Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Target shoes: cheap. Target customer service: still sucks

My first major objective this morning was a venture to Target. It had to be done first, based on the rest of the day's schedule. And the earlier the better, because Madelyn is best-behaved during the moment a little while after waking up but as far before naptime as possible. Once Madelyn was out of bed, I didn't allow myself to be distracted with my to-do list or checking my e-mail, I just set to work changing, feeding, entertaining, dressing, brushing, and packing with a goal of getting us out the door. With no out-of-the ordinary delays or distractions, we pulled out of our driveway one hour after Madelyn woke up. Before having a child, I could have left my house 8 minutes after waking up: clean, fed and lookin' fine. I don't want to think about the time demands for departure preparations when multiple children are involved. It seems like half of a mom's day could be spent just "getting ready" to do what they actually intend to do.

The primary purpose of today's trip to Target was to purchase some items for our upcoming company Christmas Party. But since it is rare for me to have time to go to a fun store like Target, I also planned to do a little family Christmas shopping as well. I wanted to be on the lookout for a pair of winter boots for Madelyn, for one thing. She commandeered the pair that Randy's niece was wearing last night, and not only did she love wearing them, they were totally cute and functional to boot. (Ha ha, BOOT, get it?....Right.)

After recently reading Bridget's rant about Target shoes, I decided to go next door to Payless Shoe Source to look for this first item. It was a self-satisfying plan to stick it to Target for their unwillingness to bend store policy in the name of customer satisfaction when the situation truly warranted. Not that Target would ever notice. We actually found the perfect boots, and it was a buy one, get one half price sale, so I also picked up some cute brown shoes in Madelyn's new size. I was disappointed when I reached the register to pay, however, that the unmarked boots were $34.99. That is a lot for children's shoes, in my opinion. But after the inordinate amount of time we had spent in the store (see: toddlers and shopping), I bought them anyway, knowing that I would return them if I find a better, cheaper pair. Plus, I think Madelyn might have broken a necklace on display (I didn't see her do it, but discovered her pushing the beads around the floor), and I didn't tell the lady, so I felt it best to buy some shoes.

At Target, I found this pair of boots for only $19.99:

They aren't quite as cute as the Payless ones. But they are about 85% as cute, for 57% of the price, so the boots from Target boast a net gain of cuteness per dollar. Now I have them both, so I guess Gary can decide which he likes better (yes, my husband does care about what our daughter wears, what's wrong with that?). I hated to reverse my sticking-it to Target, but what are you gonna do? The boots have no superfluous glittery coating or appliques or fancy stitching at risk of prematurely wearing out, and they are Champion brand, which gives me a (probably false) sense that they are of higher quality. So it looks as though I may have failed in my ability to help you undermine Target's shoe-selling success, Bridget. I am sorry, yet at the same time delighted to have saved $15 on these totally cute boots. (Now that I'm seeing them side by side, their relative cuteness is a debatable factor.)

I love shopping. But a toddler in tow completely destroys the experience. I like to meander, look, compare. I often zig-zag through stores because I passed an item I forgot that I needed. Today in particular I was shopping for gifty-things, so it wasn't as quick and simple as checking pre-determined items off a list. My husband has great success shopping with Madelyn because he is a determined shopper. At the grocery store he knows what we need and basically always buys the same things, and at a store like Target he would only be there for a specific article, find it immediately, and get out as quickly as possible without knocking over displays or other humans.

Our best techniques to keep Madelyn happy in the cart are a) letting her ride in the basket part (I know, but at least I insist that she sits down), b) giving her snacks, and c) letting her play with each new item that is added to the cart. This works fine for Gary, apparently, but at my dawdling pace, Madelyn is guaranteed to get bored and restless before the trip is halfway over. At that point my choices are to help her remain entertained and calm, or go home without accomplishing at least most of my objectives. Since it's rare that I have the time to make a trip like this, and every store is at least 20 minutes away from home, I usually opt for the latter. Sometimes I let her down to play with non-breakable things on the bottom shelves while I mull over important decisions like: 15 ounces of cheap-looking cocoa with marshmallows in a cute reindeer mug for $11.97 or 11 ounces of high-quality flavored cocoa--no marshmallows--in a lovely-yet-sensible tin for $9.99? This plan ultimately leads to an even longer trip because I have to help Madelyn put all of the M&M-filled candy cane-shaped plastic tubes away after each such imperative decision.

