Target Unfires 7 Workers For Buying Zhu Zhus Before Customers Could

7 Buffalo Target employees fired for buying Zhu Zhus, this year’s hot robotic rodent toy, during their shifts have been reinstated. A failure to communicate seems to have been the culprint:

From The Buffalo News:

They made the purchases at about 5 a.m. before the end of their shift but days later were told “popular items” could not be bought until the store opened at 8 a.m. — though overnight workers are normally permitted to make purchases during off hours.

Then, the firings occurred Wednesday, with the store manager stating the policy regarding two-day ad items had been posted above the employee time clock, a point that was disputed by one of the workers.

But Target said the policy is also in the employee handbook and exists to make sure customers have the same purchasing opportunities as its employees.

It’s important that employees don’t have an unfair advantage over customers to buy in-demand goods, but care should be taken to make sure policies over it are clearly communicated internally. Guess crazy things are bound to happen over must-have items. Luckily, no one had to die.

Target reverses Zhu Zhu Pet firings [Buffalo News] (Thanks to Erb!)

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Target Worker Fired For Zhu Zhu Pet Purchase
6 More Buffalo Target Employees Fired For Buying Zhu Zhu Hamsters

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  1. blogger X says:

    It seems Target didn’t want to get hit up with a six, seven-figure wrongful termination lawsuit and decided to give those workers their jobs back.

    • Spin359 says:

      Bad press is not good this time of year and some people vote with dollars. the lawsuits would have been months off, but still would have happened. no one wants to be seen firing already poor people before Christmas.

      • blogger X says:

        I agree. Its not like Target was going to lose serious money over these toys being purchased by their employees!

        • BeerManMike says:

          But they might lose money if their customers don’t shop there anymore knowning that all the “good” hot ticket items are already bought up by employees.

    • phospholipid says:

      “I had no idea that I wasn’t suppose to buy this extremely popular toy that sells out in minutes before the store opened today, honest!” but to fire them for it? Pfft. Just make them returned the unopened ones.

    • Mr. TheShack says:

      Unemployment is a hot-button issue, so people tend to see this as a charade to cut costs and get rid of employees. Showing your store as a contributor to the problem isn’t exactly the best PR/image

    • tmed says:

      There would be no six / seven-figure wrongful termination suit. If there were a suit at all, it would be settled most easily by offering the jobs back, lost wages would be minimal.

      If the policy was signed, they would have little problem enforcing the firings. Civil lawsuits are VERY, VERY hard to win right now, particularly with any level of compensation above actual damages.

      Target did the right thing here, because it was the right thing to do. They have lawyers they are paying anyway.

      • RvLeshrac says:

        Civil suits in a trial-by-jury are easy to win. You think the defendant in a “wrongful termination” lawsuit is going to find even 1/12th of the populace rooting for them? Especially since the unemployed are now volunteering for jury duty.

        • tmed says:

          There is no civil case that is easy to win with significant punitive damages. You can’t volunteer for jury duty.

          Winning at the first level will lead to appeals and stalls.

    • LuzioFantazmic says:

      Target employees are at-will employees. They can be fired for any reason provided they did not violate any laws. Firing someone for not complying with company policy, whether it was posted or not, is not a violation of any law.

      So there would be no wrongful termination lawsuits if Target chose not to give them their jobs back.

      Target was just being nice.

      • blogger X says:

        Ever heard of the term “just cause”?

        • LuzioFantazmic says:

          Companies do not need “just cause” to terminate. If you are an at-will employee, You can walk into work today, be terminated, and they don’t even have to tell you why you were terminated. And there is not one thing you can do legally to the company other than file for unemployment.

          That is the law. As long as the termination was not unlawful, you have no recourse.

          And by unlawful i mean, you walk in say you are pregnant, or need to go on FMLA, ect… and they fire you because you are pregnant or need to go on FMLA, and you can prove that they fired you because you are pregnant or needed to go on FMLA. If you can’t prove that point, then you are again stuck with no recourse. Those are just 2 examples of unlawfulness. Firing for not abiding by a company policy, posted or not, is not unlawful.

