6 More Buffalo Target Employees Fired For Buying Zhu Zhu Hamsters

The Buffalo News reports that a total of seven overnight employees at the Cheektowaga, NY Target store were fired for purchasing Zhu Zhu Pets at the end of their shifts. In a statement to the paper, Target claims that its policy forbidding employees from buying hot items before store opening time was made clear to employees–a claim that the seven now-former employees deny.

[Eight-year Target employee David] Lawrinowicz said he was called into the human resources office and told employees were not allowed to purchase “popular items” until the store opens at 8 a.m. There was no write-up, and he went back to finish his work.

Two weeks later, he and the other co-workers including his team leader were called in and fired by a choked-up, apologetic store manager. They were told the company’s policy about buying “two-day ad items” had been clearly posted in a sign over the employee time clock.

“There was no such thing. I look in that spot every day when I punch out and there was nothing there,” said Lawrinowicz.

From the article, it sounds like an order came down from corporate to make an example of the seven employees.

Target fires 7 workers for buying Zhu Zhus [Buffalo News] (Thanks, Karrie!)

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  1. Incredulous1 says:

    What a fine example of the corporate mentality that retail employees are worthless, replaceable, non humans who do nothing for the company.

    • YouDidWhatNow? says:

      While not worthless or non-human (in most cases, anyway), your typical retail store worker is highly replaceable. Especially since retail jobs that used to require knowledge (like selling electronics) eventually got pushed into minimum-wage territory too, meaning that pretty much any idiot who needs a job is as likely to be there as anyone else.

      Being an employee in a retail store is not exactly a long-term career option…if you can make it into management, then fine…otherwise, I hope for your sake you’re in school…

      • sonneillon says:

        And most store managers need a 4 year degree or an absurd amount of experience. Dept managers can do with less, but they are not paid that much in most situations. There are exceptions and I imagine a few people from costco might reply to me busting my chops about how well they are treated.

        • OletheaEurystheus says:

          Not true, most Store managers I know have no degrees. Its when you get to the corporate level that they usually require you to have some business schooling or many years in the field under your belt.

          I would venture to say 70-80% of your store managers out there dont even have associate degrees.

    • duskglow says:

      I’m afraid I disagree with you. The mentality in this case is that customer satisfaction trumps all, and the policy is to ensure that something which is in short supply has an even chance of getting to the customer rather than being stopped a step above in the supply chain. When looked at from this point of view, the policy makes sense and I actually agree with it.

      However, as “Kari Thompson” stated in her comment, they were way overzealous in applying the policy. If these are otherwise good employees and there was a failure in communicating and/or posting the policy, the failure is the company’s and not the employees. At that point, a stern talking to or a write up is the more appropriate course of action.

      They may (and probably do) hold this attitude in other situations, but I don’t think this is an example of it. It’s an example of overzealous application of a customer-focused rule, nothing more.

      • HogwartsProfessor says:

        That’s fine, but where was the sign saying that was the policy? If the store employees are to be believed, it wasn’t posted. If it were a fireable offense, why didn’t they post it?

    • Incredulous1 says:

      My whole point is that these folks are doing a job.
      They can be loyal hard working people who are kicked out on their behinds without a blink of an eye.
      Not everyone has the ability to go to college. Not everyone has the ability to be a corporate person.
      An honest days work is an honest days work regardless of who you are, who much education you have, and what you make.

    • dg says:

      Sorry, you get hired by a company because they need a problem of some sort of another solved. As soon as you start creating other problems, you get fired. Simple as that.

      Abusing your status as an overnight employee in order to purchase some ‘hot item’ causes Customer service problems for the Company. They don’t need the headaches of explaining to a Customer that their overnight employees are a bunch of clowns who bought out the stock so they could resell it on eBay.

      That costs the Company sales – it costs them brand loyalty. And sorry Mr/Ms $10/hr – you’re not worth the money the Company will lose by irking Customers over some (admittedly) silly item.

      You shouldn’t need a memo to know that doing something like that is unethical and STUPID. The sooner employees everywhere start using their brains (regardless of whether they went to college or not), the better off we’ll all be.

      Summary: You are a tool for the Company to use. You stop working properly, you get thrown out and replaced.

  2. bleigh says:

    i worked at best buy for a while, and they had the same policy. you had to wait until after your shift and it couldn’t be purchased on your lunch. whoever rang you out as well as the buyer would be fired without question. this went toward any purchase on the clock though. they just want to fire EVERYONE. crappy companies.

  3. Shoelace says:

    Amazing, especially considering what horrible/unethical things people can do and KEEP their jobs.

