Customer Overhears Target Employee Lying Over The Phone

Have you ever called the Target in Albany, CA? Were they out of stock on the item you were calling about? Well, it turns out they might have been lying. Reader David was at said Target waiting by the dressing rooms for his wife to finish trying on clothes when he overheard an interesting conversation. From his email:

    Two employees where gabbing with one another. One took a call. She listened patiently to the customers who gave a detailed description of an item….The customer wanted to know if a item was in stock. She said, “Yes. I’ll check.” and put the call on hold. Without so much as a check against a computer for the item, she continued her insipid conversation with the other employee. About 30 seconds later, she picked up the phone and said that they were out of stock.

According to David, the employee then explained her technique of never checking to see if things were really in stock to her coworker, while standing right in front of David.

“Yeah. That’s what I do. When someone calls looking for something, I don’t check. I put them on hold for 30 seconds and tell them we’re out.”

On his way out of the Target, David stopped by customer service and had a little chat with the manager…who promptly marched over to the dressing room with fire in her eyes. Bravo to David for taking the time to politely report the lazy employee. Maybe the next time someone calls the Albany Target, the “swearing” Baby Bratz Dolls will be “in stock.” —MEGHANN MARCO

David’s email inside.

David writes:

    Was with my wife as she was trying on some clothes at the Target in
    Albany, CA yesterday.

    As I waited, I determined that the employees in the women’s dressing
    area were also tasked with fielding calls from customers – e.g. stock
    checks and the like.

    Two employees where gabbing with one another. One took a call. She
    listened patiently to the customers who gave a detailed description of
    an item. The employee repeated the description back to the customer.
    The customer wanted to know if a item was in stock. She said, “Yes.
    I’ll check.” and put the call on hold. Without so much as a check
    against a computer for the item, she continued her insipid conversation
    with the other employee. About 30 seconds later, she picked up the
    phone and said that they were out of stock.

    This seemed weird – I’d just seen a full display rack of the item the
    customer asked about.

    Then I heard the one employee tell the other – paraphrased: “Yeah.
    That’s what I do. When someone calls looking for something, I don’t
    check. I put them on hold for 30 seconds and tell them we’re out.”

    Of course, these employees are idiots. They lie to their customers on
    the phone – while other customers are in their presence. Then, they have
    the audacity to loudly chat about their technique in front of the same

    On my way out, I stopped at customer service and asked for a manager.
    Gave the manager the info, and she immediately marched over to the
    dressing area. She looked ready to cut limbs as she turned… I didn’t
    stay to find out what happened.


Edit Your Comment

  1. boy says:

    And that’s why I don’t bother calling to see if items are in stock…Pretty standard fare. I’ve got a few friends in retail, and from what they say they never check, just say no an hang up.

  2. AcilletaM says:

    Yeah, I can’t say this is a surprise either. Calling is always hit or miss.

    Some stores allow you to check online for stock or in-store pickup, that’s always worth a try. Target does this (though they sometimes list things with ‘Limited Availability’ which doesn’t really help. Seriously Target, how hard is it to say 1 in stock! Shut up, stop making excuses and get on it.)

  3. acambras says:

    Yeah, this is not a shocker, but I’m glad she got caught and that the manager was pissed about it. It would have been a double-whammy if the manager had just blown David off.

  4. zentec says:

    One interesting thing about Target is how the store in Monroe, MI places items listed in their sales.

    They had a hot deal on Magnavox televisions; a 27″ for about $100. My wife went to the store and she couldn’t find it in electronics. A few other people were there and they too were looking. My wife, not being one to quit easily, figured that they must have them and if they didn’t, she’d get a raincheck. Sure enough, a Target employee lead her back to automotive where they had the televisions that were a featured sales item.

    That’s not the first time Target has pulled that one either. I’ve been there looking for a digital camera and they sales item was stashed in customer service.

  5. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    Perhaps the manager stormed over and said, “Don’t let customers over hear that you don’t check stock!”

