. Oddly enough, it turns out the price was entered manually and was not even for the right product. Those “numbers” that were needed? They weren’t required after all. Notice how the item is just a “pillow” from the Home section, not a “Thomas the Train Toddler Pillow”.

Target receipt for Thomas pillow

You might think that Target’s poor customer response may have ended here. But no, it did not.

I left the store and posted a tweet making fun of the experience. Immediately, I got a response from @askTarget, Target’s robot-controlled, non-personal Twitter account. It replied to me and thanked me as if I were giving them a friendly shout-out. AND, to make it even funnier, included a link to Target’s wonderful price match in the post. Nice.

Target's Twitter Robot

Is it not a bit ironic that the entire reason I’m writing this post is because Target wouldn’t even price match their own store? Forget the competition. If you offer something online, just let me pay the same price in the store instead of randomly choosing a different, higher price.

Dear Target, two pieces of advice:

1. Train your managers. If you can’t make them care, train them to pretend that they care. Ensure them that they can actually sell something without having “the numbers” and that it is not the customer’s responsibility to provide said numbers.

I have never had an issue with any cashier, ever. But the managers in the Northlake Target store could use significant training on how not to make people hate your store.

2. Hire a real person / people to manage your Twitter account. You’re a multi-billion dollar corporation – the country has an unemployment problem. It’s a win-win. Although I got a giggle out of the ridiculousness of your Twitter management, it really wasn’t that funny. And while the crappy string of store experiences inspired me to write an overdue blog post, I’m not happy about wasting both time and money at Target.

You’re welcome.

Not Provided Keyword Moves to Top Referral Position

November 22nd, 2011

It has finally happened. I was reviewing traffic for a website today and noticed that the top referring keyword from Organic Search is “not provided”.

Google has been obscuring organic referral data for several weeks now. And, contrary to the initial assessment of having an impact on a “very low percentage” of users, it looks to be a quite sizable chunk of data that has evaporated into the depths of the interwebs.

Not Provided is Top Organic Keyword

Thanks Google, I will now guess how people got to my site.

Google says that they are hiding this data for privacy reasons. Right, I get it. Removing referral data for 8-15% of Google queries keeps some potentially vulnerable keywords safe from the targeting and exposure practices of marketing teams. Privacy is privacy.

Since the advancement of this keyword safety drive, I have looked for other ways to uncover the not-provided referral data. I would still like to understand the behavior of site visitors, regardless of their logged-in status. But how?

Tea leaves, of course.

Tea leaves render keywords

Use advanced tea leaves to understand organic keywords

Personally, I prefer the Special Gunpowder brand of tea. I discovered this tea while spending time in West Africa and it holds a dear place in my heart.

The Special Gunpowder tea leaves are delicately rolled up into little balls. When hot water is added, the leaves unravel to deliver an intense flavor and, if you’re lucky, the secret to your organic keyword referral data.

In the Senegalese tradition, I love 3 good rounds of carefully prepared tea. Even more, I love myself some safe Internet!

Special Gunpowder tea

Special Gunpowder Tea has a variety of uses

Tropical Storm Lee Hits Atlanta (kinda)

September 3rd, 2011

Lee is on the left – full on Friday afternoon ninja fruit slicer – a true tropical storm.

How Google Makes Algorithm Changes

August 26th, 2011

I thought this was an interesting look into how Google makes adjustments to their algorithm. The most interesting piece to me was the comment about how important “raters” are.

Raters are people who actually qualify changes so that the algorithm can be tweaked effectively. There are rumors that there are some 10,000 raters worldwide that help Google aggregate data and test search results, but I haven’t confirmed that number.

I recently noticed the change Google made to how they render results around misspellings. This video gives some insight into the thought processes that took place for making the change to the “did you mean” link.