    ‘Verbal huddles’? (shudder)

  4. willthetech says:

    i worked in retail for years and this rule is always a golden rule, you are not allowed to buy advertised or special sale items before the store is open and off from your shift. Many employees were fired in last year’s black Friday for this…is a disadvantage for the customers. Not sure why retail corporations make it a big deal but they do…must be a law thing

    • G.O.B.: Come on! says:

      I doubt that there’s any legal obligation. They just don’t want pissed off customers walking out because employees beat them to purchasing popular items. Conceivably, employees could also buy these items just to sell them on eBay where they’re going for multiples beyond MSRP. I see where the store is coming from, and I agree with the policy. Termination over a poorly communicated policy, however, makes them nothing less than assholes.

      • madanthony says:

        It could be a legal thing. If a store has an item advertised and doesn’t have any in stock, they could be looking at false advertising/bait and switch type charges. For really limited items, stores will often print “minimum x per store” and they want to make sure they actually have that when they open and that they haven’t all been bought by employees.

    • Geekybiker says:

      The policy doesn’t stop employees from hiding items or simply lying about stock so they can buy it when they get off shift.

  5. willthetech says:

    i worked in retail for years and this rule is always a golden rule, you are not allowed to buy advertised or special sale items before the store is open and off from your shift. Many employees were fired in last year’s black Friday for this…is a disadvantage for the customers. Not sure why retail corporations make it a big deal but they do…must be a law thing

    • taking_this_easy says:

      the corporations want people to come into the store to buy the loss-leaders, and buy other stuff while they’re in the store…

      those workers probably won’t buy anything else besides the popular items….

    • LuzioFantazmic says:

      I think they make a big deal about about buying the hot items because denies the customer any chance at getting an item that sells fast. Another reason that I have seen this personally with people that I know who work in retail, employees buy up all the hot items and resell them on ebay.

      • fantomesq says:

        That’s it and it leaves the real customers holding the bag and creates customer problems from the stores… Yes it is a ‘law thing’ where a store must have adequate supply of an advertised good. Self dealing the popular items to employees is asking for trouble and as others have said denies the store of customers who would likely have been more profitable.

  6. G.O.B.: Come on! says:

    “Target said the policy is made clear in its employee handbook, and that reminders of it ‘are often communicated’ through postings, newsletters and verbal ‘huddles.’ Policy violations are punishable by action up to and including termination.”

    So seven employees ignored/missed an alleged posting above the time-clock? Unlikely. If they were serious about this, they would have made verbal “huddles” the standard method of communicating this policy. Defining “popular” items clearly would also help. For a policy that’s supposed to give customers equal-opportunity to purchase merchandise, they’re lacking in thoroughness.

  7. EmDeeEm says:

    If you read the comments in the link, someone named Kari Thompson from Target Corporate says all of the employees are being reinstated.

    • Chumas says:

      probably in response to a shitstorm of bad press amid being canned right before christmas.

      • Dropzone56_rockingout says:

        They will be fired after the holidays for some other bogus reason. These employees are on “THE LIST” now.

        • duskglow says:

          Unfortunately, you’e probably right. Corporations (even smaller ones) tend to be grossly unforgiving and incredibly duplicitous when they get in their head that someone is “causing trouble”, whether it’s warranted or not.

          I speak from experience. Thankfully I got the upper hand in that situation and ended up moving into a much better position. (In my case they had a legitimate gripe, but when they absolutely refuse to communicate with you and instead just decide they’re gonna summarily dump you, it becomes as much their problem as yours, or perhaps moreso).

  8. Crass says:

    I wonder if firing 6 people, right before Christmas, in a bad economy, over stupid chinese plastic hamsters, is worse PR than if they had just given the employees a warning.

    Seems like its just an excuse to cut back the workforce while denying them unemployment benefits.
    Either way I will not shop at Target this holiday season because of their treatment of employees regarding this issue.

    • duskglow says:

      That wouldn’t deny them unemployment benefits. As I understand it, it doesn’t take just being fired “for cause”, it requires gross negligence. IE, theft or grossly unethical behavior.

      Target would likely in this case *challenge* their uneployment, but they’d likely lose.

      Then again, New York state laws might be different…

      • ahleeeshah says:

        I’m not sure about NY law (in SC myself), but with my experience, it is ridiculously difficult to deny unemployment benefits. You have to have a record of progressive discipline or you have to have an event that is so drastic it would require immediate termination. The target would probably not be able to deny them unemployment, especially if there are records of other employees doing the same thing and only receiving a write up.

    • pdxazn says:

      That “stupid chinese plastic hamsters” was designed and distributed by some stupid american company. HaHa!

  9. Erictehundying says:

    At Target, the standard policy is to keep one register open overnight for the overnight employees to buy drinks, food, etc. for their breaks and lunches. What these workers are being accused of is using their status as employees to buy merchandise before any “guests” had a chance to do so – in essence, buying them as employees rather than as customers. Chances at hot items before other customers is not one of the perks of being an team member.

