Letter To Target About Incorrect Signage Results In Gift Card

Richard went to Target to purchase Call of Duty 4 and saw an offer for a free $5 gift card with purchase. When he inquired about the offer, the employees at Target said it was expired.

Richard writes:

On 12 November 2007, I purchased the Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare video game at the Target Store located at 3101 Jefferson Davis Highway, Alexandria, VA (Store #1076). The display in the store clearly displayed the price of the game as $59.99 with a free $5 Target Gift Card. I asked the clerk in the electronics department to purchase the game (since they are locked in a glass case).

The clerk retrieved the game from the case, which had the price with the gift card deal clearly displayed underneath the game. After completing the sale, I noticed the clerk had not included the $5 gift card with the game. I asked, “Doesn’t this come with a gift card?” The clerk responded “No.”

Remembering what the sign said, I quickly responded “Yes it does.” The clerk then quickly went back to the glass display and took down the sign. When he returned, he called a manager and said there was a sign up for an expired deal, and she would need to come to electronics. When the manager (Alecia) got there, she politely explained that the deal had expired the day before and there was nothing she could do except offer an apology. She said there were no codes or anything she could enter into the system that would get me the $5 gift card. I responded that the apology was nice, but an apology was not a $5 gift card, and asked if there was anyone else at the store I could talk with. She said there wasn’t, but I could fill out a corporate complaint form. I took the complaint form and left.

I believe this is a deceptive and dishonest sales practices. The sales clerk not mentioning the gift card promotion was expired until AFTER the sale was complete, and then refusing to honor it after being questioned on it is deceptive and unacceptable. I went to the store around 3PM, which is plenty of time to remove promotional signs from the day before. I don’t think it is too much to ask to be treated fairly and honestly when trying to make a purchase at a retail store. It was their mistake. If stores aren’t obligated to honor the prices displayed on the shelves, where does it end? It seems very unfair to the customer for a store to be able to list an item as one price on the shelf and then ring it up for a different, higher price.

I have sent this complaint to Target using their online “Contact Us” form, but have not received a response. Do you or any of your readers have any suggestions on how I could get this issue resolved?

Before we could give him any advice, we receieved the following update:

Dear Consumerist,
Just a follow-up to this situation, I have heard back from Target and they have agreed to send me the $5 gift card that I was denied in the store. I received the following email from them after complaining on their website:

“Dear Richard,

I’m sorry to hear about the disappointing experience you had during your recent visit to the Alexandria Target store.

I understand that there was an expired sign in our Electronics department offering a free $5 Target GiftCard with the purchase of a Call of Duty 4 video game. I assure you that the signage error was not intentional.

I’d be happy to send you a $5 Target GiftCard as an apology and an invitation back to the store for a better experience. I realize this may not completely eliminate your frustration, but I hope it shows our service commitment to you. Your GiftCard should arrive within two weeks.

In addition, I’ll forward your comments to our Store Operations team to ensure our signage accuracy. Thank you for taking the time to share your situation.

We’re always glad to hear from you, so whenever you have any questions or comments, give us a call at (800) 440-0680. You can also check with a Guest Service Team Lead at your store, or visit us on Target.com. Either way, we’re here to help!

Thanks for shopping with us. I hope we’ll see you again soon at Target.


Target Guest Relations
[THREAD ID:1-44R247]”

I am glad to get the $5 from them, but am disappointed it took me having to send a complaint through their website to get it.

Richard probably shouldn’t have had to go through the trouble of writing to Target corporate to get his gift card, but Target’s response was from a real person and Richard is getting his gift card. It goes to show that sometimes a quick, polite email is all it takes.



Edit Your Comment

  1. edwardso says:

    The Target mentioned in the article tends to be really disorganized and sparsely staffed, I’m not suprised.

  2. loganmo says:

    Yea…that Target is, without a doubt, the worst one in the Metro DC area. Even the one at PG Plaza is better stocked and less hectic.

  3. mandarin says:

    They probably forgot to take out the expired tag? Dont blame the cashier, these are usually miscommunication problems between the corporate office and the stores.

  4. homerjay says:

    “I’d be happy to send you a $5 Target GiftCard as an apology”
    should have read
    “I’d be happy to send you the $5 Target GiftCard you are owed plus an additional $5 Target GiftCard as an apology.”

    Sorry, Target, you did the right thing, but don’t try to pass it off as doing the customer a favor.