          • Shadowfire says:

            Wrong, my friend. People like to tout “at will employment,” but the minute your company creates an employee handbook, your claims to “at will employment” go out the window. You are creating in essence a contract with your employees… you follow these rules, we continue to pay you. If a company does not have proper documentation of disciplinary action, they really can’t fire someone… if they do, there is grounds for investigation and a law suit.

  2. cbutler says:

    From what it seems. I think somebody in the middle totally dropped the ball on that internal memo and didnt want to fess up after it snowballed to avoid punishment.

  3. ander_bobo says:

    To me it is a bit more alarming that there were 7 people all on the same shift who all bought these Zhu Zhu pets, maybe if it were one or two employees, but seven. That is atleast seven less units of the most popular children’s gift of the season. I agree that firing them was perhaps too extreme, but did they not stop to think that there would be repercussions for depleting the already dwindling supply of these glorified cat toys?

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      AND, they lost 10% of the sale due to employee discount and also impulse buys that a normal shopper might have made when purchasing the same toys.

      • Hooray4Zoidberg says:

        And 6 of those 7 are probably on ebay and marked up 500%

        • menty666 says:

          That’s what I was thinking.

          Years ago the company I worked for decided to do a merit point shopping type thing with sky mall like prices. So you earn so many points and you can get some doodad with the company logo on it. I chose to get a video camera, which I then sold to get the cash instead.

      • DeeJayQueue says:

        Losing 10%? Yes.
        Impulse Buys? Speculation. Not something to bank on. In fact, with the economy being in the shitty house (like grandma always says), and tempers running high this late in the game, I’d venture that most people are just looking for that 1 special item no matter the cost, especially those who are waiting to break the door down at opening bell at Target.

        Personally, I only buy what’s on my list. I can’t afford anything else.

    • crashman2600 says:

      Glorfied Cat Toys…I lol’d

    • GildaKorn says:

      And really, all it would have taken to avoid this whole mess is for Target to have ordered another 7 Zhu Zhu toys for the employees that wanted them. (Or at least tried to order them.)

  4. montusama says:

    I’m happy Target decided to the right thing even if it was influenced by ideas such as PR or potential lawsuits. On a side note, Buffalo on consumerist 3 times within the month? Seems my hometown is finally getting popular. At least for hamsters.

  5. cmdr.sass says:

    I wonder how many of these employees were going to auction them off on ebay?

  6. ShruggingGalt says:

    They should just prohibit the sales of items during off-hours, period. And allow employees to buy anything 24 hours after a published sale begins (by the store opening to start the 24 hour clock)

    • TheUncleBob says:

      While I won’t disagree with you that they shouldn’t be allowed to buy merchandise when the store is closed, I will disagree with you with the “24 hour” idea. If the employee is off the clock, they should be treated as any other customer and be allowed to make the same purchases everyone else is.

    • Caveat says:

      I completely disagree, and I disagree with the Target statement “It is important that employees don’t have an unfair advantage over customers” Why is it important?????? The employees too are customers and so what if they get the perk of taking home a special toy for their kid and another customer does not? I am not saying that employees should be allowed to buy dozens, but come on, they are working extra hard on long shifts with grumpy customers, cut them some slack! Work on better inventory planning, not on this idiotic trivia. This is a stupid toy that will go out of fashion as soon as the season is over and if a child’s world comes to an end because he/she fails to get a Zhu Zhu, then he/she has unfit parents that have failed to teach the meaning of Chrismas and true values.

  7. Shoelace says:

    “Target has carefully reviewed the situation … and we have determined the team member terminations were the unintended consequences of a good policy rigidly applied.”

    Unintended? They didn’t have to fire the employees. Sounds like a typical line of corporate crap about the wrong thing being done for the right reasons but now they’re the good guys for undoing what they shouldn’t have done to begin with.

