Instruction Manual? Check. Battery? Check. Cords? Check. Camera? Whoops!

I purchased a camera from Target the day before my vacation. Later that night I opened the box and there was no camera! Everything else was in there the owner manual, battery, cords, etc. but no camera! I called Target customer service and they said to bring the box back.

When I get there the manager said there is absolutely no way they can exchange for another one or give me my money back. She not only accused me of being a liar but also a criminal and made sure that security escorted me out of the store! She thought I was trying to scam them! Mind you I have my own business and purchased the camera on a Platinum Business American Express card.

I tried for months now to dispute this with both Target and American Express and both have denied giving me another camera or my money back. Target’s dispute is that I should of known by how heavy the box felt there was not a camera in there before I left the store. Please!!!! Come on! Like I said, everything else was in the box except the actual camera so the box still felt heavy!

I am writing this to warn people to look in the box before you purchase anything at Target. Once you leave the store you are screwed if you don’t.

If you haven’t already, let Target’s corporate office know about your problem. Call (612) 304-6073 and ask for Robert Ulrich’s office. If escalating fails to achieve results, head to small claims court. Read through our helpful guide before filing your claim.

(Photo: Morgantepsic)


Edit Your Comment

  1. DePaulBlueDemon says:

    “Mind you I have my own business and purchased the camera on a Platinum Business American Express card.”

    Completely unnecessary information.

    Nevertheless, yes, before leaving the store, nay, before leaving the cashier’s sight, CHECK THE BOX to make sure your product is inside.

  2. Hawk07 says:

    Happened to me at Office Depot, except Office Depot exchanged the camera when they realized they gave me the floor model box.

    When the assistant manager gets the item from the back office, hands you a 2 lb plus box (which includes manuals printed in 10 major world languages, batteries, chargers, other stuff) and you’re expected to know whether the 4 oz camera was included, and the fact that OD charges a 15% restocking fee for opened digital camera boxes, I never thought for a second OD was pulling anything on me.

    Of course I learned my lesson, but I know there’s going to be someone on here calling the OP a dumbass for not checking. Until it happens to you, it’s easy to be critical. And it’s ridiculous if consumers are expected to unbox and inspect every boxed purchase made.

  3. silencedotcom says:

    @DePaulBlueDemon: AMEX has special steps their cardholders can take to get refunds or price differences back. See the iPhone story the other day, AMEX was giving people who paid with their AMEX card $100 back.

    That information was rather useful to the story, I suppose.

  4. DePaulBlueDemon says:


    I’m fully aware of their policy, but I, like OP, have been dissapointed by it. On more than one occasion, I might add.

  5. SOhp101 says:

    Ironically what she probably should have done was stuck some rocks in it and came back with the box first thing to make her story more believable. It sucks that even AMEX wasn’t willing to reimburse you. Maybe you should have taken the “I lost it/It was stolen” route so that they would replace it (i think they offer up to 90 day insurance protection from theft or damages).

    Otherwise small claims really would be your next best bet. It’ll be really easy to shoot down their argument (“you should have felt the weight to tell that the camera wasn’t there” – only valid if the camera really weighs more than 1/2 a lb or something).

  6. d0x says:

    I can say this does in fact happen as I work at Target and we have an incident like it in the store I work in a couple weeks ago.

    I dont know how that situation was resolved but I do know from working in the Electronics Dept that we have had times when the box was devoid of a camera.

    Policy was we opened the box in front of a customer to ensure it was in fact there but Management changed this policy a while after I stopped working in Electronics for some reason.

    Better to be safe then sorry and open the box yourself right at the counter because honestly you cant blame the store, they didnt package it and they have no reason to trust you when so many peoples lives are dedicated to finding a way to screw them out of money.

  7. KernelPanic says:

    This happened to me at a Best Buy in San Diego. Surprisingly they swapped out the DV camera without too much fuss. The original box was pulled from storage so it must have been an inside job.


  8. SadSam says:

    I’ve run into this problem as well, but most of the time I’ve found that the missing piece was the manual. I’ve since gotten into the habit of asking staff (especially in a store like Target or other big box store) to open the packaging for me (a lot of stores don’t want you to open packaging) and to confirm that all pieces of the puzzle are in the box and then I buy the item.

    I agree the customer shouldn’t have to double check that they are buying a complete package but I think this is an increasing problem in that shoplifter open the box and take items or staff open boxes to replace other missing parts for other customers.

  9. vonskippy says:

    “Mind you I have my own business and purchased the camera on a Platinum Business American Express card.”,

    I believe that’s the card that only nun’s and people personally vouched for by the Boy/Girl Scouts Honest Abe Security troop right?

    “I tried for months now to dispute this with both Target and American Express”

    So either the camera cost a few thousand dollars – or you bill out your business time at about $0.05 per hour?

    “I am writing this to warn people to look in the box before you purchase anything at Target.”

    Thanks Ms. Obvious (how many times has this EXACT same sob story been in the news?), I’m sure it will come in handy if I ever get a severe head injury and then decide to shop at Target for a camera.

  10. alvarotobias says:

    I had the same exact problem happen to me at Compusa. I purchased a harddrive and everything was in the box except the drive itself. I told myself there was no way Compusa was going to believe me and that I will probably have to bite the bullet on that one. After driving back to the store I walked to the Customer service desk and expected to get the 5th degree followed by being banned from the store, but to my amazement they never questioned it twice and gave me a replacement drive of the same type. Before I left the store i verified that the box was not empty.

  11. chrispiss says:

    @vonskippy: Does writing searing anecdotal replies make you feel good inside?

  12. dbeahn says:

    “I am writing this to warn people to look in the box before you purchase anything at Target.”