  6. kerry says:

    The problem with using online inventory checking is that it doesn’t mean you’ll be able to find it, or get help from an employee. I went to Borders to pick up a DVD for my aunt. The online inventory check said they had it at my local store. When I couldn’t find it on the shelf I asked an employee, who, rather than looking it up himself or telling me the correct location, proceeded to berate me for not calling ahead to make sure they really had it in stock (the inventory search on their website is not always up-to-date). Eventually I got him to look it up himself and it turned out it was in stock, just in an entirely different part of the store. Thanks, jerk.

  7. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    Kerry, I had a similar problem with Circuit City. I went there for the Xbox 360 HD-DVD add-on. I saw it in stock on their website, and was about to put through my purchase (where I pick it up in store) when I figured, “Hell, let me see it in person first.”

    I get there, and after finding someone who had some clue what I was talking about, he couldn’t find it after searching for about 10 minutes in the back. He said that even though the website said it was in stock, it would have stopped me from completing the purchase. I sighed, and went across the parking lot to Target.

    The sales guy there (right before Christmas, mind you) said they had some, but he had to get to the box in the back. Well over half an hour later, the overhwelmed employee brought one out for me. He could have easily given up (or gotten it a bit faster) but either way I was much happier with Target than Circuit City (that day).

  8. peopleagain says:

    I really cannot understand how employees in retail can be so rude. Why would you seek out a job working with the public if you are going to behave this way? I recently called the electronics department of my local Target attempting to complete my quest for the Wii. I asked if they still had any in stock, as I heard rumors of a recent shipment. The rep told me no, and when I asked if he by chance knew when their next shipment may come in, he actually laughed at me, and told me in a month.

    I’ve worked at a grocery store for about a year and a half now, with various positions, but I’ve worked longest as a stocker and a produce attendant. Every time I’m asked about a product, I either walk the customer to it and make conversation to pass time, or I ofer to walk to the stock room to search for it. No exceptions, even if you’re being rude to me because we do not have enough of a traditional New Years food at 7:30pm on New Years Eve.

    It isn’t a loyalty issue to your workplace (I work at a corporate grocery store and I’m not always happy about it), its about loyalty to humanity. If you were in the same position, would you want to be treated the way you treat others? Its a basic tenant every child is taught. I’m only 19; am I idealistic or just dumb to behave this way?

  9. Kornkob says:

    Online stock checks also have a hard time coping with theft. If someone steals a product and it has not yet been discovered, it will still show as ‘in stock’.

  10. DeeJayQueue says:

    Anecdote 1:
    I bought my S.O. a pair of computer speakers from CompUSA (the Creative GigaWorx T20 if anyone cares). I’d been in there a few times and listened to myriad speakers in different retailers and these for the money sounded the best. The display was built into a shelf and underneath of it was where the boxes of product were supposed to be. No product, no “home” tag for it either. I asked up and customer service and the kid said “yeah we have 4 of them” and he called someone up to help me look. After he pored over the area where the display was, the overstock section, topstock and several nearby sidecaps he said “Well speakers are funny things, we tend to put them all over the store, so they could be anywhere. I suggest you start at one end and I’ll start at the other and we’ll meet somewhere in the middle” Wait, What? When did I fill out a W2 for this place? Dude, nevermind. I’ll find them myself. Sure enough they were on the other side of the store, with the Mac stuff. (I should have looked there from the start, karma being what it is, since the speakers were being bought for use with a Mac).

    Anecdote 2:
    Home Depot sells sets of Banquet Table Legs. I was building a large table for the rather large slot car set that I got for my S.O. Their website has them listed with a catalog # and an instore sku. I went to my local store and asked the guy who was cutting my MDF about them. He said they carried them but I had to ask the lady in Flooring where they were. The lady in Flooring (who must not have wanted to get up from her computer) got all nasty, saying that not only does she know for a fact that they don’t carry such a thing, but that she’d never even heard of it, and how silly it was that I’d expect someone to sell just the folding legs from a banquet table. I went home, got the sku and called a different store. The lady was nice and even walked over to the shelf where they were (they have cordless phones there) and confirmed that there were at least 8 sets there. I drove the extra distance to the other store and when I got there I’d forgotten her name and where she told me they were. I managed to flag down an associate and he and I walked up all over the store looking for these things. He hadn’t been there that long and they move stuff around a lot, so he asked just about everyone in an orange apron about them. Finally we found them in topstock. I was grateful that Chas was able to help me and took the time to wander around the store with me. At least he put some effort into it even if he didn’t know exactly where it was.