  8. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    I remember one summer I took an overnight shift at a different store than my normal one as a cashier. Sadly, I had a case of prickly heat acting up that day, and had to wait until the night crew came up so I could purchase a bottle of Gold Bond Powder, because I wasn’t allowed to ring myself up for anything unless another employee witnessed it. Then we got a rush of customers because it was a 24 hour store at the Jersey Shore, and I wasn’t able to get to the restroom to use the powder for 90 minutes. But rules are rules.

    • musicalflower says:

      I think that pretty much policy everywhere, in order to avoid shrink. When my mother was working at Target, she could buy what she wanted on her break as long as someone else rung her up. I know Sam’s has that policy as well.

  9. Anonymously says:

    From my limited experience in retail, they did very little to communicate all of their policies to the employees. I can fully believe a “failure to communicate” happened.

  10. LoneHighlander says:

    A note on these Zhu Zhu’s which cost people their jobs (and now not so much)…As many people have predicted in previous threads, my child played with the ones she got for her birthday in October about three times and now they sit forgotten in a bin. She’s five years-old and did actually ask for them. It seems to me that it’s hardly worth having the hamsters if you don’t have the funhouse and most all of the accessories as these guys move around fast and run out of their “space” very quickly. So I can understand how the parents get caught up in “needing” more pieces for the hamster set. By now I’m philosophical about the whole thing and glad I got in and out early.

    Important warning for those giving Zhu Zhu Pets on Christmas morning: Be sure you read the instructions about how to turn the little wheels on and off before your kids get their hands on them. My friend’s daughter cuddled one to her neck and squeezed enough to turn the wheels on, thereby causing the wheels to tangle in her hair and they didn’t know yet how to turn them off. The girl was screaming and the mom had to cut her hair to get the churning hamster wheels out of her hair. That’s one warning they don’t give you on the box. Merry Christmas :)

  11. leastcmplicated says:

    wowzah… these things are like the cabbage patch kids of my day… so glad my daughter isnt old enough to want these things yet…. what do they do anyway?

    • Bunnyhat says:

      Na, Cabbage Patch kids were popular for years afterwards.

      These are the Furbies mark 2. Next year you’ll never hear about them.

    • katia802 says:

      Remember the cabbage patch that was supposed to be able to eat? Got pulled off the market when they started eating the kid’s hair. Sooooo glad I had a boy who wanted wrestler dolls instead.

  12. fredbiscotti says:

    Sounds like Target workers need a union.

    • Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

      But but but but UNIONS BAD!

      • Rectilinear Propagation says:

        I’m surprised there haven’t been a ton of anti-union replies already. There’s plenty of union wank in threads where it is completely irrelevant, yet nothing when someone else brings it up?

  13. Hoss says:

    Target: You really need lawyers. Saying that the firings didn’t fit the crime basically prevents you from enforcing the policy at all. And paying backwages would be appropriate as well

  14. goodpete says:

    “But Target said the policy is also in the employee handbook and exists to make sure customers have the same purchasing opportunities as its employees.”

    I’d just like to note that this is an easy cop-out for employers. Every company seems to have a handbook of some sort, and mostly it’s used for butt-covering. These books are full of rules that range from, “don’t bring in your own coffee maker,” to, “don’t steal from work.” Most of the rules are common sense, but interspersed in these common sense rules are some odd rules like, “don’t buy 2-day ad items before 8am.”

    Of course, any violation of these rules is often subject to punishment up to and including termination.

    The point I’m trying to make is that just putting a rule in the “handbook” isn’t enough to make sure everyone follows it. Especially if it’s a rather obscure and not-very-intuitive rule. Putting it in the handbook is a cheap fix that costs the company next to nothing and allows them to say this sort of thing when the news media comes knocking.