    Well, it’s good to know that this only applies to Target! Here I was thinking it’d be a good idea to ALWAYS check the box when I’m spending more than $20 on something. Just to make sure I’m getting my gizmo, ya know?

  13. Buran says:

    Wow, so now you even get treated like a criminal at stores when THEY ARE THE FRAUDSTERS.

    Definitely sue. They failed to provide merchandise you paid for, made unfounded accusations, and failed to refund your money.

    I’d say you’re owed a free camera and an apology.

  14. You can ‘google’ the topic with keywords and you will find other such complaints.

    I am NOT at all surprised at Tarbutts response, they are a totally crap operation and that is the sort of reply I would expect from them.

    What is totall unusual is that Amex said stuff it! That I would NEVER expect, they are a pretty good outfit for complaints.

    This sort of thing just happens now and then, it can be a dishonest employee stealing, in the back room or even on the sales floor, or someone took it out to put it on display or more likely someone just returned it without the camera in it and no one checked at the non-service desk.

    I was in line once at a Wally World store and some manager was up front looking at go backs for his department and he picked up a box of some product and clearly he thought it was not heavy enough and he opened it right there and found the contents had been removed and it was stuffed with something or other. So their SD obviously just took it back without opening it. Happens everywhere, but if it happens at Tarbutt clearly you are just screwed!

    And good luck trying to get past the corporate phone operators with a complaint they will NOT transfer you to anyone other than Corp non-service – that is their company policy, so you will never talk to or have a letter read by any Pres/CEO or officer of Tarbutt. The complaints all go to corp Customer non-service.

    Someone said SUE THEM. That is absolutely the best advice you could get. Just make sure that copies of the suit go to your local media and also send copies to Tarbutt Corp in Mn. That will really be the only way you will get their attention. No company likes to be in the news by getting sued by a consumer. I’ll bet once the suit is filed they will rush to solve the problem.

  15. korith says:

    Had something similar happen a year or so ago at office depot. Bought a sony camera, the worker there handed me the box, I paid for it and was leaving the store, when I noticed the box appeared to have been opened and taped up. Took it back to the register and well it turned out to be the box for the display model. Got it exchanged without any issues, considering I hadn’t even left the store yet.

    Take the advice others have mentioned here, anytime ya buy something open up the box and check it to see if it’s even if there.

  16. Buran says:

    @DePaulBlueDemon: That doesn’t make it “unnecessary”.

  17. Buran says:

    @vonskippy: Insulting the victim of a CRIME by calling it a “sob story” is disgusting. We’ve devolved into even BLAMING CRIME VICTIMS.


  18. killavanilla says:

    I had a similar experience that I wrote Ben about at my local best buy.
    I purchased a video game, along with $170 of other crap, and got home to find out there was no game in the box, just a dvd from Circuit city.
    If you fight hard enough and long enough, you get what you want. The manager relented and allowed me an exchange.
    The problem is that employees are taking the merchandise then rewrapping the boxes, leaving the consumer totally screwed. Of Course, the manager denied that his staff could have done that, but that’s a big part of the problem. Managers who don’t believe their employees can or will steal don’t look for it, so the employees get away with stealing thousands. Instead of focusing on the employee theft (which costs retailers more than consumer theft), they tend to blame consumers.
    The fact is that each of these stores needs to spend more time monitoring employees instead of only worrying about customers. An employee can steal more from you in a week than any customer can steal in their lifetimes.
    So here’s my recommendation – reach out to executives and district/regional managers. Explain the situation as calmly as you can and make sure to mention that you spend a fortune at Target but if they can’t make this right, you’ll happily spend more money for the same stuff elsewhere.
    Good luck!

  19. nucleotide says:

    @vonskippy: Obviously you like sitting under your bridge, harassing billy goats.

  20. randalotto says:

    The Consumerist needs an auto-jackass-post-bot. At the beginning of every comments section, it could automatically write,

    “Wow! The consumer and/or victim sure is an idiot! Things like this only happen to people who deserve it. I can’t believe they would be so stupid! I will never be defrauded and/or victimized like this, because I’m smarter, more attractive, and morally superior! Oh, and the punctuation and/or details of the story somehow offend me!”

    If Consumerist could implement that, I feel like it would really streamline the comments section… the majority of the people who comment could give it a break, satisfied their opinion was expressed.

  21. morganlh85 says:

    @DePaulBlueDemon: But then if you change your mind altogether and want a refund, they won’t take it back because the box is open!

  22. Maulleigh says:

    That sucks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  23. ry81984 says:

    This person is lying, if he paid with American Express he would get his money back.

    Amex always does a chargeback for you, no questions asked.

    I just log into and select “check claim/dispute charge”. I follow the prompts, enter info, and then click submit. Every time I did this I have never had to call Amex or talk to them on the phone, the money showed up a week to 2 weeks later.

    If this guy really has AMEX they will side with him and get his money back.

    The ease of chargebacks on AMEX is why I never use any of my other cards anymore.

  24. zaq2g says:

    I had the same situation with a video game at target. Target said it was impossible that there was no game in the box, and stopped short of directly accusing me of stealing the game. At first the only thing they would do was to direct me to the publisher of the game to file a complaint. After a while, though, I was fed up and told them I no longer want the game, either take the game back and send it back to the manufacturer as defective, or I would keep the game and no longer shop at the store. The manager figured it might be a better idea to save a customer so he agreed to refund the purchase price of the game.

  25. BrockBrockman says:

    The last time I purchased a camera from Target, the employee actually opened the box and pulled out the camera. I don’t know why, but he did. There MUST be a reason that Target once had that policy – and maybe this is why.

    I don’t think consumers should be required to look in a box before purchasing an item in order to ensure that it is in there, though.

    I know that in any work environment, once an employee makes a decision – whether it is right or wrong – other employees stand by that decision. It’s a kind of loyalty / “we have to stick together” mentality that causes people who work closely together to back up poor decisions.

