Target Worker Fired For Zhu Zhu Pet Purchase

A veteran Target employee in Buffalo, NY claims that she was fired for purchasing a Zhu Zhu pet. The chain told TV station WKBW that all employees were clearly instructed in a memo not to purchase the robot hamsters before 4 A.M., which the employee denies. [WKBW]

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  1. ForestGrump says:

    Well, how bout a recipient check?

  2. SnoopyFish says:

    They were told to not buy the hamsters until 8:00 AM. She was working the night register and bought it at 4:00 AM and claimed she never got the memo.

    • Shadowfire says:

      It could very well be that she never got the memo. If I don’t put memos out for our cashiers, it can take days (or weeks) for new policies to make their way down the ranks. Other managers in our store are incredibly lazy about that stuff (I’m at a grocery store, not a Target… just comparing the possibly similar situations).

      • SnoopyFish says:

        Yah, it’s totally a possibility she didn’t see the memo. I think that’s a real shitty thing what target did to this lady who had been working for them for over 13 years.

      • pittstonjoma says:

        Yep, I’ve been a victim of that. Luckily, I just got yelled at for not knowing (even though it wasn’t my fault).

      • Sumtron5000 says:

        When I worked in retail, I never saw a memo unless my manager showed it to me… which was rarely.

        • Charmander says:

          Yup. In my store, we have to do a “read and sign” if there’s any important memo or document which we need to be aware of. If we didn’t do this, I’d never hear about any policy change until months after it went in effect, and only because other employees would mention it, never the managers.

    • Sinful Josh says:

      If this were such a grave important new policy that if broken would be a termination. I would think the store would be smart enough to have a had all “Members” sign a document acknowledging this.

  3. Outrun1986 says:

    Its clear to me that this woman was fired clearly because she was working at the store too long and had medical bills (what it said on the news last night here), they were just looking for a scapegoat to fire her because she was likely costing the company too much money to keep hired and she could be replaced with a much younger worker who they can pay less. What about the cashier that rung her up, the person obviously didn’t know that the toys were not to be sold until 8am, and I am pretty sure cashiers are not allowed to ring up their own items if she was in fact one. IMO this is not a reason to fire a person, maybe discipline them and have them return the item they bought but not fire them outright.

  4. What The Geek says:

    It’s very common for retailers to forbid employees from buying hot ticket items while on the clock, or before a certain date and time. I find it totally believable that she was informed of the policy and broke the rules anyway, HOWEVER, the policy itself is a bit backwards, and certainly shouldn’t merit a firing. If it’s on the shelves, and an off-the-clock employee wants to buy it, they should absolutely be able to. Also to fire a long time employee over something like this is absolutely absurd. There’s just no reason for it.

  5. SagarikaLumos says:

    I’m a former Target store employee, and it was not unusual for there to be orders about employees purchasing hot items around Christmas. Typically, they would consist of limits to number purchased, inability to set ones aside before the store opened, and the like. I remember that it was well known that one of our employees went to Kmart to buy a holiday Barbie because she missed the shipment and it was an item which couldn’t be saved for employees. I wouldn’t be surprised if that happened more than once with other items. The store manager could probably get in trouble for multiple violations of that policy if someone up the chain was checking what employee discounts had been applied to (yes, they do).

    It sounds as if that store was open early/late, which our store didn’t do. I would not think it unusual for a purchase at 4 am of the hot Christmas item to be restricted, knowing what other policies were in place at the store where I worked. It’s grinchy to do this around Christmas, but I have no reason to doubt that the employee was warned not to do that. It’s hard to say that she should be fired, but who knows what else she violated if she ignored that warning.

    • Kuchen says:

      Yeah, I don’t know that I agree with her being fired, but it sounds like a pretty standard policy. I definitely know that I have had jobs where if I said I never saw a memo, I would have been told that it’s my responsibility to check weekly newsletters and announcements.

  6. MunkyBoi says:

    Store employees should be allowed to buy whatever they want during their break – provided they shop for it like everyone else. Get one off the shelf, take it to the register, pay for it, put it away with the receipt taped to it. It’s not that difficult, is it?

    • jayphat says:

      I think what we’re missing here is wether the store was open for business or not. If not, then I don’t agree at all with your point.

