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October 23, 2011 12:31 PM   Subscribe


 
Target, please get your shit together. We need a good alternative to Wal-Mart.
posted by mattbucher at 12:41 PM on October 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


We need a good alternative to Wal-Mart.

Uhm. The good alternative to Wal-Mart requires an entirely different type of society and culture. I mean, I'm with you, but you're not going to get it out of any national box-store.
posted by odinsdream at 12:42 PM on October 23, 2011 [63 favorites]


Apparently folks have gotten bored with bashing Walmart. Back when Walmart's policies of locking the doors during overnight hours and restricting employees' hours to avoid paying overtime were in the news, I used to wonder if other retailers (like Target) were any better.
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:42 PM on October 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


Wow, this is some bullshit and fuck Target. However:

"Thank god I went to college and got a real job."

Aren't there editors at Gawker to catch this sort of thing? To, you know, maintain the (ahem) integrity of the article? It goes from "Target is abusing its worker" to "Target is abusing its workers but that's sort of okay because it's not a real job and you can always just leave" from 0 to 60 and come on.
posted by griphus at 12:44 PM on October 23, 2011 [48 favorites]


Gawker didn't break that story. Did you even read the pages you link to?
posted by lamp at 12:49 PM on October 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Gawker writing about Target's employment practices? Isn't that the pot calling the kettle black?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:49 PM on October 23, 2011 [12 favorites]


I worked for Mervyns when it was owned by Target. Same shit, different shovel.
posted by deborah at 12:49 PM on October 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


"Target, please get your shit together. We need a good alternative to Wal-Mart."

My older son quit Wal-Mart to take a job at Target. He says it was a mistake, Wal-Mart is a better place to work. Who knew?
posted by MikeMc at 12:50 PM on October 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Aren't there editors at Gawker to catch this sort of thing?"

No. Gawker Media sites are click bait piles of shit.
posted by MikeMc at 12:52 PM on October 23, 2011 [24 favorites]


Life in retail. I spent the summer working in a big box home improvement store and it was exactly the same. Crazy hours - leave at 11:30 pm, be back at 5:30 the next morning is normal and in fact store meetings are held at 5:30 on Sunday mornings and you have to be there whether you're working that day or not. Everyone is locked into the store at night off the clock; you get to sit there for 30 - 45 minutes until they decide to let you out. Newer employees who make less than older ones get all the hours, whether or not they want them. I asked for 28 hours a week and usually got 36 or more. They pay less as a starting wage now than they did in 2008 and raises? Pfffft. After a year you're eligible for a 15 cent an hour raise. The splitting overtime so you can't be considered as working more than 8 hours if midnight happens in the middle that the Target employee is talking about? Standard practice just like giving you 50 consecutive hours in a week but making you ineligible for overtime because Sunday is in the middle there. Routine business as usual; welcome to the new USA, where worker's rights are just to be scoffed at. It's an at will state; they can fire you whenever for whatever and they often do, just a sacrifice to keep the other peasants in line.

I finally left for two reasons - they made a couple of people head cashiers (not me, thank the gods, no interest) and didn't give them a raise or anything other than a tremendous amount of extra duties. That, I thought, was really evil. These were good employees who were trying to move up but were just told, sure, you can move up, but not for more money! And we're talking $8 an hour here. Cashiers also have mats to stand on in front of their registers, instead of spending 8 hours without moving on concrete, right? Wrong. If you don't have a customer you have to stand in the aisle, without a mat, without moving unless a customer speaks to you, and that can mean you spend hours a day immobile on a concrete floor. My knees gave up and so did I.

But the right wing has done its work well and the people who would benefit the most from unions are the ones who are the most afraid of them. I think it's too late - Americans have internalized this belief that they're supposed to be treated like dirt and it's all their own fault.
posted by mygothlaundry at 12:53 PM on October 23, 2011 [176 favorites]


you're not going to get it out of any national box-store

BING!

My wife loves Target, but AFAICT they are just WalMart with slightly better products and a lot better marketing.
posted by DU at 12:57 PM on October 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


We need a good alternative to Wal-Mart.