By the time we finally found the checkout (literally, because I was in an unfamiliar Target location and got all turned around in the office supplies/literature section), Madelyn was not in any mood to sit in the cart. Even if she had been, there was no room, since the basket, child seat, and undercarriage were all piled full. I had foolishly forgotten to bring Madelyn's cup of water, and after all her "distractions" (aka snacks), she was very thirsty. So I put a bottle of water from the impulse-buy fridge on the conveyor belt. Madelyn was content to stand nearby drinking her Aquafina while I finished unloading the cart, separating business from personal purchases for two transactions. The last, rather involved, thing I had to do was tell the cashier the dollar amount I wanted activated on each of about 20 gift cards. At this time, Madelyn was starting to wander, but I constantly shifted my attention back and forth between the cashier and Madelyn to make sure she didn't get into the neighboring register's cubbies or pull any merchandise off of shelves. While Madelyn continued sipping her water and walking in circles, I told the cashier the denomination for the next group of gift cards, to which she inexplicably replied, "Uh Oh."

"Uh Oh?" I thought in that instant before I realized she was looking in the direction where my daughter was, yep is still, standing, but now she is not spilling her water but holding the bottle upside down and dumping out every last drop onto the tile floor. I lurched toward her and was miraculously able to grab the bottle when there were exactly 2 droplets left inside.

I know why Madelyn dumped it out. She had seen the stack of paper towels on the shelf under another cashier's cabinet, and wanted to use them. This girl understands that paper towels serve no worthy purpose without liquid matter to soak up, and therein lies her reasoning. I grabbed some of those paper towels and started wiping up the small lake, with Madelyn's very enthusiastic help, I might add. Soon another employee came with more paper towels and called in some backup assistance. They set to work cleaning the puddle, and I awkwardly continued trying to aid the effort as well. No one ever made it clear whether I was expected to help clean up after my daughter's mistake, or if they would prefer to take care of it utilizing their own methods. The uncertainty of expectations amplified an already embarrassing situation.

During this fiasco, I still had more gift cards to activate, and there were lines at all registers, including mine. So I was wiping the floor, giving instructions to the cashier, swiping and signing for my credit card, and trying to keep Madelyn from splashing in her exciting new puddle. And the entire time I am also trying to apologize that my daughter--in all of her malicious two-year-old-ness--spilled her water bottle.

Throughout the 4-5 minutes that all this was happening, not one employee (there were four directly involved in the situation, one of which I believe was a manager of some kind) ever said anything the likes of "Oh, don't worry about it!" or "These things happen," or "It's no problem, thank you for shopping at Target" amidst what I thought were obviously mortified apologies. Not even "the look" that signifies understanding and pardon for any wrong-doing. The sentence I remember hearing after I my attempted final plea for forgiveness was, "Would you like to go ahead and push your cart through before we put this stuff down?"

"Oh yeah--uh, sure," I sheepishly replied, realizing I was just in their way. I pushed my white-and-red plastic bag-laden cart through what remained of the puddle, then turned around to the manager-type and said with a smile, "At least I spent a couple thousand dollars, right?"

Maybe she didn't hear me. Because she didn't smile, or say thank you, or even goodbye, any of the most primitive elements of customer service. I'm sorry that the water got spilled. But you know what else? I'm also sorry that I paid $1.35 for that water and didn't get to drink any of it!

None of the employees said anything particularly mean. They weren't being intentionally rude or condescending. What they were doing was their "job," which at that particular moment entailed cleaning up a spill. They were so focused on accomplishing the task at hand, that they allowed their customer's needs at the moment to go completely unnoticed, and even let an opportunity to provide rudimentary customer service slip through their damp fingers.

I left the store feeling frustrated and sad. But what intrigues me most in the aftermath is that I can see myself in those employees. I am very task-oriented. I seek to accomplish jobs and find satisfaction in checking projects off my to-do list. This situation was a good reminder to quit doing all the time, and remember to just be sometimes. Being there, listening and watching, may help me accomplish more in the end.


Bridget said...

Ugh. So AWKWARD. I'm sure they've had far worse things happen than have - gasp - WATER spill on the floor. Sheesh. Just reading your description of how (let's face it) annoying it can be to shop with kids made me never want to do it again. You got it exactly right. And yet it seems ridiculous to get a babysitter or use precious husband time to watch the kids while you go by yourself.

The Payless shoes are way cuter, but I can see your dilemma...

Jeni said...

It is amazing how different people can be. I recall being in the same store and having my potty training son decide he could not hold it (or tell me he had to go) while standing inline.
I think my face turned 50 shades of red, but they were so willing to help (yes they knew it was pee) and they kept telling me not to worry about... of course I had all the mommies and grandmas helping me...
then another time I went there I was alone and the guy in electronics was REALLY helpful, but Jereme just says it was because I was wearing a shirt that made me look hot... I was wearing my ring though!
However I have had bad times shopping at places as well... I had a lady at Winco once tell me "maybe next time you should leave your kids at home" and at that time they were being REALLY good. Nor crying, just holding a silly conversation with an old man behind us, who by the way, started the conversation!


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