    All it takes is one supervisorial employee to believe one grunt before it daisy-chains its way up to the regional manager. The regional manager is relying on his store manager’s word – and the story manager is relying on his shift manager’s word – and the shift manager is relying on the supervisor’s word – who is relying on the customer service rep’s decision. Not a good way to make business decisions.

    I hope our consumer in this instance gets properly recompensed.

  26. DePaulBlueDemon says:

    I didn’t mean to seem like an @$$, I just think that if you believe American Express will solve all of your problems you will be dissapointed. OP’s issues were obviously not resolved even though he or she is a cardmember. I’ve had problems with American Express as well. That is why I though that comment was “unnecesary” but maybe I should have been more careful.

  27. legerdemain says:

    I had a similar situation with Wal-Mart. A box supposedly containing an HP DVD burner actually had an Acer CD reader inside. I was expecting a fight, but they just gave me a refund, and gave me a sincere apology, explaining that they must have been duped by a previous customer.

  28. beyond says:

    I would never assume to have to open the box there in the store after buying.

  29. dbeahn says:

    @Buran: ” Insulting the victim of a CRIME by calling it a “sob story” is disgusting. We’ve devolved into even BLAMING CRIME VICTIMS.


    OK, and what happens (and I’m NOT saying this is the case) IF someone buys a camera, takes it home, takes it out of the box, goes back to the store, SAYS they didn’t get a camera and demands a new one. Should Target (or any store, for that matter) automatically give out free cameras (or any other high ticket item) just because someone SAYS “Oh, this is what happened…”?

    The laws we have are pretty specific when it comes to proof – and in this case, the burden of proof would be on the customer. Target can’t prove the camera was in the box, although the odds are way in favor of it being in the box. The customer can’t prove the camera wasn’t in the box. See previous statement about the odds of the camera being in the box.

    Does it suck to be the one this happened to? You bet. I can’t for a second fault the store for not giving free cameras, TVs, iPods, PSPs, etc etc to anyone and everyone that brings in an empty box and says “Oh, it wasn’t in there…”

  30. dbeahn says:

    @beyond: “I would never assume to have to open the box there in the store after buying.”

    Really? The idea of “let the buyer beware” isn’t exactly new – the Romans were familiar with it. I sure hope that after reading this story you’ll think to check the box before you leave the store.

  31. CoffeeAddict says:

    This one makes me cranky. All I can say it proves a point I always believe about big companies. They here to make money not serve customers.

  32. Buran says:

    @dbeahn: Given that this is a constant event and has been reported many, many, many times over, I’d say that yes, they SHOULD help her instead of treating her like a criminal. It’s not like this hasn’t happened a zillion times before.

  33. d0x says:

    @BrockBrockman: Target used to do it all the time as i stated in my post above. I just found out the reason they stopped was customers were complaining that the box’s were being opened and if they were gifts they look liked they had been used…cant please everyone

  34. timmus says:

    I would like to know why the hell 75% of the merchandise (electronics and appliances) I buy from major department stores has already been opened, with a sloppy length of packing tape sealing up the box. I’ve sometimes rifled through the shelf stock to find a DVD player, TV, etc that hasn’t been opened up, but they’ve all been opened the same way. It doesn’t surprise me that stuff goes missing.

  35. lincolnparadox says:

    @vonskippy: I’m sure that this consumer appreciates your heartfelt advice. Douche.

    As for advice, this might be a bit out there, but why not contact the company that produced the camera and see if anyone registered the Serial number for your camera? It should be somewhere on the box. Tell them your story, and if someone either registered for warranty or sent it in for repairs, ask them to contact your local police station.

    Another thing you might want to do is to speak with the police for yourself. Technically, you’re a victim of a crime. At least ask them to open a case file. I’m guessing the the perpetrator will probably do this again.

    If the cops do catch him, or the camera turns up as stolen goods, take the case file and your lawyer over to Target and ask for your money again.

  36. RickinStHelen says:

    Many years ago I worked with a guy who was a janitor at Lazarus Dept. Store in Columbus, OH. He used to open boxes from the stock, steal the item, and bury the box back behind still full boxes. If it happened then, it can happen now too. Always check the box if it is a big ticket item.

  37. mikeluisortega says:

    Check the serial number on the box to see if it matches the serial number on the floor model at the Target.

  38. Slytherin says:

    @vonskippy: Jerk alert!!!

  39. overbysara says:


    I would never assume to have to open the box there in the store after buying.

    ditto. I would expect to get… what’s in the box…

  40. dbeahn says:

    @Buran: Right, and it NEVER EVER happens that people try to scam stores on returns…

  41. e-gadgetjunkie says:

    @Hawk07: I don’t know if you were charged a restocking fee or if you just read that. I work at Office Depot. The only way we charge a restocking fee is if something is missing (USB cable, batteries). If you return everything that came in the box, there shouldn’t be a restocking fee.

  42. Grivooga says:

    I love the people who claim that stores should spend more time watching employees to prevent employee theft rather than watching customers. I’m a security professional. I install alarms and cameras for a living and I can tell you that the majority of camera domes on a large store floor are empty. Maybe one in four (if even) has a camera. The ones that actually have cameras in them are entry/exits, point of sale, pharmacy, cosmetics, jewelry, electronics, and stockrooms. LOTS of cameras in the stockrooms. The employees are ALWAYS watched more than customers.

  43. dbeahn says:

    @overbysara: “ditto. I would expect to get… what’s in the box…”

    I assume you mean that you expect to get what’s *supposed* to be in the box. This customer did, in fact, get what was in the box. The box, however, didn’t have everything it was *supposed* to have in it…


  44. Buran says:

    @dbeahn: and it NEVER EVER happens that these people might just be right and not have gotten what they paid for?