You mean the locally owned businesses that are almost certainly all over wherever you live?
posted by cmoj at 12:58 PM on October 23, 2011 [29 favorites]


OccupyTarget?

Anyway, I stopped shopping at Target for a couple three reasons:

1) The whole "We donate to anti-gay politicians, no we don't, OK we'll stop, no we won't, also now we just donate to anti-union pacs (which might hate gays too)."

2) An INCREDIBLY shitty experience (self-link) at the Culver City Target where the thickneck manager told me that by trying to use the manufacturer's coupon I got because they'd discontinued a faulty water filter, I was "stealing" from the store. I ended up having to call the 1 800 helpline to get some poor "Tyler" in India to explain to the guy how to run his own fucking registers. The manager didn't apologize, and I never heard back from my complaint to Target corporate.

3) They've led the fight in California to curtail the Pruneyard decision, which basically has a bunch of free speech and political activism implications. They've been active in attacking not just general petitioners and canvassers, but also people who criticize Target specifically.

Even when I ended up shopping with them out of resignation — I had a gift certificate and needed a specific coffee maker that's weirdly hard to find, so we used their website — they sent me the wrong product, then tried to refund the wrong amount of money. It's kind of a shame, because I finally found some shorts that I like there, but seriously, fuck Target. Minnesota scum's not enough better than Arkansas scum.
posted by klangklangston at 12:58 PM on October 23, 2011 [17 favorites]


We need a good alternative to Wal-Mart.

It's called CostCo. They provide decent salaries, employee health care—including domestic partners (for both full-time and hourly employees), and let employees wear normal ("street") clothes… etc. treating-people-like-human-beings etc.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:03 PM on October 23, 2011 [97 favorites]


Everything I've heard about Costco's employment practices is good, but that's not so helpful to people who live in small homes/ households. I'm not really in the market for a five-gallon jar of peanut butter right now.
posted by craichead at 1:09 PM on October 23, 2011 [18 favorites]


I would rather shop at Target than read Gawker.

My impression is that the employees at my local unit look a lot happier about it than the miserable wretches I see at Wal-Mart, where I will only go into it any more if it's like 3:00 in the morning and it is the only store open. I live in the sight line of a Wal-Mart grocery parking lot. The guy who manages it drives a BMW 700 which always gets me a double take when I take out my trash in the morning and see it parked in the same spot every Tuesday through Sunday.
posted by bukvich at 1:10 PM on October 23, 2011


Costco ... I'm not really in the market for a five-gallon jar of peanut butter right now.

It's a 2-pack of 48oz jars.

posted by zippy at 1:16 PM on October 23, 2011 [20 favorites]


Everything I've heard about Costco's employment practices is good, but that's not so helpful to people who live in small homes/ households. I'm not really in the market for a five-gallon jar of peanut butter right now.

My wife and I have always lived in apartment sized dwellings, and you'd be surprised how many CostCo staples you can keep around with a little ingenuity. If you just settle on the basic items you want around and buy the minimal packaged size (which is usually two items bundled together, not one five gallon item), you can offload a surprising amount of your shopping to them.
posted by fatbird at 1:17 PM on October 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, CostCo is it. I invested in it after hearing some douchebag on CNBC talk about how they should reduce the benefits they offer because it would maximize value to the shareholders. If I lose 100% of that investment I would be perfectly fine with that just to be a minor data point that being evil doesn't always make more people want to buy shares of your stock. But it's icing on the cake that that particular stock has outperformed most of my other (morality-neutral) choices.
posted by Riki tiki at 1:18 PM on October 23, 2011 [16 favorites]


Everyone is locked into the store at night off the clock; you get to sit there for 30 - 45 minutes until they decide to let you out.

Argh. What a stupid, evil, distrustful, and dehumanizing practice.

My first thought was that if I had a job like that, the first time it happened would be the last day I worked there.

