â€œAttention,Â bargain-hunters: The circle onÂ our shirtsÂ is not a bulls-eye. Please direct your frustrations elsewhere.â€
If that announcement could play regularly at 133 Target stores across Canada, thousands ofÂ employees might be happy. Or at least, less unhappy.
Already facingÂ the loss of their jobs as the U.S.-based retailer abandons its ill-starred northern expansion, staffÂ now must deal with the umbrage of shoppers disappointed by aÂ lack of deals as a court-appointed liquidator begins selling off Targetâ€™s scant stock.
â€œItâ€™s just the lack of respect, and the confrontations,â€ says Bill Cox, 28, a stockÂ worker at aÂ Target that opened just last year on St. Laurent Boulevard in Ottawa.
Cox says nasty exchanges with the â€œunruly mobâ€ that pushed in Thursday toÂ seek savingsÂ left coworkers in tears or suffering anxiety attacks.
Some customers who fill a cart with items and then learn that they wonâ€™t save much Â â€œjust dump the cart wherever they are in the store, make a few lewd, hurtful comments as toward their disgust, and walk out,â€ he wroteÂ in a letter to the Citizen.
While retail employers everywhereÂ wish they could remind customers that itâ€™s the boss, not them, who sets prices, theseÂ staff are still further removed. Targetâ€™sÂ liquidator is determining price cutsÂ as the chain moves toward a mid-May closing.
For Robin Ritchie, associate professor of marketing at Carleton Universityâ€™s Sprott School of Business, this weekâ€™s complaints are just the latest chapter of Targetâ€™s Canadian fiasco. Loved by cross-border shoppers for the quality and prices of goods in its U.S. stores, the chain couldnâ€™t deliver the same experience when it took over the leases of Zellers stores in Canada â€” and seemed caught unaware by the disappointment this caused.
Probably its biggest blunder, however, was failing to establish a supply chain that could keep shelves stocked, Ritchie said Friday. And now come the bad feelings over the pricing.
â€œIn a sense you canâ€™t blame Target for it â€” and yet in some sense it fulfils the narrative so well â€” that Target canâ€™t even figure out how to do a liquidation well.â€
Cox and his St. Laurent colleagues arenâ€™t the only Target staff getting a rough time. An anonymous employee Â pleaded on a reddit.com forum for customers to showÂ respect. And Cox says Target staff he knows in his hometown of Windsor, Ont., report similar poor treatment.
Robin Ritchieâ€™s message to the employees? Customers at going-out-of-business sales have a different attitude.
â€œWhen we go to a Target store, when a liquidation is on, itâ€™s not because we need something,â€ he says. â€œItâ€™s because we expect a deal, we expect potentially to have to fight for that deal, and itâ€™s a very different mindset that we go into the store with.â€