  11. elisa says:

    umm it’s Albany CA in David’s email, NOT Albany NY. I used to live near there, there’s 2 – one a nice, new 2 story Target that’s hard to get to locally but right off the freeway, and an older one that’s right next to a BART (bay area trains/subways) station. (Although come to think of it, that might’ve been El Cerrito).

    anyways just wanted to clear that up!

  12. wikkit says:


    Just to make a minor correction that had me thrown off–David’s Target is in Albany, CA, not Albany, NY (according to the attached email).

  13. Papa K says:

    Just remember if you *do* call and they put you on hold for a few MINUTES that they may actually be checking! I used to work retail and people would tear my ear off for not knowing off the top of my head the random item they want is in stock – and especially during the holiday season, I would have it in my hand when I told them it was in stock (and if it was the last of a few, I made sure they knew that as well).

    Don’t forget that not everyone at all retail stores are incompetent at their jobs!

  14. Peopleagain: “a stocker and a produce attendant. Every time I’m asked about a product, I either walk the customer to it and make conversation to pass time, or I ofer to walk to the stock room to search for it.”

    You must be my produce stocker, who went and LOOKED IN THE BACK because I wanted rutabaga out of season and asked the ordering manager if they could get it out of season. I’ve never had anyone look in the back for something before at the grocery store!

    “I’m only 19; am I idealistic or just dumb to behave this way?”

    I behaved the same way when I was a teenager working retail even though the store I worked at eventually got shut down for employee rights violations out the wazoo. (Once I got LOCKED IN A CAGE. Seriously. LOCKED IN A CAGE. But usually they just took away your mandatory breaks and refused to let you go pee if they were irate.)

    What behaving that way says about you is that you have empathy with the customer and you’ll probably always do well in jobs where people-interaction is required. And you probably won’t berate retail sales clerks later in life. :D

  15. d0x says:

    “I really cannot understand how employees in retail can be so rude. Why would you seek out a job working with the public if you are going to behave this way?”

    Because alot of people have no other choice, and once your stuck in retail…your stuck in retail.

    Lets also not forget that alot of retail customers are rude, so someone could be having a great day then an asshole customer comes around gives them 100 tons of shit that they have nothing to do with, gets them in trouble and leaves them beaten. How would you feel if that was what you had to deal with everyday for $6 an hour?

  16. CMPalmer says:

    My wife berates me constantly to check online to see if a store has something in stock or call them first. If I’m going out or going to the store anyway, I tell her not to bother – you can’t trust them either way. Even in the store, if I don’t see someone walk the shelves or at least look something up on the inventory computers, I’ll ask multiple salespeople.

  17. Meg Marco says:

    “I’m sorry, Albany, California is out of stock right now.” I’m a dumbass.

  18. Amry says:

    CMP – you’re the kind of person who drives me crazy at work, then. It’s actually not as rare to give a crap about your job in retail as many seem to think – and as a result, there’s a great many stores and individuals who are going to give you an honest answer when you ask about something. If you ask me if we have something, and I know we’re sold out, I’m not going to wander around looking for something I know we don’t own, but I will offer to help you find it elsewhere. Please don’t walk up to the next person you see and ask them the same thing you just asked me. It’s just insulting, and you’re going to get the same answer, anyway.

  19. peopleagain says:

    OK, I may have been hasty to assume that everyone in retail is going to be 100% chipper all the time. I do deal with it every day for $6 an hour, although I do intend on moving to a different type of job later in life. I can understand being rude to someone if they are being rude themselves. Of course, unless you’re particularly odd like myself, you’re going to most likely not be as sweet as you would otherwise be to a rude customer. But if the person is just asking a normal question in a nice manner, I don’t see why people feel pained to assist them. Typically, a polite customer actually brightens my day enough to MAKE me want to go out of my way to help them, since its so unusual.

    I’ll be the first to admit there is not a great level of satisfaction in retail. Most customers don’t give a second thought to the employees and it really irritates me alot, especially since I put in alot of effort to put the customer first. Thats not even because my job is at risk; I’m not supervised 90% of the time. I just think mutual respect is important on both ends of the consumer-employee spectrum, becuase most of us are both at some point in time. Even if the employee didn’t know and was feeling particularly lazy or whatever condition had overtaken her, she could have at the very least just said she wasn’t sure and used their in-house phone system to ask someone in the back or in the department… its a ten second process.