My second thought was that I'm incredibly lucky to be in a position where I could walk away from a shitty job if I had to.
posted by jcreigh at 1:21 PM on October 23, 2011 [21 favorites]


Costco ... I'm not really in the market for a five-gallon jar of peanut butter right now.

The things you can get are surprisingly reasonable. When my mom was still alive and I lived with her, we'd go to CostCo every once in a while and it was only slightly larger than a regular supermarket trip for the both of us, and I can't recall any buying anything larger than necessary because it didn't come in a smaller size.
posted by griphus at 1:21 PM on October 23, 2011


(Also, we lived in a 1.5-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn.)
posted by griphus at 1:22 PM on October 23, 2011


Target's coming to Canada. I wonder whether BC or Québec will have the first union store, and how long it will survive before being closed down for specious reasons.

I tried Costco one year, after seeing how happy my sister was shopping there, but I just couldn't spend enough to justify the yearly fee. Besides, the entire environment is all about seducing you to Buy More.
posted by maudlin at 1:26 PM on October 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


One of the strangest experiences I've ever had was shopping at Target wearing khakis and a red polo.
posted by punkfloyd at 1:28 PM on October 23, 2011 [44 favorites]


Yeah my mom sometimes brings me stuff from Costco, I never thought I needed a 6 pack of 40 oz squeeze bottles of ketchup, but now they are all gone. I am back to buying normal sized squeeze bottles at 4 bucks a pop. I find myself rationing ketchup until the next time I can score a half dozen 40 oz bottles. When that day comes, I am going to put ketchup on everything.

I think I have a ketchup problem.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:36 PM on October 23, 2011 [20 favorites]


I manage my money well enough to buy things at Costco once a month I'd buy every week somewhere else - or once every three months that I'd buy monthly somewhere else. But the thing about Costco is that besides the staples and food items, they don't have very many inexpensive items, they mostly have luxury items at seriously reduced prices that still cost more than the inexpensive items anywhere else. Okay, their furniture is far superior in quality to IKEA, but for double the price (but yes, it'd be three-times somewhere else). So I still feel out of place there any time I wander out of the grocery or household sections.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:42 PM on October 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Costco isn't really the alternative to Walmart or Target, however. I'll admit they're a great place if I need to buy a shitload of groceries at once. Other than food, they rarely have anything else that I actually need, when I need it. Doesn't help that the local Costco is always insanely crowded.

That Target is possibly a crappy place to work isn't much of a surprise. The bigger surprise to Walmart haters is that I've found Walmart to be a much better place to shop overall than Target, and have for a pretty long time. In fact, that Culver City Target (and the two other Target stores within a three mile radius) disappoint me almost every time, and I end up going an extra couple miles to Walmart where I've always had a better experience. Last time I was there, there was some pretty open and organized grumbling among the workers over pay scales or something.
posted by 2N2222 at 1:43 PM on October 23, 2011




Other than food, they rarely have anything else that I actually need, when I need it. Doesn't help that the local Costco is always insanely crowded.

You people have heard of the internet, right?

They also have one of the best refund policies of any store, ever. You can return anything you ever buy there, ever. Of course, people were taking advantage of their generosity and bringing back stuff after using it for like 5 years, so they amended the policy to 90-days for TVs, computers and cell phones. But everything else? Full refund. No time limit.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:57 PM on October 23, 2011


I really want to read these, but I don’t want to give Gawker the page views. Fuck.
posted by spitefulcrow at 2:06 PM on October 23, 2011


why wouldn't someone who is being held against his/her will just call the police and ask to be rescued?
posted by HuronBob at 2:11 PM on October 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


Because calling the police on your boss is a great way to get fired?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:13 PM on October 23, 2011 [11 favorites]


nthing Costco, for its hr policies, its refund policies, the quality of its goods, and its no-nonsense approach to meat inspection which pretty much puts it in a class of its own.

Targé briefly became an ironic yet unironic destination (because even poor hipsters like a deal) but I was always puzzled by any more excitement than that. It's another big box with terrible policies, like the rest.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 2:14 PM on October 23, 2011


why wouldn't someone who is being held against his/her will just call the police and ask to be rescued?