    • friday3 says:

      If she came as an off the street customer and paid full price during normal business hours there would be no issue.

    • fantomesq says:

      That’s not what happened. The 7 employees who were fired were the overnight crew. They unboxed and stocked one of the hottest holiday gifts this Christmas from 11pm-4am while the store was closed and purchased the gifts at 4am before the customers (who very likely were already lined up outside) got a chance to buy them. That’s wrong.

  7. H3ion says:

    Target’s action was overkill in my opinion. A warning or reprimand should have been enough for a 13-year employee unless there were previous issues that don’t appear in the story. It would have been just as easy for the employee to take one of the critters, hide it somewhere where it was unlikely to be found (like the automotive department) and then pick it up and buy it after 8 AM. At least she was up front about it.

    • scoosdad says:

      Ha! That comment reminded me of a trick I used to do at my local supermarket. Back when they were selling Krispy Kreme doughnuts, they used to charge a higher price if you bought them individually than together in boxes of 6 or a dozen. Problem was the kiosk they sold them out of was frequently out of the boxes, and without the box, you paid the higher price for them. Problem solved– every time I saw the extra boxes out, I took one or two and put them in my shopping cart. I found a high shelf in the pet food department and put the boxes up on the top shelf, and they were never discovered there. So anytime I needed a box, I knew where to find one.

  8. marsneedsrabbits says:

    I think the whole to-do over these motorized rats is almost terminally stupid; we don’t yield to this sort of consumerism in our house.

    But I’ve been a mommy long enough to know that practically speaking, there’s not much worse than an angry parent who just discovered that someone else found a way to get something they think their children “need”. They’ll make sure every other mother within range knows about this.

    There was a story here on Consumerist a week or so ago about a lady whose Zhu Zhu Pet mail order was canceled (by Target, no less) after several long delays.

    The idea that mail order customers who reserved them months ago won’t be getting their orders; and in-store customers won’t all be getting theirs despite waiting in line, but sales associates who work the late shift can bebop right up to the register with one will rub too many people the wrong way for Target not to take action.

    Not saying its right – just saying that it is the way people are.

    • JamieSueAustin says:

      Well, if those mother’s really loved their children they’d be in to get their electronic rats at 4 am like everyone else. /sarcasm.

      • marsneedsrabbits says:

        Or they’d stay home with the kids and bake cookies.
        Just sayin’.

        Every year, TV shows cast about for their annual “Is this the next big thing for Christmas” story. This year, Zhu Zhu Pets seemed to fit the bill perfectly because they are cheap, making it easy to work in the “poor economy” angle, and are sort of cute and not in any way violent. A local reporter’s dream – a story which almost writes itself.

        I’ve been wondering for a while now if this particular fad isn’t manufactured by such lazy reporters, since none of my little ones or any of their friends want the things.

        My neighbor tells me that her boys want something called Bakugans. My girls want Liv dolls, My Littlest Pet Shop animals, and Strawberry Shortcake dolls (they’re back).

        Not a single request for robo-rodents in the bunch.

    • Sumtron5000 says:

      But Target’s policy wasn’t that the employee couldn’t buy one at all, just that she couldn’t buy one untill 4 oclock (8 oclock?).

  9. rwalford79 says:

    Who cares? The toy is a piece of crap… Who wants a dead hampster?

    • Charmander says:

      How do you know? Do you have one?

    • Sumtron5000 says:

      Since you don’t like the product she bought, it’s ok that she may have been wrongfully terminated? Have fun asking The Consumerist for help one of these days.

      • DoktorGoku says:

        I’m pretty certain that you are not the one who makes the final decision on whether Consumerist helps people. Also, it’s usually good to not respond to comments that are obviously trolin’.

  10. montusama says:

    I live in Buffalo!!

    on a side note, who cares.

  11. MedicallyNeedy says:

    I thought they were recalled because of toxic chemicals?
    They don’t look that taste anyway.

  12. Hoss says:

    For 13 yrs she’s been wearing the name tag that says “Sue Target” and now it all comes together

  13. friday3 says:

    She has been there for 13 years and is using the excuse she didnt see the memo? I would bet it was posted, and if she were there that long, she should know Target policies pretty well. If they fired her, I am sure it is either because she was an awful employee and here was a chance to get rid of her, or the manager made it a very big deal that this could not happen, and she tried to skirt the system.