    The company makes billions in profit. It can afford to help her.

  45. I worked at a family-run camera store in the NY metro area not too long ago, and it “part of the purchase” to physically orient the patron with their new purchase including unboxing it in front of them and answering any questions that came to mind about what does what, etc

    so much better compared to the big box stores who suck the credit card from your hand and then proceed to shove you out the door as quickly as possible

  46. badhatharry says:

    @vonskippy: Dick.

  47. jpp123 says:

    Never buy anything in a box that doesn’t have a factory seal – particularly from a big box store – no seal means it’s a consumer return and that probably missing parts or damaged.

  48. premek says:

    As an owner of small business, I have to say I will do the same thing and not give the customer a new camera automatically. I’ve had too many people try to take advantage of me. If I’m not careful, they will after some time succeed. Doesn’t matter if I’m buyer or seller.

    Also, taking it on may be only another part of the scam.

    Also, every company wants to make profit. That’s kind of what it’s all about… You can not blame them…

    Never trust anybody.

  49. homerjay says:

    @vonskippy: Wow… What a complete douchbag you are. I hope for your sake that you were REALLY drunk when you wrote that.

  50. homerjay says:

    @vonskippy: In fact, after reading pretty much all of your prior comments I think it would be appropriate to summon the banhammer. We need a rule that you be at least 10 years old to comment here without mom’s permission. For you are a total asshat.

  51. Chicago7 says:

    I don’t get it. Was the box sealed? If it was, you should contact the manufacturer. Maybe they know about the problem – maybe it was a problem with their manufacturing process.

    If it wasn’t sealed, then you screwed up. I will say, 90% of the people probably screw up the same way every day, but still.

  52. TedSez says:

    I have a feeling both sides are right here: Sometimes scammers will claim something was left out when it wasn’t, and sometimes stores will sell a box with with something missing (due to either staff or customer theft, or a mistake on the part of the manufacturer).

    So the question is, what should store employees do when faced with these claims? My recommendation would be to try to gauge the truth based on the situation and the customer’s demeanor, without automatically treating him or her like a criminal. And if you’re not sure, replace the product anyway. Because any time a store bilks a customer out of something he paid for and treats him as a criminal to boot, they’re pretty much guaranteeing that they never get another dollar from him, and possibly all his friends, ever again.

  53. Slytherin says:

    @homerjay: I agree. Hope Ben bans this big-mouthed arrogant jerk.

  54. beyond says:

    @dbeahn: Yes, you’re right. I just never thought about it. I’ve never bought an item and not had it in the box when I got home. I imagine though the lines would start getting pretty backed up if everyone opened all their merchandise and inspected the contents after their purchase.

    I guess when buying a product from a place like Target, I expect there to be some quality control that I am not buying an empty box. Without me needing to verify it every time. I can see where I am in the wrong, I just don’t understand why it wouldn’t be reasonable to have the expectation that I do.

  55. kalikidtx says:

    @vonskippy: if you have no info that helps us, keep your trap shut. she was venting and this is a site for that. why dont you start you own article where you can make mindless comments so the rest of us dont have to read them :-)

    btw file complaint w the BBB, always works….

  56. randalotto says:

    Wow… having gone back and also looked at some of vonskippy’s posts, I’m amazed. What a jerk.

    I’d also like to point out that he thinks “dichromatic” means “you either love them or you hate them.”

  57. Ressly says:

    At Circuit City, there is a phrase that was used for this situation: “Brick-in-a-box.” It’s probably a common phrase in retail all around.

    When I was a Circuit City manager, I was opening up a new digital camcorder box to put the camcorder on display. This was a new model that had arrived in our store a few days earlier from our distribution warehouse in the next state over. When I opened the box, the camcorder and all of the accessories were missing, replaced by large Ziploc bag filled with white powder.

    Not knowing whether it was flour or cocaine, I got permission from our Loss Prevention to call the police. With one look, the cops confirmed it was flour, but said it wasn’t unusual for cocaine and other drugs to be moved in similar ways.

    I’m glad the whole thing was on our store surveillance, lest I got accused of theft myself. It was dumb luck that I picked the box I did to choose the display camcorder. Otherwise, it could have easily gone home with a customer. That customer would have had a near-impossible time exchanging or returning it. Fortunately for me, if a customer came in and said that the actual product they purchased was not in box they took home, we immediately referred them to our corporate customer service. I didn’t have to deal with it at my level.

    So I know these things happen. Unfortunately, the number of people who try to return empty boxes, or their 5-year old stereo in the box of the new one they purchased, far outnumber the honest ones. There are thieves who have made a science out of faking the manufacturers’ security tape on laptop boxes, or re-shrink-wrapping DVDs, so the box or package still being “factory-sealed” doesn’t mean anything to the store.

  58. Buran says:

    @discounteggroll: Hopefully either Adorama or B&H. The rest suck. I only buy camera gear from my neighborhood shop or from B&H.

  59. Buran says:

    @premek: And if they were actually scammed, you become guilty of fraud…

  60. Amelie says:

    vonscumbag said, “if I ever get a severe head injury

    One can only hope.

  61. DeeJayQueue says:

    Something similar but not nearly as drastic happened to me today.

    I bought a $30 power jigsaw from Home Depot. When I got home I noticed that the box had been taped over the thumb flap, which usually is unnecessary. I cut the tape and opened the box and lo and behold there was no blade. It must have been a customer return that was never checked for completeness. So, I packed it up and took it back. For a split second I thought “wow I wonder if I’ll get a hard time trying to return this.” Then I remembered that I didn’t do anything wrong and there’s no reason to think that I’ll get treated like a criminal. The return went smoothly, no questions asked, cash back, etc.