Because the store keeping them hostage also pays their bills, rent, (possibly) health insurance, and food. Calling the cops on your employer is a straight path to unemployment.
posted by griphus at 2:14 PM on October 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


as much as target employees need unions i don't think it'll help them at all. several people i know are members of unions--both as grocery store workers and banquet servers. in every case they all hate the unions--they don't get paid much more then minimum wage and all they really do is pay dues. it's just someone taking an extra cut from their paycheck.

that's not target's fault--but quite frankly after hearing their experiences i kinda find it hard to believe that unions in their current state are going to help these people. none of my friends got help from their unions--and they needed it.
posted by lester at 2:15 PM on October 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


I worked at Target while in college as a cart attendant (I collected carts from the lot and got them back into the store).

Two specific experiences soured me on working there:

1. During the summer, they lost another one of the cart guys, so the team leads decided it would be a great idea to give me split shifts. So, I got to go in from 7.30-10.30am and then came back from 6-10pm. Notice that's only 7 hours?

2. I got bronchitis and the flu in the winter time. I needed to stay home and rest, but the team lead threatened to fire me if I didn't show up. So, I got to work in subzero temperatures outside while trying to make sure I didn't pass out.

People may ask why I didn't just quit. For one, the college town where I worked had a dearth of jobs. Second, I really needed the money to live. So, Target got to take advantage of me until I was able to find another job.
posted by reenum at 2:19 PM on October 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


If we are going to play the anecdata game, lester, I can assure you that without my union, I would have no benefits whatsoever (i.e., semi-decent medical insurance, etc.) and would be in even more dire financial shape than I already am.
posted by joe lisboa at 2:20 PM on October 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


I live by myself, and I pretty much only shop at Costco (except for things like cookies, because if I bring home three dozen cookies, I will eat three dozen cookies. And not slowly, over a period of several weeks, like normal people.) I can't find better prices on meat, fish, poultry, eggs, fruit, wine, beer, or vegetables. Or even clothes, if the clothes they're selling just happen to catch your eye. Oh, and Costco tests for e-coli.

Their house Kirkland brand is usually top notch. It's like "CR, you know those allergy pills you take? $12 for 30 of them is a really great deal, isn't it? OR, you know, if you get the Costco generic ... $8 for _300_ of them." The only thing that makes me happier than a Costco making a generic version of something I use is when Costco puts something I use on clearance.

Yeah, selection isn't always great, but when it clicks, it clicks. Maybe it helps that I'm the kind of person who can eat the same thing every day for a week.

I remember reading an interview with the CEO, where he said he likes to include 'treasure hunt items'. My current favorite pair of pants? $10 at Costco. I tried to go find another pair (they stopped carrying them at Costco), and Macy's wanted $40. Pfft!

(I don't work for Costco.)
posted by Comrade_robot at 2:23 PM on October 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


I, too, dislike Gawker. Does anyone know of a good long-form "Bully of Bentonville" style profile of Target? I'd like to know more, but am primarily looking for something to send to a couple of improbably fanatical Target fans I know.
posted by belarius at 2:24 PM on October 23, 2011


Oh yeah, clothing. I know this is at tension with the whole don't-buy-China thing, but if I'm going to buy jeans from China at $50 or $100 elsewhere, I think I'll get them from Costco for $10 instead. Somehow I don't think the extra $ would've found its way into the pockets of factory workers.

Now, please please please let there be no Actually, Costco Does X stories or I'm screwed.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 2:29 PM on October 23, 2011


I have been in a few dozen Walmarts and Targets, I guess, out of necessity. But truthfully, I always get terrible anxiety when I go into one of them. First this old geezer greets you like you're supposed to know him and then you try to get your bearings and he's gone and you need to find the toilet part you think exists, at 1 in the morning, stoned. I mean, I have wandered the aisles of a WalMart super center for hours trying to remember what I came in for, or looking for someone I'd lost over by the pharmacy aisle (I once lost a shopping companion for an hour inside a WalMart). And then it's 2am and you're all alone over by the trick-or-treat costumes and you could swear you saw someone a moment ago over by the fishing rods but now he's gone and all you can think of is "how the fuck can a pack of 250 table tennis balls be $4."