    That said, firing is harsh, but it would be rather difficult to explain to other guests why employees got dibs on the hottest toy of the season before anyone else, especially in our litigious society. I could actually easily see a Consumerist article titled, “Target Employees Allowed to Buy Zhu Zhu Pets Before Actual Customers.”

  10. Megalomania says:

    I would think having the first shot at new shipments or sales would be something you would promote as a reason to work at a store in the first place. I know right now unskilled labor – and some skilled labor – is something of a buyer’s market but the store makes its money either way. i could see some policy prohibiting purchasing multiple copies of a single item, but seriously, in terms of things you could call employee benefits, this seems like a no brainer

    • duskglow says:

      Perhaps a better policy would be to set aside a small number for employees and that’s it, or maybe even raffle or auction them off. Perhaps even give them out as prizes for a job well done.

      The situation here is that the company really can’t win. Either please your customers or your employees – but you can’t do both in this case. So they’re probably doing what makes the most sense here, because pissing off customers is a major PR problem, while pissing off employees not quite so much. Until they go overboard with it and find their way onto consumerist and the newspaper, at which point all bets are off.

      I think if I were Target, I would have made sure it was posted, made sure the consequences were CLEARLY stated, and just written them up for the first infraction. The employees may not be happy, but it avoids a major PR problem.

  11. Outrun1986 says:

    Ok I am in the area and my Target store was definitely more dead today than it usually is. I can’t help but think that this story has had an effect on their business especially since I am in the area when other stores like Kmart and Walmart were busting with a packed store. I walked out of the store empty handed as I do many times. The store I shop in is probably managed by the same district manager at least as this store so I definitely don’t want to support a corporation that treats their employees this way. The last thing I want to do is support bad management. This was a really dirty and incompassionate thing to do especially before the holidays. They are making Walmart, Sams club and Kmart look good to me right now.

    As other people have said and I said earlier this was a desperate attempt at cutting Target’s costs by removing employees that were clearly costing them money with medical bills and for working there for a long time (so they are getting paid more than someone who was just hired). Kind of a coincidence that they fired more than one long time employee.

  12. RandomHookup says:

    I would like to get a Buffalo Target for Xmas. Where can I find one?

  13. Chumas says:

    My name is Kari Thompson and I work at Target headquarters in Minneapolis. There’s been a lot of discussion about the situation involving the termination of 7 Target team members (what we call our employees) at our Walden Galleria store, so I wanted to provide an update.

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

    As a national retailer with almost 1,800 stores, it’s important that we have the products our guests (thats what we call customers at Target) want on our shelves, particularly during the holidays.

    To make sure our guests have the same opportunity as our team members to buy things like the hottest toy of the season, we have a policy that strictly prohibits our team members from buying items before the store opens or putting items aside for their families, friends or themselves. Our goal is to be fair, and we don’t believe it is fair to give our team members an advantage over our guests.

    This policy is communicated to our team members in a variety of ways and we make it clear that if they violate it, they will face corrective action, up to and including termination.

    While our goal is to make sure that our policies are consistently and appropriately enforced, were willing to admit when were too rigid in the application of a policy. We believe that is what happened in this case and it is the reason we have taken steps to reinstate all seven of these team members
    Posted by: KThompson on Dec 20,2009 at 01:23 pm
    http://www.buffalonews.com/145/story/899242.html?page=15&order=T#comment

    Any way to determine if this is well placed schadenfreude or not?

    • nofelix says:

      “While our goal is to make sure that our policies are consistently and appropriately enforced, were willing to admit when were too rigid in the application of a policy.”

      Classic corporate shit jargon right there. Target is willing to admit they’re applying a policy too rigidly, but actually that’s not what everyone’s accusing them of, which was firing employees over a policy they’d never heard of.

      ALSO, she’s not so rigid and consistant in her application of apostrophes! :( Poor apostrophes.

    • RookOmega says:

      Thanks for the update.

      As a long time “collector toy” hunter, I hated the fact that store employees would pull things off the shelves, even before the store opened, and not able to find what I am looking for.

      It was even so bad that some stockers would even slide off the “popular” items even before they went from the stockroom.

      At one Toys r Us location, there was a “re-sell” comic book store across the street, and that comic store managed to always have all the “rare” figures (toys) on their shelves, marked up of course. (170% or more)

      However, the store would put the initials of the person putting it up for sale (some sort of commission deal) – and sure enough, their was a stock clerk in Toys r Us with the same initials.

      Now – did it warrant them to get fired, probably not, but a little part of me nodded in approval of corporate taking some sort of action.

    • admiral_stabbin says:

      I’m too sleepy still to make full sentences, so here’s my sound bite-style thoughts:

      - Glad they’re re-hiring the people.