  5. loganmo says:

    Don’t be so harsh…as far as big box stores go, target isn’t all that bad. They are willing to adopt the design of their stores in urban areas so they don’t take up 8 football fields of space, unlike Sprawlmart. And, as an added plus, they refuse to humor the Salvation Army’s homophobic policies.

  6. Techguy1138 says:

    Seems fair to me HomerJay. I didn’t see any wording where this person though they were doing a favor to the reader.

    They made a small mistake, the customer complained, target then apologized and corrected the issue.

    They don’t get a gold star for messing up but, it was corrected appropriately.

  7. mghnbnfld says:

    The store manager totally could have fixed the error, and if he/she had half a brain would have, to avoid the complaint going to the home office.

  8. UpsetPanda says:

    As far as I know, most advertisements or special deals have an expiration date SOMEWHERE in the fine print. I know whenever I go to Best Buy, I ALWAYS look at the fine print in the special deals cards and tags, because most often, the staff needs to know when to take them down and there is usually a date. A few years ago, the X-Files box sets (this was before they did the slimset) were on sale. I took a look at the sale tags and noted that it would expire in two days. As I wanted the sets anyway, and couldn’t buy them since they were a whopping $99 each, I bought them then.

    Target did the right thing – it’s $5, what is that in the grand scheme of their moneymaking? They kept a customer, that’s good enough for them.

  9. amoeba says:

    @homerjay: I was thinking the same thing after reading the article (meg you should ask people to shorten a bit the letters). Target should send to Richard a $10 dollars Gift card in total, one for the “apology” and the other one which comes with the game.

    In other hand, I dislike stores with advertisements where they promise you something (in example; a gift card for X amount of moolah) and at the time to check out, they won’t honor it.

  10. Shinrah19 says:

    Are you people serious? How has time to send a letter over a $5 gift card? People make mistakes and they forget to do things. NO ONE was trying to pull one on you, it’s just an honest mistake. What you managed to accomplish is hassle multiple employees at a target store who really don’t diserve it.

  11. Grant Beery says:

    When I was a Team Leader at Target, the policy that came down from headquarters was that any expired signs not taken down are to be taken down immediately, but honored for the guest that catches the mistake. Also, any price dispute under $10 dollars is usually just chalked up to an error and given to the guest. Every team member at Target should know this policies, especially when working at a register. I’m really surprised Richard wasn’t allowed to just leave with a gift card.

  12. tadowguy says:

    That’s fraud. Home Depot tries it all the time with little 10-20 cent price differences and hopes you don’t catch it. HD also has a great policy for price mistakes (at my store anyway). You have to go to the return desk to get it fixed.

  13. e-gadgetjunkie says:

    Having worked at a big box store, I can tell you two things, 1. Those signs are taken down in a hurry right before new ones are put up. They are being handled by often disgruntled workers who could care less about accuracy. At my old store it was common to find expired tags sometimes a week after the sale. It all depends on the item. 2. Everything those employees said was true. With a discounted item, that can be taken care of in store. With a gift card or free merchandise, once the sale is out of the system, there is nothing employees can do about it. Someone in regional or corporate management must be contacted.

  14. tozmervo says:

    @mandarin: Back in the day when I still called myself a Target team member, I frequently worked ad set. When signs were accidentally left up, it was difficult to fault the human or the computer. Store-wide, there are sometimes hundreds of signs that were put up and taken down every sunday morning (and tuesday mornings for non-circular sales). Out of those hundreds, a few are bound to be missed. Sometimes they were knocked down, sometimes were moved, etc.

    Having said that, the cashier was probably powerless to honor the sign. Free giftcards usually entailed a scanning a coupon to deduct the $5 from the total. If those coupons had expired, there wouldn’t have been anything he could do except call a cashier supervisor.

  15. KivaWolf says:

    Seriously this just another person trying to take advantage of some sale that was over and don’t tell me that the person didn’t know because the date is ON the pricetag as to when the sale or offer ends. This isn’t about fraud, its about being alert and taking notice of detail. Complaining about $5 gift card is nonsense and waste of time.

  16. xredgambit says:

    I would hate to be a manager for a company where I couldn’t activate a gift card for $5 and then total it out to make a customer happy when my store made a mistake.
    Seriously how hard is it to credit off $5. Man target was in the wrong on this one. At least their corporate “fixed” the problem.