I suppose I could try it sober.
posted by spitbull at 2:36 PM on October 23, 2011 [36 favorites]


" several people i know are members of unions--both as grocery store workers and banquet servers. in every case they all hate the unions--they don't get paid much more then minimum wage and all they really do is pay dues."

I just watched the grocery unions here in California have a (not very well publicized) fight with the big grocery chains that really hurt them in a big way last time the unions struck.

The chains wanted a couple of things — to invalidate contracts when the nominal ownership changed, to be able to hire more part-time workers to replace full time workers, and to essentially quadruple the cost of health insurance to the workers. The unions had already conceded on not getting wage increases and agreed to worse contracts for new workers, but they fought hard and avoided those three big concessions, even though it required canceling their current contract and being on 72 hour strike notice.

The union groceries around here really do pay much better than their non-union counterparts, and the scheduling is less exploitative. The grocery chains really do want to grind their employees, and their employees are some of the least powerful members of society.

I knew plenty of people back in Michigan that worked at grocery stores and bitched about their unions — especially how the seniority system essentially meant that young workers got fucked. But I've seen what non-union shops look like, and it's much worse.
posted by klangklangston at 2:44 PM on October 23, 2011 [18 favorites]


I'm a single guy who shops at CostCo twice a month. I usually buy dry, non-perishable goods and household supplies. Also their produce section is good occasionally - I can get a huge thing of strawberries and blueberries for cheap, and then eat smoothies every day for a week (yum!).

Also it is a great place to stock up on alcohol. Maybe its because I'm in Vegas, but our CostCo has a big liquor section (it used to be smaller but they expanded it a few years ago), and the prices good.
posted by SirOmega at 2:51 PM on October 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


>You people have heard of the internet, right?

Internet doesn't help when I need something right now, which is the whole reason I would ever go to Walmart (or Target or Costco). FWIW, Walmart also does internet very inexpensively, often with very low or no shipping charges. And Walmart's return policy is good too.

Why are you trying to sell me on Costco? For most things, they simply don't suit me.
posted by 2N2222 at 2:54 PM on October 23, 2011


all you can think of is "how the fuck can a pack of 250 table tennis balls be $4."

They might come in handy for the locked-in employees. I believe a bomb made out of ground up ping-pong balls featured in the movie, "The Great Escape."
posted by StickyCarpet at 3:10 PM on October 23, 2011


Also it is a great place to stock up on alcohol. Maybe its because I'm in Vegas, but our CostCo has a big liquor section (it used to be smaller but they expanded it a few years ago), and the prices good.

Oh man. Sale of alcohol at non-government shops is an issue that comes up now and again and I'm generally meh on it either way, but imagining Costco alcohol sales I am so there.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:18 PM on October 23, 2011


Looking through the Gawker posts, some seem to have truth a little...enhanced, some is hearsay, and it is almost all is the same crap you'd find from management any any big retail store (other than the anti-union stuff).
posted by IAmDrWorm at 3:28 PM on October 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


George Soros recently bought a huge chunk of TGT stock....I don't know how much clout this will enable him to have with the company.
posted by brujita at 3:40 PM on October 23, 2011


I'm single and live in a one-bedroom apartment. For me, Costco is good for: dry-goods (pens, paper, office supplies, household sundries, toilet paper -- one trip and I'll never run out), soft drinks (bajillion-count never-ending Diet Coke crate for $12.99), non-perishable or long-lasting food products like trail mix, snacks, pasta, canned foods, etc. Frozen food products like frozen chicken, pizzas, burritos, etc. Yeah, you get a ton of them but they last. A box of 24 frozen yogurt popsicles is like 6.99 and can last me a month.