      - I think most adults (even many children) already understood the “Team Member = Employee” + “Guests = Customers” thing. When one doesn’t have much of relevance to say, but they want to appear they do, they often resort to overstating the obvious.

      - When one (possibly more?) employee offered to return the items, it still fell upon deaf ears.

      Target = Christmas 2009 fail

    • dpain843 says:

      This is not just happening in Buffalo, our store in Tom River NJ has terminated 3 people for making zhu zhu pet purchases while on their break. The message on how to make purchases is not making it to the employee level. I have worked for 22 years with Target, I bought 2 zhu zhu pet accessories on my normal break period at 8:01 and was terminated. The only message that had been conveyed at our store was that you have to be on break or lunch to make any purchase. No mention of high demand items.

  14. Sneeje says:

    I’m willing to bet the store manager was choked up because he realized he had never put up that sign and had to either fire 7 people or admit his mistake and lose his own job.

    • ShruggingGalt says:

      Bingo.

      OTOH, I’d be surprised if that posting by the supposed corporate employee is legit. If it is legit, I’m surprised Target’s legal department would allow it….you’ve just opened up a bag of worms for future incidents, unless they make it a blanket rule that you are not allowed to buy any item until 24 hours after a sale for said item begins, and the sales begin when the store opens…

      I won’t be surprised if one or more of the 7 doesn’t take their jobs back and in fact lawyers up. Esp. if the posting didn’t really occur.

  15. coren says:

    He was told after he bought them that he couldn’t do that. Then, two weeks later, he gets fired for the same thing – if a sign existed, why weren’t they firing him on the spot, rather than waiting two weeks? Something reeks…

  16. 339point4 says:

    When I was 15, I was fired five days before Christmas from Subway because I’d been caught on camera giving a homeless guy the free sub I was allotted for lunch.
    I understand the reason for the corporation’s policy in both cases, but putting it into practice and firing people during the holidays for what seems like a rather innoccuous action still sucks.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      That’s stupid. It was your sandwich; you could do with it what you pleased. It’s not like you went to the station and then made a sandwich specifically for the homeless guy.

      Shame on you, Subway.

    • dg says:

      Sounds about right. They give you a free sandwich for your lunch. If YOU get sick, you’re an employee of the store. YOU get worker’s compensation, insurance, etc. but you likely don’t sue over the issue (unless you die). The store then investigates to see if you did your job cleaning, refrigerating, etc…

      If you give the sandwich to some homeless guy (a noble act to be certain!) and HE gets sick, then HE sues, everyone feels sorry for the poor homeless guy, and the Company pays. Or even worse, Mr. Homeless starts coming back every day for a free sandwich (and you may be hungry for your sandwich tomorrow) – then you give him one to shut him up, and you still take a free sandwich. OR he smells so bad that he scares off real customers.

      No, what the Company did was right – I’d have fired you too. And gotten the cops to shoo the bum away.

  17. jaya9581 says:

    I’m still confused. So say an earlier poster is correct, and Target keeps a register open for overnight employees to purchase items. I’m fairly sure that those employees are not allowed to ring themselves out for anything, as that is standard LP in every store I’ve ever worked in. Shouldn’t the person being fired be the person who rung them out?

    Also, I’ve never had a problem making break-time purchases, be they paid or unpaid breaks, at any retail store, nor have I ever seen such a rule in any employee handbook – and this includes stores such as Babies/Toys R Us, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble and other large, national stores.

    • Outrun1986 says:

      This was not a problem where I worked either in retail but obviously things have changed. In fact sometimes we would search the store for cheap clearance items and buy them, and no one said anything. I think the only rule was you could not ring up your own items and you could not ring up your own family but you could let them use your discount card. You couldn’t use your discount card on your own register but again these are pretty standard. There was no restriction over what we could or couldn’t buy or when we could buy it and we were allowed to set aside items.

  18. TheObserver says:

    Are they union employees? Probably not, wouldn’t be as easy to fire.

    • NatalieErin says:

      Uh, there are practically no unionized employees working corporate retail. I’d wager less than 10%.

  19. LoadStar says:

    This definitely is a good policy. I mean, you can look at pages like slickdeals, whose mantra is “never call” because employees will grab the items before customers can, not to mention numerous stories of products mysteriously sold out, even by customers who are at the store immediately at opening time on the initial day of a sale. You don’t want your employees becoming a gray market sales channel on a regular basis; it does the real customers a disservice.

    The only problem here may be if the policy isn’t appropriately communicated, which may be the case here despite what management says.

  20. supergaijin says:

    This is a big, fat “duh” policy that virtually every chain has, and the employees are just sorry they got caught.

    I wish Target would clean house in our local store here. There are plenty of these type employees here. Maybe these firings will give them pause.

  21. odLott says:

    It certainly seems like a reasonable rule. The punishment might be a little harsh, but you have to wonder about somebody working there for 8 years and not being aware of the rule.