  17. xredgambit says:

    @KivaWolf: I don;t know about you, but I don’t check the dates on every sale I see in a store. If a sign wasn’t taken down most stores will correct the mistake then immediatly take down the sign.
    And for me $5 would be a big deal. Hell I’m thinking I’m going to use a $3 off a $25 giftcard just to save $3.

  18. tsideways says:

    Same thing happened to me in West Covina CA. Target with a CD and they changed the price after I bitched.

  19. gniterobot says:

    Ok, so a manager, paid like 10 bucks and hour, makes a basic mistake and follows the guidelines, that’s ok with me.

    Then the customer files a complaint with the company, that’s reasonable.

    The company then issues an apology and makes things right, that’s great.

    Where’s does the disappointment or dissatisfaction come in again?

    I applaud target and wonder why the submitter is still bitter? You expect the 10 dollar an hour store manager to take the 5 out of her pocket for you? Gimme a break, they missed taking a sign down by a day…

  20. benjimandodd says:

    that’s weird. i worked at target for 2 years. our target’s rule(which i thought applied to every target) was even if the sign is a mistake you have to give it to them if it isn’t outrageous. on saturday and tuesday nights they would take down the old signs and sometimes they forget old signs but if someone tries to use it we were required(and happy to do it) to redeem the ad then we just took the sign down. seems like the store was a bit disorganized or the person he talked to was new.

  21. darkclawsofchaos says:

    …with all the superior deals on Call of Duty 4 when it came out, you go now and complain about a $5 giftcard, true they are at fault, but you could have done much better than a $5 gift card with much less frustration, unless the Circuit City in your area was also being an ass at that time…

  22. benjimandodd says:

    but the whole thing about being dishonest and unacceptable is bunch of bullcrap. you try working an 8 hour day at a retail store and not making a mistake. try to not miss a 5-10 mm high date in the bottom corner of an ad sign. seriously give the guy a break.

  23. Maverickewu says:

    The Target that I typically shop at, I’ve bought stuff that was mislabeled before (i.e. someone got lazy and forgot to take down a sign from the week before). I have never had a problem with them offering it to me at the mistaken price (granted, two seconds later the sign was gone forever, but that’s kinda the point).

    Now the one that always irks me about this is WalMart. since they aren’t supposed to have empty spaces on shelves (in places like the electronics department), if a $20 computer game or something is out, they’ll move a $50 game in its place, but leave the $20 price tag. It’d be one thing if it was one copy of the game (since people could easily move it around and misplace things), but when there are 10 copies of a $50 game in a $20 game spot, then that gets to the point of someone was being lazy.

  24. curth says:

    I am a Guest Service Team Lead which is basically a customer service manager at Target. It could have been corrected in 5 seconds. I would have apologized, SOLD a $5 giftcard in the SAME transaction as the game (voided the first one and re sold it) and then scanned a magic adjustment coupon for $5. Thats it… It is true that we cant just load money on a giftcard or else the drawer would be short BUT we do have coupons we can use in case of error. Also … if that sounded too complex I would have just reduced the game by $5. Who wants a $5 giftcard anyway? Its just a way to receive future business. On top of that I would have given a $3 apology coupon to be used on a future purchase if I felt the situation warranted it. It sounds like to me the complainer should have just asked for a higher manager as the person who they were dealing with had no idea what they were doing. It is not the guests responsibility to look at the sign expiration date. If the sign is up the promotion should be honored. During the week of free giftcard promotions the registers automatically prompt us to scan a free giftcard since this was not during that time period it did not take place. Should not have been escalated in the way it was BUT Guest Relations (The 1800#) or email form is really beneficial in most situations.

  25. Buran says:

    @CaffeinatedSquint: Thing is, a posted sign offering a price and so on is an offer to sell that item at that price, and the customer accepted the offer by trying to buy the item. The store then, in violation of laws regarding signage and pricing, refused to abide by its advertised price.

  26. homerjay says:

    @benjimandodd: Your absolutely right. This shouldn’t be an issue of honesty. Its a simple mistake. But we have to take responsibility for our mistakes.

  27. kenboy says:

    Cranky commenters are cranky.

    I understand that it seems like Target’s computer won’t let a manager “comp” a $5 gift card in a case like this; makes some sense, since it’d be an easy opening for fraud — but I’m pretty surprised they don’t give managers codes to let them do occasional 5 or 10% price adjustments on the spot when warranted.