Also, you can get a hot dog and a soda for $1.50 on your way out. What's not to like?
posted by Avenger at 3:41 PM on October 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Costco Chicken, Bacon, Ranch thing for like $2.50 is worth checking out. lol
posted by sfts2 at 3:59 PM on October 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Internet doesn't help when I need something right now, which is the whole reason I would ever go to Walmart (or Target or Costco).

You mentioned two reasons: for needing things right now! and because it was packed with people. You're correct that the internet doesn't solve the first problem, but I would think it rather handily solves the second, unless you're using the internet at the library.

And Walmart's return policy is good too.

No, completely wrong. You are comparing apples with oranges. No, apples with apple pie. No, fetid, used apple cores with freshly baked apple pies. There is no comparison, is what I'm trying to tell you. Wal-Mart has a 90-day limit to your returns. CostCo has no limit. Get that? None. If I bought a washer/dryer from CostCo in 1993, I can return it and say I'm unsatisfied with it because it's old and makes funny noises (because it's old!). Wal-Mart requires a receipt. CostCo does not require a receipt. Wal-Mart requires photo-ID. CostCo doesn't. Most places don't, actually, and I can't even begin to wonder why you'd need photographic identification to return something, except that Wal-Mart is the modern-day equivalent of the Gestapo. But hey, you sound like a Stockholm Syndrome kinda' fella, so who am I to judge?

Why are you trying to sell me on Costco? For most things, they simply don't suit me.

I'm not trying to sell you anything. You like Wal-Mart? Great, go shop at Wal-Mart. But your assertions are wrong, and I'm going to correct them. Is that OK with you, Mr. Sensitive?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:01 PM on October 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Civil_Disobedient: "CostCo has no limit. Get that? None. If I bought a washer/dryer from CostCo in 1993, I can return it and say I'm unsatisfied with it because it's old and makes funny noises (because it's old!)."

This is pretty awesome, but honestly, it doesn't make any business sense at all. How much to they pay for an used item returned 15 years later? Sticker price?
posted by falameufilho at 4:08 PM on October 23, 2011


Maybe Costco return policies differ from place to place. Here, I have 90 days to return electronics and a year for other stuff. Which is a hell of a long time. But more importantly, they honour their policy and when they ask "is there anything wrong with the product?" they just want to know. They have no intention of not taking it back. I mean, Best Buy has a return policy as well, but try to get them to honour it.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:09 PM on October 23, 2011


No offense, Civil_Disobedient, but you sound kind of unhinged. The Gestapo? Stockholm syndrome? Really?

Anyway, the closest CostCo to me is two hours away, so it's not really an option.
posted by craichead at 4:13 PM on October 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


These employees should stop bitching and instead use cellphone to secretly document these practices. Isn't this false imprisonment? Make sure you document every second they force you to work off the clock too.
posted by humanfont at 4:13 PM on October 23, 2011


As a gay man who appreciates the value of unions, I wish Target would stop giving me reasons to keep boycotting it.
posted by yellowcandy at 4:14 PM on October 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


why wouldn't someone who is being held against his/her will just call the police and ask to be rescued?

Because calling the police on your boss is a great way to get fired?

This will vary according to jurisdiction, but in NYC the best way to handle this would be to get the Fire Department involved. Locking the main doors while workers are inside is an absolute no-go, even though there are emergency exits throughout the building.

And a summons from the FD is not like one from the Buildings Department - the FD summonses require corrective action or they can have the business shut down.

Anyone in NYC working for a big box store (or other business) that locks you in, feel free to memail me and I will help you get the situation corrected.
posted by mlis at 4:15 PM on October 23, 2011 [18 favorites]


This makes me feel much less bad about stealing shit from this fucking store all the time. (When I was a kid. Mainly it was guns for my G.I. Joes. See, a lot of the figures were pretty fucking stupid, like shirtless wrestlers wearing pink baseball caps - that's not army! - but a lot of them had badass guns that I could use to kit out my actual proper awesome G.I. Joes like Tunnel Rat. You just had to peel open the bottom corner of the blister pack and all the guns would slip out. But then, I could have stolen the crappy figures as well and "modded" them to be Terminators. "Modding" in this case basically meant applying flame to melt their faces, and then dabbing on silver paint. For fucksake I had more fun as a kid melting pink G.I. Joes than I've ever had since. Sigh.)
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:17 PM on October 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Maybe Costco return policies differ from place to place.