  22. kcvaliant says:

    Meh, I am probably in the minority but customers can eat a dick.. I worked retail a couple years ago.. Most companies have crap discounts if any, one of the only perks was buying stuff early.. Guess what, most employees are better customers then the ad chasers.. That and generally bought the warranties.. Employees need to have some perks.. As long as they did buy ALL the quantities or more then what the ad said were available it should be fine..

    • duskglow says:

      And that would be why you “worked” retail.

      Sorry, but with that kind of attitude, you really should find something else to do.

    • ophmarketing says:

      Thank you. I couldn’t agree more. Employees are often your best customers, AND happy ones are your best advertising.

  23. Caveat says:

    I think it is reflective of a society that has completely lost track of its moral valuies. Since when has a stupid “must-have” toy become more important than a job, a person’s livelyhood? Clearly the employees could have circumvented the rule by just grabbing a toy then waited until 8:01 AM at which time a colleague could have opened another check-out line to accomodate them (and preferably paying cash to hide any tracking). I could support the Target policy if it were a life-or-death item, something like a miracle drug that was in short supply. However the corporation needs to recognize the its employees are customers too, and they deserve respect. So what if they get the perk of buying a Zhu Zhu ahead of someone else that may be a one-time customer? Maybe they should be going after their marketing people that did not forecast the demand accurately and did not order enough pets for the holiday season. No, that would be too simple and fair.

  24. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    Sorry, to me it’s common sense that employees can’t stock shelves in the middle of the night then buy the items at 5am before customers have had chance.

    I’ve been to that Target. It opens at 8am.

    7 employees x 4 items = 28 Zhu Zhu’s gone from the shelves.

    If Best Buy employees scooped up all the deals before doors opened on Black Friday then posters here would be going ballistic.

    • duskglow says:

      Very few people are saying the policy is wrong. The debate is as to whether corporate was fair in their enforcement of the policy and whether the employees had sufficient notice.

  25. Chargeback says:

    Getting fired for buying this cheap piece of over hyped crap is the equivalent of getting fired for stealing boxes on your day off. Hope it was worth it…..

  26. Etoiles says:

    The really funny thing is: when I went into CVS this morning to buy a snow brush for the car (that was under 2′ or more), there was a big table full of Zhu Zhu hamsters right by the registers, for $9.99 each. Apparently no kids in Arlington, VA have been begging their parents for them.

  27. montusama says:

    once again the only thing i have to say about this is, go buffalo!

    Yes I live in Buffalo.

  28. PanCake BuTT says:

    These poor souls who were axed in Buffalo sure aren’t Consumer readers. If they were, they would have known how to build & construct their own Zhu Zhu rats, hamsters, beavers..whatever. Just do IT!

  29. pantheonoutcast says:

    What’s all this about the “customers” being denied the opportunity to purchase their shiny trinkets first? There are like a dozen people all whining that “customers” (who in this case are presumably riding around on a white horse emblazoned with the American flag or something) won’t get a chance to buy these toys because lowly shopworkers (portrayed here as a pool of writhing tapeworms) got there first. Did I miss something, or do these over-hyped pieces of crap contain H1N1 vaccines or something? As far as I can tell, the product in question is a plastic hamster.

    A plastic hamster.

    And people are lamenting how they were somehow “cheated” out of the chance to buy one. To all those who weren’t able to buy a plastic hamster this Christmas season: Good. F-you. You and your ilk represent everything that has gone horribly wrong in this society: Self-entitled adults purchasing (and whining about purchasing) garbage manufactured by sweatshop slaves in a Communist country in order to placate their already over-indulged children.

    Maybe these Target employees, you know, who work long, tiring hours dealing with the self-entitled and obnoxious public for very little pay, wanted to secure a little holiday cheer for their families,and so they bought a plastic hamster 5 hours before you could.

    A plastic hamster.

    And then along comes Captain Credit Card bellyaching that he’s a “customer” and he should come first. Hey, dipstick, newsflash – Target doesn’t exist for your satisfaction. It’s a retail corporation committed to turning a profit. The minute those Target workers opened up their wallets, they became “customers” too. What, you don’t like the idea of a minimum-wage earner getting the jump on you? So little Dakota didn’t get her plastic hamster. Maybe Christmas morning would be a good time to teach your spoiled children about how instant gratification and rampant consumption undermines the foundation of civilization.

    /rant

    • ophmarketing says:

      I know nothing about you outside of your post to I am responding, and yet I love you. :-)

      • pantheonoutcast says:

        Thanks! It’s better than what I usually hear: “I’m going to find out where you live and slash your tires.”

        • bjcolby15 says:

          You are totally on the mark. Keep your tires inflated to the proper level though, ‘k?