    • Flourless Algernon says:

      Get the memo? The memo was probably posted in the pet food aisle.

      This is Target. You know Target which has a Consumerist tag “Target is Crazy” where they post signs like: http://consumerist.com/2009/04/target-shelf-tag-this-is-not-a-sign.html

      • friday3 says:

        Your link is the most idiotic thing that proves you are stupid. One, it does not have anything to do with the story. Two, many companies put things out, that they want their associates to do certain things, and they try to make them idiot proof. Obviously it did not work in that specific Target. Three, why is she shopping at off hours? The only logical reason is to get something that isnt for the average customer, whether it be a discount, less crowded or an item she should not purchase. Come during your off time and nobody will give a shit,but xmas shopping on the clock or during closed store hours is not acceptable.

  14. wolf says:

    I have worked at Target , in the store that I worked at , this type of communication was not always
    given to the employees . But the supervisor was the one at the register to check you out (drinks /food) that was usually when you were given the bad news for purchasing items of limited quantity . The cashier should have told the employee and/ or the employee should not have used the discount(employee) to make the purchase. We purchased items, but could not use the employee discount during non store hours. Target does not care who buys the items as long as their nose is clean in the event of questioning by authorities .

  15. LightMayo says:

    As an update to this story, 7 workers have now been fired from this Target store for buying Zhu Zhu pets. http://www.buffalonews.com/home/story/899242.html

    • SecretAgentWoman says:

      Holy crap that’s harsh! Sounds like Scrooge works for Target Corporate and even the store manager was in tears…

  16. henrygates3 says:

    I’d be interested in hearing more details about the purchase. An employee trying to skirt the system is one thing. But if I work at Target, the store is open, the product is on the shelf, and I’m off the clock, I can buy anything I dang well please.

  17. fantomesq says:

    This is employee skimming of popular product. You see it every holiday season – especially with video game systems. Most retail stores frown on employees skimming popular holiday products that are in short demand.

    If corporate put out an announcement saying that on Sunday Morning each Target store would have 50 of the popular hamsters and people stood in line overnight to get them and these customers discover that the store only had 35 at opening because 15 had been sold to employees, then the customers who were literally left out in the cold have every right to complain and I would expect just such a story condemning Target for doing so here on Consumerist.

    This move Target made to enforce its policies was actually pro-Consumer. We should be supporting them.

    • Charmander says:

      Sounds like you are saying employees aren’t consumers or customers. They are.

      • fantomesq says:

        No problem – let them stand in line with everyone else then – skimming the product off before the store has even opened is unfair to those who aren’t entitled to purchase while the store is closed. When they are purchasing at 4AM in a closed store they are not customers – thats an employee perk.

      • BarbiCat says:

        Employees ARE customers – WHEN they wait in line like everyone else, not when they purchase an item while the store is closed to normal shoppers.

        If the employee is skirting the rules, it’s not fair for other shoppers.

  18. Outrun1986 says:

    How about just putting a lockout on the registers so they can’t be sold at all to anyone until the lockout is lifted. I know this can be done for electronics and games/movies that are not supposed to be street dated until a certain day so that a game doesn’t get sold before its street date. This would keep everyone in check and if it came up in the register as not being able to be sold everyone would know that you are not supposed to purchase it at that time and it would be fair. If it was that important you would think they would have done it for these pets provided they were able to.

    I don’t buy much at retail stores anymore (mostly food and essentials) because of online shopping and cheaper prices online but this really changes the way I feel about my local Target stores especially since I am in the Buffalo area. Not that there is anything that great in my local target stores that warrants a purchase of mine, nothing but overpriced stuff just like every other retail store, they don’t even have good clearances like they used to.

    • BarbiCat says:

      Depending on the way Target has their POS machines set up, that may not be possible to in any meaningful way. At my last retail job [video games], we routinely received street dated items days, sometimes weeks in advance, while they could zero price them, they had to set them to change to sale price a good several days before ‘street date’ came. [Our POS was so old, that if they didn’t, there were bound to be a handful of stores that had trouble with the price change, and couldn’t sell the items, yadda yadda yadda.]