    Of course, I’m not going to argue the employees aren’t in the wrong here. I’ve seen groups of employees get together and decide they’re going to ignore a particular rule because, “What are they going to do? Fire all of us?”

    But I still think that Target screwed up more than anyone else here. If they were really concerned about employee pre-purchasing, they should do what Best Buy (http://consumerist.com/2009/11/a-story-about-a-great.html) and other retailers do: Mark up the price on their system before the day of the sale in order to prevent people from buying it early. This seems like a pretty simple fix and it would have saved loads of trouble.

    I would say that if this is the only thing these employees have done wrong recently, Target should let them off with a warning and see it as a learning experience. This was as much Target’s mistake as the employees’. So the punishment shouldn’t rest solely on the employees.

    • goodpete says:

      Wow, I need to learn to RTFA. I missed the “unfires” part. What I said still applies, so I’m happy to see that Target recognized their mistake and accepted their part of the blame.

    • Southern says:

      Then they hide the ones they want under a shelf, or behind some boxes in the grocery isle, or even in the back stockroom.

      Which they probably do anyway.

  15. jerrycomo says:

    It must be hell to be one of a big-store employee.

    You’re just a drone that can be crushed at anytime.

  16. W10002 says:

    It’s Target’s Christmas present for them. I can totally imagine the conversation.

    Target: Hey so usually we don’t give out gifts, but Merry Christmas, you can work at Target again!

    Although from my sister’s experience working from there, I think coal might be better. At least coal will keep you warm for a moment.

  17. themrdee says:

    I worked for a company that when I was hired gave me two copies of the employee handbook. I was to sign the pledge in either one of them that I had read and would abide bye the rules listed in them. Failure to do so was a termination offense.

  18. jaya9581 says:

    Am I the only one who wouldn’t have accepted my job back? I know these are rough economic times and all, and it’s also sort of cutting off your nose to spite your face, but that just seems like something I would not be able to bring myself to do.

    • Outrun1986 says:

      I think if you lived in Buffalo, NY and you needed a job to pay your bills you would definitely take it back, just try finding another job here, its not going to happen. Buffalo is the 3rd poorest city in the whole US.

  19. DeeJayQueue says:

    With the exception of the 10% employee discount at Target, don’t employees count as paying customers too? In my retail lives, I’ve worked for stores that ranged from great discounts (BB&B 20% + coupons) to mediocre (Kmart 15% Target 10%) to horrible (Staples 0% except on like 2 days a year) so the gamut is pretty wide here.

    My point is, the store is still making money whether an employee buys it or a customer walking in the door. It seems like a bullshit policy to say “You have to work around this stuff all day long but you can’t buy any of it, with the money we pay you, till after everyone else has had a run at it.”

  20. Seano666 says:

    You can’t blame the employees. Demand is such that you can make a lot of money by getting your hands on the right thing at the right time. Just like that Xbox 360 you bought for $1000 right after it came out. Yeah, you got hosed.

  21. Chuck Norris' wig says:

    It’s pretty stupid that all this has happened over buying crap that they are told by the media to buy.

  22. Crutnacker says:

    Aren’t Zhu Zhu pets essentially model trains with fur, fun only if you have $500 or more of accessories, and then only for about 15 minutes?

  23. Awesome McAwesomeness says:

    Ah, a fake hamster. what a delightful experience. My child won’t be thinking for a second about the zhu zhu pat she didn’t get b/c she is getting a real hamster. They are easy to care for and much more fun!! I’m already having a blast with the little guy.

  24. Awesome McAwesomeness says:

    Ah, a fake hamster. What a delightful experience. My child won’t be thinking for a second about the Zhu Zhu pet she didn’t get b/c she is getting a real hamster. They are easy to care for and much more fun!! I’m already having a blast with the little guy.

    I’ve seen ZZ’s irl and they look like cheap pieces of crap.

  25. thisistobehelpful says:

    Wait how is this policy in the employee handbook? Like really how could they specify toys for the future?