    The core of the issue here isn’t about cameras or checking your purchases before you leave the store. It’s about the fact that we no longer take people at their word anymore. We as a society automatically assume someone is lying until they can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that they aren’t. If the customer says there was no camera in the box then there was no camera in the box. If you can’t prove otherwise then you take them at their word. Then you come up with a better way to sell cameras so that you’re sure there’s one in every box you sell from then on.

  62. floofy says:


  63. ncboxer says:

    I agree one should look to see if the package they are purchasing has a factory seal to it- plastic wrap or tape or such. I do all the time. But it is not foolproof- most stores have a professional sealer to rewrap boxes and sell them as new. For instance, I bought a router that had a plastic wrap around it just like the other boxes. When I got it home and opened it, I noticed the inside contents were all there, but they did not have the wrappings they should- they were just scattered about. I though about taking it back, but decided to try it out and keep it if it works. It is still a very shady thing for the store to do.

    I don’t naturally think to check a box for an item, unless the box has been obviously tampered with. If I buy something, I expect to get what I paid for. I shouldn’t have to check boxes to ensure that a company is selling what it purports to sell me. I consider it fraud if they sold me an empty box. Sure people use this as a scam, but companies should err on the side of the consumer and exchange or refund the money. Theft happens and should be built into any stores’ budget. To guard against future scams from a person who scams them, they should record something like the person’s driver’s license. A lot of stores do this. Most scammers are a creature of habit- they will try to pull the same scam again and again, until caught.

    If Target corporate doesn’t reply, I would definitely go to small claims court. Also, you might consider filing a police report. I don’t know the laws about this, but like I said before this should be considered fraud on Target’s side, for selling you something and not getting that something.

  64. MercuryPDX says:

    @homerjay: Seconded, or is the call for politeness over?

  65. upokyin says:

    This is one reason companies use those blister packs that everyone hates. Is it worth it?

  66. superbmtsub says:

    That’s an unfortunate experience. Target employees can get snotty in some rural locations where they get the feeling they’re working at a high-end retailer store. It’s just another budget store with some exclusive items. The rest are available at other stores for 1-15c less.

    Hope you learned a good lesson. If you’re buying something expensive, ALWAYS check to see if it’s functional. TVs, Cameras, DVD Players, Computer monitors, laptops, etc. The 3-5mins it takes to get it out of the box saves a lot of time, money, and anguish in the future.

    In your case, it was a camera. Those things are easy to pull out and test real quick. Don’t be so naive next time but I’ll side with you on Target’s employees. Some of the cashier’s are rather rude.

  67. YoHenYo says:

    A very similar incidence happened to me at Staples. I purchased a video card, and when I got home and opened the shrink wrapped box, all of the input components were different.

    When I tried to return the item, they accused me of switching video cards and returning a cheaper model.

    Situations like are tough on the consumer, and really do make a company lose customers.

  68. dbeahn says:

    @Buran: “The company makes billions in profit. It can afford to help her.”


    Go read how many scams he (please, don’t ANYONE post “Oh, BBCAmerican is a WOMAN!” – he’s not, he’s a gay man.) catches every day.

    Now imagine if everyone that bought anything high ticket and came back and said “Oh, it wasn’t in the box…”

    The problem isn’t that the company is evil, the problem is that there are a lot of crappy people out there that try to scam every chance they get. How much “profit” will they make if even 10% of people come back with “empty boxes” wanting “what they bought”?

    If you feel so strongly about this, then why don’t YOU foot the bill to buy the camera for her?

  69. dbeahn says:

    @beyond: “I can see where I am in the wrong, I just don’t understand why it wouldn’t be reasonable to have the expectation that I do.”

    If it makes you feel any better, I didn’t feel like I needed to check things until I had an experience around 12 years ago where I bought was looked like a factory sealed box that ended up having some old batteries, pens and crumpled newspapers in it. It was around a $50 lesson at the time.

    As you can imagine, my expectations changed that day lol

  70. BoorRichard says:

    I had a similar experience with Target five years ago.

    I bought a vacuum cleaner. It was only $69, but at the time, this was a lot of money for me. I had to drive out there in my very unreliable truck to purchase it.

    I took it home, opened the box, and slowly noticed something was wrong. The vacuum cleaner in the box did not match the picture on the box … exactly. And it was dirty. As though … it had been used before … a lot.

    I drove back out to Target. I was accused, in roundabout terms by the store manager, of replacing the vacuum with my old vacuum and they trying to get my money back.

    The young person working the returns desk was sympathetic. She admitted to me that this happened “all the time.” Between her hints and my intuition, I realized (1) that an employee had purchased the vacuum, swapped in his/her old one, and returned it for a refund to a sympathetic returns-desk employee. The item was then restocked and sold to me. I also realized (2) that the store manager was probably aware of this as a real possibility.

    The manager was ducking in and out of her office. I was outraged, understandably, but especially angry because I had taken such a risk driving out there not once but twice in my rickety sanford & son pickup. And my time was so valuable … I was boiling over thinking about how I was scammed not only out of a vacuum cleaner but also out of an hour of my time.

    I made all of this clear to everyone. I was polite at first but became very determined and vehement. I made a scene. I was making eye contact with every employee in the store.

    The manager finally agreed to let me exchange the vacuum for another one. But that was not enough for me. I demanded a 10% discount for my time and trouble. I had the manager’s name, all the necessary instructions for appealing/escalating her initial decision to call me a thief and a scammer, etc., and she gave in and I got the discount.

    It was three or four years before I shopped at Target again. I did buy another vaccuum cleaner, but I made sure to get a box that had not been opened & retaped & I opened it myself in the checkout line to inspect the contents.

  71. packetscan says:

    Not To defend Target..

    But was the package shrink wrapped? If not it should have had a sticker over the locking box tab.