          Seriously, though, any Christmas that there’s been a hot toy – Tickle Me Elmo, Sleep and Snore Ernie, Cabbage Patch – it seems that the stores and businesses are told by the manufacturer that they’ll send them at artificially low levels to maintain a “buzz,” which then metastizes into a full-blown hysteria within a few weeks. Then, once Christmas is over, the manufacturer sees if their artificial supply shortage was a good marketing strategy.

          Nine times out of ten, it doesn’t. Why? The kids will play with the toys once, then never touch them again. The manufacturer will then flood the stores with surplus, and the items that once sold for $500 or so on eBay now are on clearance for $5.

          As for the Target employees purchasing ZhuZhu pets before the customers – Target did what it had to do, which was terminate employment. Perhaps the fear of those ZhuZhu’s landing on Craigslist as “THE HOT CHRISTMAS TOY! ONLY TWO AVAILABLE! $250 EACH OR $400 FOR BOTH!” was one reason (similar to ticket brokers who snap up tickets at a face value of $50 and mark them up 10-20 times that); the other could be that many frantic parents would blow a gasket if they knew Target employees were getting the goods rather than putting them on the shelves.

    • EmDeeEm says:

      best. comment. ever.

    • nofelix says:

      I sympthise with your post but I feel you’re being too idealistic.

      Target has a legal responsibility to ensure advertised products are in stock. If an advertised product is out of stock because Target employees bought it, then action can be brought against the company. The laws against bait-and-switch are there to protect consumers, and not just ones with fat wallets.

      Target is not even treating customers better than employees, it’s treating them the same. Employees are able to purchase products during the same hours everyone else is. Allowing employees to buy stock out of hours would be a nice perk, nothing more.

      Obviously, firing an employee for a policy they were not made aware of is fucked up and shouldn’t happen. But the policy itself is a good one.

      • pantheonoutcast says:

        It’s obvious that you have no idea what the “laws against bait and switch” are, or how it works. Bait and switch occurs when a product is advertised, the customer attempts to buy said product, but a salesman informs them that said product is out of stock, and attempts to persuade said customer to purchase either a more expensive item or an item with a higher profit margin. And even then, its isn’t bait and switch if the product in question is actually capable of being sold at the advertised price.

        If an item is merely sold out, then no bait and switch exists, and thus, no legal action may be taken. Likewise, advertising a sale while intending to stock a limited amount of, and thereby sell out, the loss-leading item advertised is legal in the United States. The purveyor can escape liability if they make clear in their advertisements that quantities of items for which a sale is offered are limited. Which, in this case of plastic hamsters, has been done time and again.

        Target has no legal responsibility of any kind in this matter. None. Zero.

        And yes, it is a double standard simply because overworked Target employees simply deserve more sympathy than some spoiled blowhard ranting about taking legal action against a department store because they sold out of plastic hamsters.

        • nofelix says:

          If they say on an advertisement that they have 2000 hamsters but actually only have 1800 because their employees bought some then they would be liable.

          Also, upselling is not required for an ad to be misleading, fyi. Even though people call it bait and switch, just baiting consumers with an offer that they have no reasonable chance of getting is bad enough.

          Still don’t get why you think anyone shopping at Target is less deserving of christmas presents than its employees, since those groups overlap.

          • pantheonoutcast says:

            I simply contend that a store exists to sell a product, and it shouldn’t matter in the slightest to whom the store sells the product. If Target advertises 2000 plastic hamsters, and employees buy 200, and “customers” buy 1800, they’ve still offered and sold 2000 plastic hamsters. The minute people start crying “litigation” over such a preposterous issue is when I no longer care about those people. A customer, upon learning that the product he desires is sold out has no right to demand of Target how many products it sold, or to whom, nor does Target have any responsibility to prove themselves to the customers. What, should the government step in a launch a multi-million dollar independent investigation into the whereabouts of 200 plastic hamsters? Whatever happened to the days when people simply shrugged their shoulders and said, “oh well, I guess they’re sold out?” Now everyone gets all lawyered-up over the most preposterous of things because their sense of self-entitlement has been injured. We’re all a bunch of self-righteous “victims”.

            And you’re still incorrect about the whole “bait and switch” thing. I worked in retail during college, and our store would routinely advertise computers for $200. We had five of them. And we advertised that fact as well. When we were sold out, (which happened about ten minutes after opening) we would tell people we were sold out. And yet they stuck around and spent 10 times that amount because they absolutely “had” to purchase something. Corporate psychology takes advantage of weak consumer mentality. I distinctly remember one customer (who arrived an hour after opening) screaming at me , (as acting floor manager), that he was going to sue us because we sold out so quickly. I told him that he was an idiot if he thought he was going to be able to purchase such a deal an hour after opening. He, like so many other people, had no reasonable chance to purchase the $200 computer simply because he got there so late, and yet still felt as though he was being treated “unfairly.” And you know what, he sued us; He lost so hard, I can still hear the judge’s laughter to this day. Our store, in the eyes of the law, did nothing wrong. We, much like Target, existed to sell products to people for money, nothing more.

