Target’s $200 iPad Trade-In Deal A Victim Of Its Own Awesomeness

Last week, there was a great promotion at Target. Target Mobile locations always accept electronics trade-ins, but they offered a special deal in order to move some iPads. Customers could trade in any working iPad, dating back to the positively ancient iPad 1 from 2010, and get a minimum of $200 on a Target Mobile gift card. That’s a good deal, and it was very popular.

How popular? Customers reported waiting, with mini-crowds, for their chance to trade in their iPads when the stores opened. That’s when they learned that the trade-in store credit could only go on gift cards specific to the Target Mobile staff, and they don’t keep dozens of those cards lying around per store. If a customer showed up and the store was out of cards? Well, too bad.

Reader Jeff set out to trade in his iPad on Friday, the second-to-last day of the promotion. They should have a fresh stock of cards, ready for the weekend, right? Nope. He writes:

I showed up on a Friday to my local store – a few dozen people were milling around and we got a number of stories but apart from being told to try other stores, which a number of people had already done, the only thing they would do is let us write our name in pencil on a sheet of paper with a phone number to contact us when more cards came in.

I called another store and they were not even doing that, just advising that you get there at 8:00 am to wait for cards coming in at 11:00 AM. Pointing out that nothing in the ad said “Limited Supply” or “First come first served” we were eventually handed out individual slips with Target’s 800 number to call.

Each one of us got a different explanation and story but no resolution.

I stupidly returned on Saturday only to find that only 15 cards had come in and sure enough went to the first 15 people in line. At least I was not like dozens of others who had waited for 45 minutes in line before being told that there were no more cards – that was it, end of promotion. Again, nothing we could do, no way to register that we had met our part of the offer but Target did not live up to theirs.

Further calls to the 800 number revealed that most of the CRs had no idea what to say either. Requests to speak to supervisors ended up in muzak and then a reply that the supervisor had said the promotion was ending because of the lack of cards????? That’s it, all over because we said so, forget any promise we put in writing.

If Target’s aim was to truly alienate any prospective customers for its electronics, and also confuse and subject their personnel to a lot of frustration and abuse, well they succeeded admirably.

That probably wasn’t the case: unlike some companies, Target seems to be really into selling merchandise to their customers. Reader Chad had a similar experience, though: store ran out of cards, no more iPad trade-ins.

I spoke to a manager at my local store in [redacted] about the possibility of a raincheck or some other workaround, but he declined.

Basically, those of us who made special trips to Target for the promotion are out of luck.

Stores aren’t really set up to provide rain checks on giving customers money, as opposed to offering a sale price.

We contacted Target to find out what happened with this promotion from their point of view. While our readers who found chaos and a total lack of trade-ins might disagree, the problem from the stores’ point of view was that the promotion was just too successful.

Target offered an iPad trade-in promotion from November 3 to November 9. During this time period, guests received a Target trade-in gift card worth at least $200 in exchange for any previous model working iPad. The response to the iPad trade-in promotion was overwhelmingly positive and far exceeded Target’s expectations.

Throughout the duration of the promotion, we worked continuously to replenish the electronics trade-in gift cards in stores with low inventory levels. While this special promotion has ended, Target’s electronics trade-in program is always available to our guests at Target Mobile Centers and via

You won’t get that guaranteed $200 minimum, but you can trade in your old gadgets for new ones. Or you can use the gift card to buy a bag of apples. Whatever you’re into.

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  1. Saelia says:

    I traded in my iPad 2 on Saturday afternoon at my local Target. Two actually. There wasn’t a crowd or anything, though there was one other guy who showed up while we were checking out. It didn’t occur to me that there might be an issue with out of stocks.

    The electronics gift card is actually a MasterCard, not a regular Target Gift card. I wonder if they’re getting some sort of deal with MasterCard, and that’s why they restricted the deal to only the electronics cards.

  2. jaredgreenwald says:

    I suspect that this was more the case in large population centers. I was able to trade-in three old first-gen 16G iPads on two different days and went off without a hitch. Other than having to wait for a couple mobile phone activations (~45 min), it was not an issue. Also, I’m not sure why the people at the Target stores didn’t just direct people online. The offer was valid online as well, you just needed the proper promo code to do it (NOVIPAD200, I believe). The people @ the Target Mobile kiosks were just using a slightly modified version of the website that’s available to anyone for trades.

    • CommonC3nts says:

      That is sad that these people complained, but never check out the website.
      Also it is even more sad that none of the target employees told them to go online.

  3. MaraJade says:

    While I can see why those who were unsuccessful would be disappointed in Target, I take issue with the first email in the story… “nothing in the ad said ‘Limited Supply’ or ‘First come first served'”. I don’t actually think that a retailer has to put ‘first come first served’ in an ad. Isn’t that just how the world works? I totally get why they were upset, and they should definitely have been directed to the website, but it should not be a requirement that stores put eight pages of language with their offers because some people lack common sense. To me, this is right up there with the ‘Do not eat the cellophane wrapper’ warning on Fruit Roll-Ups.

    End of rant!

  4. dullard8 says:

    Some states, including California, require a merchant to have on hand sufficient quantities to meet reasonably expected demand unless it is stated that quantities are limited.

  5. coloradoconsumer says:

    I traded in my Gen 1 IPAD. I didn’t have any problems other than there was a wireless customer ahead of us (there was one other person there when I arrived). They only had one mobile employee working at the time and one kiosk.

    No problems with the cards and they are general Target cards and can be used on anything in the store, which is good because they were cleaned out of ipads, so I guess that part worked for Target.