    If neither of these were evident you have a clear sign of tampering before you purchased the item.

    I would highly recommend you document your dealings and fire off a letter to your attorney general.

    Hope the Best for ya.

  72. swvaboy says:

    @vonskippy: I do not know what to say except I agree it is time to take out the BanHammer!

    @floofy: I would almost bet that you are related to or actually vonskippy.

    I had a similar problem 4 or 5 years ago at Wal-Mart (Please do not throw things at me for going in one) but out of sheer dumb luck I dropped the VCR I was buying at the register. The clerk said we had better open it to check it out.

    When the box was opened it had 3 bricks in it! Only after looking at the box for a while did I notice that the bottom of the box had been opened prior and resealed, not the top of the box that I was looking at.

    At least it happened in the store and I did not loose any money.

    American Express will help you out a lot, but, there will be limits. Every time someone forgot to cancel their reservation at my hotel, I would get 3 pages of information to fill out. If I could not I was screwed out of the money, If I had all the info, it could go either way depending on who at Amex made the final decision.

    Just my opinion!

  73. Eric says:


    Tarbutt? Corp non-service? Are you in grade school? Arguments make a lot more sense if you don’t make yourself look like a child.

  74. crzdmn says:

    This happens all the time in stores like Target, Best Buy, Walmart, K-Mart.

    I knew the floor manager at a Target in NY and did he have some interesting stories about the “honorable employees” at his store. On average they had a monthly missing/stolen item ticket of $10k-$15k. Straight from his mouth 3/4 of the items NEVER made it to the floor.

    They had one month where 2 pallets of computer parts disappeared. Video Cards, Ram, Hard Drives etc. None of the information ever makes it out because it validates claims like this. It says Target has theft issues and the consumer most likely is getting screwed.

    Items not being in the box after they are bought happened at a weekly almost daily rate. Mostly in the PC and Camera departments where they have high ticket items.

    Also, I myself have bought the “last” item (mp3 player) in stock at target before. Last being the display version (at a nice discount too). The thing is, it had no box, no manuals nothing.

    They had no idea what happened to them. My guess is some poor sap bought the empty box and had to go through hell to get their money back.

  75. mike says:

    It’s starting to become the kind of society where we’ll have to open anything that’s shrink wrapped. Because you don’t know if some kid came into the store and stole a CD from a case and put the wrapping back on. Or if an employee replaced his broken XBOX with another one in the store. Or someone put an honest to God brick in place of a hard drive. (Yes, all of these have happened.)

    I think it’s almost better to buy from online vendors, since their return policies tend to be more forgiving.

  76. quail says:

    Ever since packaging tape was available, this scam has been taking place. My sister even opened a shrink wrapped lamp box to find used books masterfully situated and taped to fake the lamp’s weight. Say what you will about the horribleness of clamshell packaging, vendors will continue to move towards hard, clear plastic to package items when they can. I actually feel safer buying items in the dreaded clamshell. It’s obvious when things have been tampered with in a clamshell.

    Yes. It’s a shame when you can’t trust anyone at their word. Odd that American Express didn’t back up this person. They usually do. I wonder if she’s on a list of people who excessively return products to the store? They do get black listed after awhile.

  77. hubs99 says:

    I had this happen to me at Office Depot when I bought a Canon 800IS. The box was open but I never thought to check it since the manager assured me that I could still return the camera if something was wrong with it. Bought the camera went out to my car and thought to myself,”I should check the camera just in case there is something wrong with it I don’t have to drive back here”. There was no camera in the box. Horrified I ran back inside. The manager told me there was nothing he could do since I had left the store.

    I told him he should call the police which he did. The cops told me they could not do anything but I actually requested that they search myself and my car to ensure that I had not taken the camera which they thankfully did.

    After dozens of calls to offic depot and them telling me that I would have to wait until a “loss specialist” determined what they would do with my case, the manager finally refunded me my money after a week.

    I will absolutely never do business with Office Depot again unless staples goes out of business.

    Moral of the story is open all “open box” products in stores in front of employee. AND if something horrible happens keep making a stink, call the police, call your local news station, write the BBB and tell the company you are doing all of this until you get your money back. They will do the right thing eventually with the right amount of pressure.

  78. ScratchFury says:

    This was mentioned but not stressed enough. THE SERIAL NUMBER! The box will have the serial number and if the store still has the camera, they can find it that way. Make sure to check display models. If they don’t have it, then maybe the camera maker forgot it. Call them.

  79. ndjustin says:

    When I was in college I worked loss prevention at two major department stores, this was just when digital cameras were becoming more mainstream. At both stores we had to install a policy of locking up all digital cameras from the second the cameras got off the truck.

    Employees in both the receiving and electronics departments would often steal the cameras and sell them.

    I’m not sure what Target’s policy is but I’d always be worried about buying a camera from any store unless it took them some time (aka going to get a manager to unlock the camera from the back room) to bring the camera to me.

  80. evilfremen says:

    I also had a sitution at Target where the Video Game I purchased did not contain a copy of the game. I noticed that day, and was able to go back to the store the next day. Luckily for me, the same sale associate was working in electronics, sort of remebered me, and was willing to help me out. He convinced the manager that I should get an exchange for the game. I was actually rather suprised by the situation and was expecting to have to fight much harder. It just goes to show you, with a lot of these big stores, it just depends on who is working when you have an issue.

  81. Mary says:

    Okay, so last time I bought a digital camera, I would say that all the components weight about the same in the long run. Heck, the manual probably weighed more than the camera. It was the first and only time I’ve purchase a camera where the charger didn’t outweigh it.

    In other words, them saying she should have known by the weight is ridiculous. My mini-DV camera is lighter than it’s charger, the thing fits in my pocket. Unless she was buying a digital SLR, I don’t see why she would have noticed.