            These unfortunate employees were not fired because they deprived some customer of their plastic hamsters, but because they violated store policy. And now every one of them is going to be reinstated to their positions because part of corporate psychology is “make the public think we are doing the least amount of damage at all times.” The employees got more sympathy from the public than did the “customers” who felt like they had been slighted in not being able to purchase their plastic hamsters. Target did the right thing in rectifying the situation, and anyone who thinks differently can go whine in the corner.

            • nofelix says:

              The government does care who products are sold to, because a product sold to a member of staff is no longer available to the public, and it’d be a neat way to lie about your stock. Advertise 2000 hamsters, but only stock 1000 hamsters and sell 1000 to an employee (which are never delivered); he then immediately sells them back to corporate so they can go to another store. Except you can’t do that because the advertised stock must be available to the public, which is why you can’t buy hamsters during your night shift, and is why Target have this policy!

              And plastic hamsters do matter because a) there’s a lot of them, and b) it sets a precedent.

              Your computer guy story doesn’t involve staff buying up stock. Obviously saying you have 5 computers and selling 5 computers is legal.

    • nofelix says:

      Wait, also, your last two paragraphs are a ridiculous double standard.

      When a Target employee buys a Zhu-Zhu Pet they’re just ‘secur[ing] a little holiday cheer for their family’. But any other person, who may also have a tiring retail job, is just indulging ‘instant gratification and rampant consumption’? Please wake up.

    • dg says:

      I’ve worked retail – it sucks to be certain, but regardless of the product – employees hiding, cheating, or otherwise using some technique not available to the general public to purchase said product is unethical.

      You want unethical employees? If they’re willing to juice the system in order to get one thing, what will they do next?

      Yeah, they’re underpaid – that’s RETAIL. It sucks. move on and get a different job if you don’t like it. Or go back to school, or start your own Company.

      The fact is that Companies don’t look at a customer as what they’re going to buy today – they look at what you’re going to buy over a period of time – say a year. What’s the average purchase amount per visit over that time frame? If you have this “hot item” – what else does the average customer buy along with it?

      An employee scamming to buy the ‘hot item’ spends $5.00 (or whatever these silly things cost). That’s likely IT. The Customer arriving a few hours later who wanted to purchase one of those ‘hot items’, would likely get a bunch of other stuff as well (and maybe some other junk they hadn’t planned on) – but if the ‘hot item’ isn’t there, then they’re going to leave immediately and go elsewhere because they want this ‘hot item’. So you lose all the “incremental sales” as well. And if the word gets out that the employees gamed the system and bought all the ‘hot items’ before the Public could – then chances are you’ve just lost a customer for life. And they tell 10 of their friends – so you lost that money as well.

      You can get another employee relatively easily. They generally line up to apply for work. Customers are much more fickle.

      Look at it from the Company’s point of view (right or wrong as it may be) and you’ll understand why they do what they do. If you don’t like it – don’t work retail. Go start your own company and find out just how crazy life can be.

  30. sven.kirk says:

    I am pissed that they were fired for such a stupid reason. It shouldn’t have gone that far.
    FTA, they were put in a really but spot.
    They are allowed to make purchases after their shift. But their shift ends WAY after they officially close and before they open.
    How would you like the night stockerboys buying all the BF deals?
    Kind of a catch 22.

    • nofelix says:

      Not really a catch-22 since they can come back when the store is open and buy the toy just like anyone else. Or send a friend if they want to be asleep at that time. Or not buy plastic hamsters.

  31. ovalseven says:

    Sorry, but when it comes to posting signs, I can’t give Target the benefit of the doubt here. If anything was posted above the time clock, I can only imagine what it said.

    http://consumerist.com/2009/02/reading-comprehension-among-target-employees-at-all-time-high.html

    http://consumerist.com/2009/04/target-shelf-tag-this-is-not-a-sign.html

    http://consumerist.com/2009/04/target-is-losing-its-mind.html

  32. tutleman says:

    What is it with people and robotic hamsters? Also, what exactly is a “verbal huddle”? It sounds like a form of torture…

  33. Lowcifur says:

    I worked at Toys R Us over one holiday season, and it was always made clear to us that we weren’t allowed to buy popular items on shift, nor were we allowed to “reserve” items for ourselves. I never saw it written anywhere, and I never had an “employee handbook”, but everyone knew about it. If you work retail for more than a month or two, then it’s common sense.

    Without that rule, you get people who jump on the crew *just* for the holiday season *just* so they can get first dibs on items. I saw this first hand: a guy worked our night shift during the holidays just so he could get first dibs on the Hotwheels for the purpose of the collection he planned on selling on eBay after it was completed. Standard Hotwheels aren’t a rare item, so the managers didn’t forbid him.