  19. dg says:

    Whether she got the memo or not – she’s been there long enough that she knows the SOP for this time of the year. That said, every employee who works retail KNOWS that you simply ummm, stock the shelf in such a way that something falls behind the shelf, or gets stuck, or is accidentally relocated in the stock room to a different area, etc… Then you call a friend to come by at some point during your shift. The friend finds you and asks if you have any of XYZ item. You say “Let me go look in the back.” – you go in the back to the usual area, take a look then walk around and find your “extra” box that was in the wrong spot, bring it out to your friend, and they purchase it… you get them some $$$ and a beer later and laugh about it…

    Chances are they canned her because she was a PITA and they were looking for an excuse. Every retail establishment has at least 5 “un-terminateable” employees – the ones who ‘slipped/fell’ in the parking lot and sued. The ones with some medical condition that they milk for all it’s worth and so on… The store had probably been accumulating evidence against her for a while, and this was the final straw…

    As for the windup rat – YAWN… Right after xmas, that thing’s going to be stepped on, crushed, launched out of a potato cannon, burned, blown up, chewed on by a dog, stuck in an air vent, and thrown away… Everyone will forget about them 2 minutes after that. I prefer to keep my $$$ and forget about them right now – that way I don’t have to experience Target…

  20. Trojan69 says:

    I smell a big, fat, manager rat. I fully support Target IF the policy exists, and IF the employee transactions were effected wholly without management knowledge/awareness. If any manager knew this was happening, this is just another example of an override of policy by a manager and the employees are covered.

    If I am correct and a manager was a witness and failed to enforce a critical policy for Target, the MANAGER(S) should be fired. What happens to an employee who refuses to go along with what a manager says, policy be darned? This is so very simple.

    There are store tapes that can prove if a manager witnessed these transactions. Where are the protests by the employees that this was done with the assent of a manager? I sure as hell would be screaming this truth if I were in their situation. I would also be prepared to cite chapter and verse when/if this policy was previously ignored by this store management. This ain’t over.

  21. clamjuice says:

    I was at Toys R’ Us on Friday, as I was paying a fricking crazy $200 bucks in Video Games, dude and his dude associate pulled out a bag of about 7 or 8 and paid for them…..

  22. dudski says:

    Walmart’s got the same policy in effect for the Zhu Zhu Pet event they’re doing this week.

  23. webweazel says:

    Just read this in the comments over at the link that lightmayo posted. It might be an update. You’ll have to determine that. Here it is, copied & pasted verbatim:

    “””
    Samantha,

    I was linked to your article through WorldNetDaily.com. I immediately sent an email to Target explaining how much I spent there every year and that I would never shop there again. Below is the reply that they sent me:

    Dear Target Guest,

    We received your e-mail regarding the team member terminations at our Walden Galleria store and would like to provide an update.

    Target has carefully reviewed the situation at the Walden Galleria Target store, and we have determined that the team member terminations were the unintended consequence of a good policy rigidly applied. Therefore, Target intends to reinstate all seven of the team members, effective immediately.

    At Target, we are firmly committed to ensuring that we deliver an outstanding shopping experience for our guests, including being in-stock on our guests most wanted items. We are equally committed to ensuring that our policies are appropriate and fair and that we are implementing them consistently across our company.

    As a result of the situation at our Walden Galleria store, we are re-examining how we apply our team member purchasing guidelines policy, both to ensure that it is implemented appropriately and to ensure that we are delivering the superior shopping experience our guests expect and deserve.

    Thank you for sharing your opinion. We look forward to seeing you at Target.

    Sincerely,

    Holly
    Target Guest Relations
    (800) 440-0680
    [THREAD ID:1-799XC6]

    We the people can make a differance.
    Posted by: RegardingTarget on Dec 22,2009 at 12:55 pm InappropriateReply

  24. kevin says:

    I don’t agree with “What the Geek.” If an employee is told not to do something, and she does it anyway, then she deserves to be fired. And if she had too many medical bills and they were looking for a way to fire her, well, that is not very ethical but it is completely legal. So the store has done nothing wrong.

  25. Fatboy X says:

    Well we have seen this before in a lot of other industries. But yeah I agree having someone fired over something like this is just to much. I really hope her union steps in here and helps out.
    Regards,
    Fatboy