    How much happier would the original customer and everyone else have been if it played out like this?

    “Oh, sorry, that gift card offer is expired, and the system won’t let us hand out new ones, but let me just call my manager over, and we’ll knock of 10% — it’ll be like getting an instant $5.99 gift card. Sorry!”

    Too simple, I know.

  28. kenboy says:

    Or I could have just read what Curth said. Exactly.

  29. xamarshahx says:

    when i was at best buy, we always honored wrong tags since it was our fault, manager would just sign off, even on rebates, we would give instant discounts if sign was left.

  30. davidc says:

    The store manager should have just given the person a $5 gift card. The good will of a customer is just not worth saving $5.

    How can service organizations employee managers that are this stupid?

  31. crypticgeek says:

    This guy had no right to demand that they honor an expired dead. Sure, it never hurts to ASK if they will be nice and honor it, but to demand it and call it fraud is being childish and immature. It was nice that Target decided to honor the expired deal anyway.

  32. Caroofikus says:

    When I worked for Target these things were always fixed according to the sign. If there eevr was a case in which we couldn’t we also had large stacks of apology coupons at guest services, good on anything in the store.

  33. Elvisisdead says:

    @david.c: You severely underestimate the employees of that particular store. As someone said, that’s the worst Target in the entire DC Metro area.

  34. Propaniac says:

    This is the same shopping center as the Petsmart that was on Consumerist lately because of the employee who was seen hitting dogs. Just odd to see two local stores get nailed here in such a short timespan–maybe the Barnes & Noble will be next.

  35. ThEjOkErIsWiLd says:

    @crypticgeek: well, the way i look at it is, it is not the customer’s mistake for that sign being left up, it was target’s. they recognized the mistake, took responsibility for it, apologized for it, and corrected it. altho admittedly he might have been a tad adamant over a $5 gift card, target realizes that a happy customer is a returning customer, and as long as he keeps giving target his business (which will probably be more significant than $5) it’s a win/win situation for all.

  36. dansinch says:

    I’ve never seen this much whining over a $5 gift card. Should change the name of this site to the Crybabyist.

  37. rockosolido says:

    So, a customer who failed to read a tag in its entirety was rewarded for throwing a tantrum? Shocking.

    I’ve never, not even once, seen any sort of promotional, manufacturer or in-store rebate tag for any store who hasn’t printed an expiration date. Hell, half the time it isn’t even a matter of “fine print,” usually printed in the same size text and fully visible.

    Lazy? Sure, the morning employees should have scanned for expired promos and taken the tags down before opening, but things happen. Still, that certainly doesn’t warrant Crabby McCheap’o throwing the manager’s apology in her face and saying it isn’t good enough for His Majesty.

    People need to get over their sense of entitlement.

  38. ironfist says:

    I work for Target and I can tell you that there are all kinds of ways in the registers to give away a gift card or take 5 dollars off the order. You don’t need to be a manager, you just have to know what you’re doing.

    The policy is that we do honor the price/offer on the wrong tag, but you only get one item at that price. If it’s a high dollar item employees need to call an executive manager for approval, but rules are rules.

  39. bebe.s says:

    I am a Target Executive, and I can tell you that we make mistakes like everyone else in the world. I can say that atleast on my part I try to always do the right thing. If an old sale sign is left up, then we will honor the price, then promptly remove the sign. For those of you who think we are lazy, that is not the case. Each week we will get several hundreds of signs that have to be put up twice a week. Things happen. For all of you who don’t know how to treat other people, you should work with the public at least once in your lifetime, so that you can see that you have to have alot of patience and be understanding. I have a college degree, and am currently pursuing a master’s. So don’t think you are above anyone else, chances are the person helping you behind the counter is an outstanding person, that you choose not to see because you feel that you are better than the “help”. Ridiculous!

  40. taylorlightfoot says:


    Exactly, The dates are listed at the bottom, it shows the date range the sale is good for and it is not in fine print, it is easily readable.

    As for the sign being left up, the sign was inside a locked case, most of the time there person doing ad take down saturday night does not have a set of electronic keys and just scans the sign down and leaves it to whoever is in electronics to remove the sign since they have the key.

    Sometimes they are too busy or don’t have enough time and forget.

    sometimes some sale signs don’t get scanned when they are put up and when you go to scan them down your PDA scanner tells you to go to a certain aisle where signs were scanned up, resulting in unscanned signs being passed during the take down process.