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.

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.