    According to the linked article, one of the employees had worked there for eight years, and bought two of the toys. It’s not stated how long the other six worked there, but it’s noted that none of them bought more than the limit of 4 of the toys. So that means that up to 26 very popular toys were walking out the door prior to the store even opening. I’m willing to bet that they were all aware of the policy, but opted to ignore it since they didn’t think anyone would fire them.

    There is absolutely no way that someone can work at a store that sells toys for eight years without being aware of such a policy, and there’s no way that such a store wouldn’t have such a policy (and expect to stay in business). Just think, the entire night crew walked up, bought their limit of a popular and rare toy…and most of them were probably going to just sell them on eBay for a ridiculous markup. Sure, the one person interviewed for the article may have just been purchasing two for his daughter, but as someone with seniority, he should’ve recognized the situation for what it was: a very easy way to get yourself fired.

  34. mandy_Reeves says:

    my husband worked at Target during the big Wii craze, during the over night shift. They had like 10 set aside for over nighters…like everyone was on a list…it went down the line each shipment. If you couldn’t wait…then you had to punch out at 8 then go in line behind the customers and take your chances on them having any left.

  35. Extractor says:

    If the sign was not posted and then later posted, obviously employees didnt know that they couldnt buy those things. By posting that later, Target has in fact admitted that employees had inadequately been informed of that policy. Used that same argument 30 years ago when I gave an unauthorized injection in school. Charges were filed against me but I won based only on that type of sign being posted after the incident. I also claimed that the charge was moot since the sentence was carried out before the hearing. Really helps to know and use legal terminology such as due process.

  36. chargernj says:

    I’m of two minds about this. On one hand it’s unfair to the regular customers that store employees get first dibs on whatever the hot new toy is. But on the other hand is it really that big a deal that the people at or near the bottom rungs of retail employment get have at least that one perk in life?

    Maybe if the manufacturers made enough of the product to begin with this wouldn’t be an issue.

    • nofelix says:

      “But on the other hand is it really that big a deal that the people at or near the bottom rungs of retail employment get have at least that one perk in life?”

      Since there are people who have hard jobs who work outside Target, I think it’s fairer to treat everyone the same. Also avoids patronising people.

  37. CowgirlSteve says:

    As a former Target employee of 3 years, who hates the company with a passion, refuses to shop there, and will not even set foot into the store I worked at…. I have to state flat out before I get into anything else that if an employee of 8 years did not know Target had this policy in place, they’re lying to themselves and everyone else. It was in the handbook, it was stated during orientation, it was stated every year leading up to Q4. Every team member I’ve known has been fully aware that buying on your shift, before the store opens, or setting merchandise aside/hiding it so that you or a relative can purchase it was grounds for termination. Any item. Not hot sale items, 2-day ad items, or anything like that. Any item. Did people still do it? Yes. Team Members would also wait to take their lunches or breaks so that they could be waiting with the item at a register at the front right at 8:01am to get whatever the item is. So, anyone who had worked for the company for that long and was unaware? Stop trying to save face with your family, your pants are on fire, sir.

    Now, moving along to if it is right or wrong? I personally think the policy is pretty clear, and I know in my store it was made clear often during Q4. They purchased an item before the store was open or set an item aside to be purchased at the end of their shift, which denied the guests coming in the ability to buy the item. You broke the rules, I’m sorry, but that’s your own fault. How many of those same employees buy Clearance items the morning their marked down? Did they know that’s against the rules too? Clearance items are supposed to be on the shelf 24 hours to give Guests a chance to purchase them before Team Members take dibs. Know how many times I saw a external HDD get marked 75% off to 30 bucks and have all 9 of em get bought by 3 team members right when the store opened? If they had gotten caught, I’d tell them the same thing. Your mistake, you knew the rules.

    To the person who said it was the marketers that should have realized demand and made the company order more? Not always the case. In many cases they know the demand and they don’t have the means to get the product. If the manufacturer isn’t sending the product, we can’t sell it. Many times I’ve had to tell people on a sunday morning at 8am that we do not have an item that is in our ad flyer, because we never recieved any. They’d acuse me of lying or my fellow employees of buying or hiding them in the stockrooms when truth be told, we honestly did not get any. But to flip some back on the company, there were also times I had to tell people that we didn’t have Wii’s when we did, because we were holding them for an advertised flyer date, and if we sold them when the hold was effective we’d lose our jobs.

    tl;dr: It’s not the companies fault people work for 8 years and don’t read the handbook, pay attention at orientation, or listen at huddles. They’re trying to give the guests the best guest service possible, and part of that is being in stock. If the employees skirt the rules, they know there are consequences. Plain and simple.