A Tale Of Two Target Managers And A PS3 With Mismatched Serial Numbers

A reader who would like to be called CrazyNJConsumer writes in with another one of those “mismatched serial number” PS3 stories. The scenario usually goes like this: You buy a PS3. It’s broken. You return it. The store checks the serial number and finds that it doesn’t match. They accuse you of swapping your old broken PS3 for a new one and refuse to take the return. You are very sad.

My husband received a brand new PS3 for his birthday from my (very generous) sister on April 2nd. The next night (April 3), my excitedly retired our PS2 to the closet and set up his new toy – the packaging was PERFECT, the machine was not. We weren’t surprised we had received a used machine but WERE surprised that it did not work – games wouldn’t register, Blu-Rays wouldn’t play. His new PS3 was just an expensive piece of garbage.

I called my sister who had both her receipt and the debit card she used to purchase it and we agreed to meet the next day (April 4) at our local Target which is NOT the Target she purchased it at but is closer to my house, so screw her. I politely informed the CSR that the PS3 was not only used but broken and we wanted an even exchange for the new machine. After opening the box and examining it with a member of the Electronics team, she noted that not only was the console used but the serial number did not match the serial number on the box – essentially, someone had beaten the system and we were the patsies with the POS machine.

She was as helpful as she could be but still had to call the GSLT (I think that is the acronym) to the front of the store to process the return. When Y. (male, evil) came to “help” us, he immediately told me the PS3 was not returnable. My non-confrontational sister prepared to eat the $400 but I persisted. Y. informed us that because the serial number on the console did not match the serial number on the box, there was nothing he could do to help us. I politely informed Y. that, come hell or high water, we were getting a refund. It was just a matter of how long it took. Y. politely responded, “I imagine you already got what you wanted. There is nothing else I can do for you.”

I asked him to scan the box and take a peek into the PS3’s history – had it been returned before? When had it been received in the store? All I wanted was the benefit of the doubt that we might have both been taken advantage of. He refused. He specifically stated that it was not returnable, it was our problem, and started walking away. When I asked if he was the story manager, he replied, “I’m in charge right now.” (Which means no). He rolled his eyes when I asked if he would please call the Fairfield location and see if they would be able to help us. After wasting 5 minutes arguing with one of the most stubborn women on the East Coast, he agreed. He walked about 3 feet away (for privacy?) and picked up the big red phone to call the other location – obviously I was eavesdropping. He gave the GSLT(?) of Fairfield, Ryan, the rundown of what was happening and the impossible happened. Ryan actually wanted to see the situation resolved fairly. Ryan traced the PS3 and was able to see that it had been returned a few days before my sister purchased it. He was also able to see that the serial number on the console was NOT checked against the serial number on the box (scary what a computer can tell you) and told Y. that it was a legitimate return.

I have never seen a “manager” so angry after solving a problem. Y. told us that it was Ryan’s decision if Fairfield would accept the return but it was HIS decision if Clifton would accept the return. And he had already made up his mind – no. After a 45 minute drive to Fairfield (which is about 5 minutes away – don’t you love Route 3 on a Friday?), we were finally able to meet the charming Ryan who processed our return in – seriously – less then 3 minutes. It was unbelievable.

I consider myself to be a fairly informed consumer. I keep my receipts, I watch my statements, and I play by the rules – but it never would have occurred to me to open a box, remove the packaging (seriously, this PS3 was perfectly wrapped. I want the thief to come to my house and clean because he/she is METICULOUS) and compare serial numbers. It also never occurred to me that Target would accuse me (in a roundabout way) of dishonesty and fraud. All in all, it only took about 1.5 hours of my life to solve the problem but the experience has left me with a terrible taste in my mouth (or is that lunch?)

Thanks for your story, CrazyNJConsumer. We’re really glad to see that you were able to work it out with Target (thank goodness for nice managers like Ryan!). Often when we get letters like yours they end with “now I’m stuck with a $400 paperweight,” and we have to start using the “c” word. (Chargeback. Don’t be gross.)

For the rest of you out there, please check the serial number of all the electronics you buy before you leave the store. You will save yourself a lot of headaches.