    I’m not trying to argue, I just dislike it when people don’t have the common courtesy to treat people like… people. Humorously, I applied at Target but was not hired a while back… I’d be happy to take her job now that the position’s most likely open.

  20. acambras says:

    @Peopleagain —

    Your good attitude seems to be a little rare for people your age (you said you’re 19, right?) I too worked in retail at that age and it DID pain me to wait on customers. I hated most of them. Especially when I was about to make my escape from the register and someone had the unmitigated temerity to actually want to PAY for something.

    It IS hard for a lot of us not to be cynical about retail employees — maybe some of this is from our own experiences on both sides of the counter. It really aggravates me to go to a store and have to deal with snippiness, apathy, condescension, laziness, eye-rolling, “that’s not my department,” “if we have it, it’s out there somewhere (read: go find it yourself),” and my personal favorite: employees too busy with personal conversations (with other staff or on the phone) to assist customers. AND, if I address such behaviors, *I’m* a bitch. It’s like customer is a dirty word.

    So yeah, I try to treat retail employees like human beings, but I still expect people to do their JOBS.

  21. CMPalmer says:

    @Amry –
    I didn’t mean for that to sound that way. I don’t make it a habit to bother as many employees as possible, it’s just that I don’t always trust someone who tells me they’re out of something if they don’t look first (unless it’s a hot item that everyone is looking for). I’ve found way too many mis-shelved items after being told that the store was sold out.

    The fact is that you can read people pretty well. If I asked you, “Do you have any more xyzs?” and you look me in the eye and say, “Sorry. We sold out of them yesterday and we probably won’t get any more until next week.” Then I’ll believe you. If you don’t bother to look up and say, “Uh. I think we’re out.” or “I don’t think we carry those.” then I’ll probably ask someone else to make sure.

  22. Keter says:

    The way to get good customer service is to approach someone with a slightly goofy smile and say “I sure hope you can help me…” 9 times out of 10 you get immediate buy in. Time number 10, walk away, find someone else in a different area of the store and approach them with a slightly goofy smile… Also use the Plan B approach if it becomes clear that person #1, even if trying to be helpful, is clueless.

    If you’re pretty sure something you’re looking for is actually in the store somewhere, don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. It sometimes takes 3 or 4 tries in a really big store to find someone with a better than average memory, or who just happened to notice that the item was stocked in a bizarre location.

    As a customer, if I hear an employee unable to answer a question about where to find something and I know, I step up and answer. And if I’m looking for something and I see someone else with the item I’m looking for, I go up to them and ask them where they found it. One sweet fellow even took me to the item in a store with a particularly problematic layout when he realized he couldn’t possibly describe how to find it.

  23. acambras says:

    Do you hate it when you ask for help finding something and store employees proceed to give you a convoluted set of directions (first left, second right, another right, third left…)?

    When that happens to me, I look at the employee, smile, and ask, in the sweetest voice I can muster, “Could YOU please TAKE me there and SHOW me? I would REALLY appreciate it.”

    90% of the time the person looks at me like I have two heads. But 99% of the time that person takes me right to what I’m looking for.

  24. saieru says:

    I DO work at Target, and I agree with what most of you are saying. I always do my best to provide the best service I can when I’m at work (no matter how MISERABLE I am, and no matter how rude a guest/customer is to me) unfortunately, I’ve been around for awhile and I’ve seen my old coworkers replaced with new, self-absorbed, gossipy teenage girls who don’t give a crap about guests and would much rather sit in the fitting room and talk than get their work done. Don’t get me wrong, I AM a teenage girl, but it’s so frustrating for me to have to work extra hard to get my work done and provide service because my fellow employees are too lazy. (sometimes I feel the same way about my managers as well! :/ ) Complain away! It’s all true; I see it every day. Needless to say, I won’t be staying through the holidays again this year.

  25. taylorlightfoot says:


    You are wrong, Targets website does not allow one to check inventory counts of any of the stores. It simply states whether or not the item is available for purchase in a store, not how many they have.