    I always wondered why the lady at the cell phone store opened up every single thing we purchased and laid it out, but that was the only time I’d seen it happen. I order my electronics online, often from the manufacturer. Been bitten a few too many times by other companies.

  82. killavanilla says:

    Having just experienced a similar situation at Best Buy, I’m not sure small claims court will have any real effect, save for draining the wallet a little more.
    The problem is that there is no way to prove that nothing was in the box.
    Best to appeal to the company rather than file an unwinnable case that will cost you money and keep you from work.

  83. harshmellow says:

    I must say that both sides of the scam are disappointing. The fact that people scam via returns and the fact that the stores out opened and incomplete boxes back on the shelf to be sold. I guess it is a by-product of stores taking returns with no questions asked. Why don’t the stores send returned items back to the manufacturers rather than taping up the box and putting it back on the shelf? Is it easier for the store to restock (even broken or incomplete) items than return them? Could there be a benefit for the store to have these items in a perpetual state of sale & return? I haven’t been burned like the original poster but I have been burned by “resealed” boxes that had less-than-new items in them.

  84. NoWin says:

    @MIKELUISORTEGA: “Check the serial number on the box to see if it matches the serial number on the floor model….”

    Good thinking!

  85. badhatharry says:

    @homerjay: I just read VonSkippy’s prior comments and feel he should be banned simply because despite the fact he thinks everyone else is an idiot, he never learned how to use apostrophes.

  86. beeryf says:

    Target loses MILLIONS a year in theft from their electronics department alone. if you took the box home and came back with it open and devoid of a camera i see no reason whatsoever to take the camera back or give you a brand new one at no charge. hindsight is 20/20, so next time check the box at the electronics counter.

  87. Jean Naimard says:

    Blaming the victim is usually the work of über anglo-saxon wonks (those are also usualy croporate tools) for whom the sacrosanct “personal responsibility” mantra is paramount.

  88. Sudonum says:

    From one of HER very first post

    “I wanted to be a GAP girl, so I applied at two new mall stores, AeroPostale and Hollinger, but struck out there, probably because my cheekbones aren’t high enough …….”

    “I really didn’t want to be a checkout girl….”

    Now show me where it says he’s gay?

  89. ForCripeSake says:

    I bought a camera from Target with no hassle about 6 months back. It worked for about 2 months after, and then the zoom would studder when I turned it on. Frustrated, I gave the zoom a pop with my palm, promptly breaking the motor.

    I took it back to Target, with the excuse it was a gift and I wanted a different model. I didn’t say it was broken, I just handend them a box and a camera. (sans the AV cable, which I lost) I did this on the advice from my mom that “less information is good information.”

    20 minutes later I walked out with a new camera which I promise to treat better than a web-fingered ape-man.

    I guess my point is that even Target has to draw some sort of line at what they will accept as a return. It also alludes to the fact that sometimes customers are real shadeballs.

  90. Dr.Ph0bius says:

    Its really a shame… unfortunately, the purchaser is a victim of our society of cheats, liars and thieves.
    It has to be hard for a store (I dont work in retail, btw) to determine who is and who isnt lying, especially when there are people out there who make their living at ripping off retail stores.

    Check this blog out (I know its popular with a lot of us here, but some may not have seen it before)…


    It really gives you the perspective of someone working for these companies and might shed some light on some things that are done that just seem outrageous to us, and its a pretty funny blog anyway. She works at the returns counter and talks about all of the schemes people use to try and return things they have stolen (stolen at best, sometimes its worse!).

    I hope the original poster follows up on this with corporate. The difference between us and these scammers is that we are able to deal with corporate people in a calm and intelligent way in order to get the satisfaction we desire, as opposed to throwing fits at the customer service counter and cursing, which seems to be what the scammers do…

  91. ShadowFalls says:

    I had an issue with a movie at Walmart. I bought The Sum of All Fears, (don’t judge me) and when I opened it up, everything seemed to be fine. I started to play the movie, and I got the little messages popping up, the types you see on a disc that is sent out to people that review them.

    Everything else about the disc seemed fine. It was a stamped disc, not a burned one, it had the original label and all. It had no DVD menu, which not all do, so there was nothing to be suspicious of initially. When I returned it, I made sure the disc I exchanged it for was ok, since I figured there was a good chance of many more. This one had a menu, which was clearly obvious on the difference.

    Sure this is clearly a manufacturing mistake, but it goes to show you, even in things from the factory, in any store, everything can still be there, but not exactly what you purchased.

    The issue with things missing here is not some small accessory, it the the camera itself, essentially the most expensive part. Also, with the person who mentioned about the weight was dead on. With the heavy wait of multiple language manuals, they tend to be sometime 4 times heavier than the camera itself. You can not differentiate between all that, you are not a human scale, and the weight of the box is not listed on it anyways.

    I would think by now, that there should be some official return system, you use your driver’s license or ID to return items regardless, that way each return and the reason specified can be recorded. If a person is making a habit of such things, the pattern can be picked up easy.

    As I mentioned about the weight part, any person critical of this shouldn’t get on someone’s case. Some items are light, some are really heavy, this was not a big screen tv here.

    On the part of opening it first. First of all, you can’t open things more typically until you have purchased them. These can also be gifts as well, you don’t want them ravaged before you give it to someone. Also, some items such as games, movies, and music, can not be returned when opened. There are some cases where you might want to return it within this return period, if you had already opened it for whatever reason, you can’t do it. There might be multiple reasons for this.

    For Target, it has a 90 days return window, for Best Buy and Circuit City, they have 30 days, which includes their price matching. Not everyone who buys a movie, music cd, or game uses them immediately. It could be a month sometimes before they get to them. What if 60 days into the Target return period, Circuit City has it half the price as Target? If you had already opened it to check it there in the store, no return for you, and you could be out 20 or 30 bucks.

    This is still a sticky part for stores, the way the person handles it, is important. If you are going for a exchange you are less likely to have a problem rather than a return. Not to say either way there will be no issue. Regarding going to the manufacturer or publisher, don’t even consider that when mentioned. They will not deal with you since they have no way of knowing. Second thing is, a thing that means something to you, you didn’t do business with the manufacturer or publisher, you did business with the store. The store is the one who did business with them. The store is supposed to do proper business with the customer, then proceed to take it up with the manufacturer or publisher.

    The first thing for bad customer service is to immediately think your customer is a thief. Take in their information, judge it accordingly, check their demeanor as well. If they seem nervous, there is a chance they are lying. It isn’t easy, but losing a customer over a $200 item and losing thousands in business because of that is not good business.

    You could also start training your customer service. They could be trained in fingerprinting. Ask the person politely, can we check this box and the inside for fingerprints? We will destroy it afterwards. Do this politely mentioning we are trying to help you, but we still need to protect ourselves. Perhaps you could prove something to validate their case. It is not foolproof, but it is something at least. Not the best idea I know, but it is an idea, something better can be implemented I am sure. There should be a policy in place for such an event, a policy other than calling a customer a thief and kicking them out of the store anyway.

    If this happened to me, I would not ever let the matter rest till I was satisfied. You should respect principle, it is how less people get cheated. Who here would not be upset if they just got ripped off? Person who stole the item got what they want, the store got what they wanted, and so did the manufacturer. The only one who didn’t get what they wanted was the person who paid money. Doesn’t that seem a little messed up? Does a store really think you should just accept that? I think the more persistent a person is on this, the less likely they are trying to scam something. A person running a scam will just give up and go on to the next one.

  92. LowerHouseMember says:

    Used to work at Target in electronics. We gutted our floor model packages completely – threw away the box and put all the components in a manilla envelope in the back room. When I sold a camera or similar expensive item I would open up the box before I sold it if they asked me to. Personally I don’t recall ever hearing about a dispute like this at our store.

    There were a good number of cameras that we sold that could be opened without damaging the packaging at all. There’s a good chance that this was employee theft, probably from the backroom crew (they have sticky fingers).

    However, Target doesn’t know that for sure, and it is virtually impossible to prove it either way. I don’t blame them at all for being unwilling to hand out free cameras. Blame society for that one.

  93. not_seth_brundle says:

    @d0x: “Better to be safe then sorry and open the box yourself right at the counter because honestly you cant blame the store, they didnt package it and they have no reason to trust you when so many peoples lives are dedicated to finding a way to screw them out of money.

    You can blame the store. You paid them for a camera and they gave you an empty box. Period. The fact that cameras are valuable doesn’t negate contract law.

    If Target is worried about theft, it should institute a policy just like the one you described, where the contents of camera boxes are inspected before the customer leaves (or the customer can waive inspection and accept the risk of an empty box). It can’t sell a customer an empty box and then say “sorry, tough, you should have opened the box to make sure WE fulfilled OUR end of the bargain.”

  94. homerjay says:


    banned since: Sep 10, 2007

  95. premek says:


    Yeah … No, not really. See good faith, as opposed to fraud. It was not my intent adn FWIW, all customers are urged to check their merchandise before leaving.

  96. Buran says:

    @dbeahn: Why should I, when I’m not the one who defrauded her?

  97. Av4rice says:

    At Costco (where a lot of their tech goodies have to be fetched for you from the stockroom at checkout), they make a point of opening the box in front of you so you can verify the contents. I think they do it more to make sure you’re getting what you actually chose, but it’s also a good way to protect against missing goods.

  98. Buran says:

    @quail: Until they get sued for injuring people. There’s no excuse. There’s even been posts on this site about that practice.

    How about boxes — with clear windows in the sides? Easy to open and inspect.

  99. floofy says:

    Now really, I have read posts way more inflammatory than vonskippy’s. Was it really necessary to ban him? Maybe ban the people that were calling him names too!

  100. Quaoar says:


    Try, if you can, to stay on point with the message, not the messenger. “Shooting the messenger” is all too easy, and offers nothing in discussion of the message.


  101. drjayphd says:

    @floofy: Short answer: yes. Long answer: hell yes.

  102. yumology says:

    I had a friend who bought an xbox game from Target. But when he got home there was no game inside! I told him there’s NO WAY they’ll return it. But we went and the store manager told us this was the 6th return like that today! They suspected an employee was taking the items out of the package and then resealing it.

  103. tom55522 says:

    This can happen. Sometimes the boxes for the samples get sold by mistake. This happen when I worked at a big box club store.

  104. vanilla-fro says:

    Why, exactly does the store automatically have to believe the consumer in this case. It may happen at targets everywhere, but this could be the first time at this one. I know this sucks for this person, but if everyone with an empty box got new stuff…..those empty boxes would start getting more and more expensive.
    I’m not blaming the victim here or saying he is lying, but I am saying that Target is most likley not the one making this guy a victim. Maybe an employee stole it, maybe a customer stole it, maybe the manufacturer made an error in the boxing process, or maybe this guy was lying. too many possibilities for it to be automatically target’s fault.
    I know we hate them, hell I hate target, but why is it automatically their fault?

  105. drjayphd says:

    @vanilla-fro: But in that case, out of all those other possibilities, the customer’s at fault in, well, one of them. It’s not like the customer would have any say over a manufacturer error or an employee stealing (unless they’re working together on that, in which case, it falls under customer theft). But the store has more of a say.

  106. nealio says:

    Why do you guy shop at these big box stores in the first place? It seems we’re always getting stories about Best Buy, CompUSA, Wal-Mart, etc. don’t you guys learn?