Although I seldom shop at CostCo and have never returned anything there, I do enjoy their returns policy, if only to see the line-up of people returning item N, which suggests to me item N may not be a great deal.

This will vary according to jurisdiction, but in NYC the best way to handle this would be to get the Fire Department involved. Locking the main doors while workers are inside is an absolute no-go, even though there are emergency exits throughout the building.


I would think it is doubly a no-go in NYC, what with the centennial of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire having just passed.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:25 PM on October 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


tumid dahlia, you realise Target Australia has nothing but the name & logo in common with the US Target, don't you?

You weren't sticking it to the union-busting staff-shitting-upon economic-imperialist man, you were ripping off honest aussie battlers like … um, Myer and Coles…
posted by Pinback at 4:28 PM on October 23, 2011


Everyone is locked into the store at night off the clock; you get to sit there for 30 - 45 minutes until they decide to let you out.

Many years ago, I worked at Best Buy and they did this same thing. During the winter, they would give your jacket a perfunctory pat down (while you held it up, not while wearing it)They were very up-front that it was so that employees didn't steal stuff and made sure we knew where the fire exits were in case of some emergency.

Stores had a budget for "shrink" which included money lost to theft and if the store came in under that budget after the annual inventory, the employees got a a share of the difference (30% I think). More than one employee was caught stealing during my time there so we were somewhat okay with the practice.

There were cases where employees would clock out and then have to wait for a manager with keys to show up and let them out. It happened often enough that there was a class-action law suit. As a result, they moved the time-clocks up to right by the front door so employees didn't have to clock-out until just before they walked out the door and the managers got MUCH more responsive when they were called up front to let someone out. I imagine something similar will happen to Target.
posted by VTX at 4:31 PM on October 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think I have a ketchup problem.

You have a ketchup opportunity.

One thing I miss from early days CostCo is that the checkers used to be paid commission. This meant that the more they cleared through, the more they made. The end result? Those check out lanes were the fastest I'd ever seen. They worked in pairs - one emptied the contents of your cart directly into another cart while scanning intems. The other handled the payment and card nonsense.
posted by plinth at 4:32 PM on October 23, 2011


Although I seldom shop at CostCo and have never returned anything there, I do enjoy their returns policy, if only to see the line-up of people returning item N, which suggests to me item N may not be a great deal.

If it's a food item, it may be because they're also extremely up-front about recalls. I think the only time I returned such an item it was picking up a pack of hot dogs for camping and then finding out that they'd been recalled for contamination. Our Costco has a bulletin board with notices for these.

Otherwise, the generous return policy seems to encourage a lot of people to pick up a couple of sizes of a clothing item and then return the one that doesn't fit as well. People do this all the time, but they're keeping the other size, so not a "not a good deal" issue there.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:33 PM on October 23, 2011


I'm quite sure I missed something here, but....why would a store lock its employees in at night while they're off the clock? Are they *working* off the clock and locked in (and if so, how is that legal)?
posted by tristeza at 4:35 PM on October 23, 2011


You weren't sticking it to the union-busting staff-shitting-upon economic-imperialist man, you were ripping off honest aussie battlers like … um, Myer and Coles…

Now I feel terrible. I don't have the G.I. Joe guns any more...do you think I would make it up to them by running into a store screaming for mercy and waving about a real gun?
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:42 PM on October 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


I love CostCo. CostCo is great. I buy pants there every time I'm out visiting my parents in California (they usually have great discounts on Dockers).

Oh, wait. California, you said?

CostCo and WalMart don't serve the same populations. I live in a small village near Rochester, NY. WalMarts up the wazoo, but no CostCos. No CostCos in Rochester; no CostCos near Rochester, even in the pricier upscale suburbs like Pittsford. Nearest CostCo? In Canada, nearly sixty-seven miles away. Between border crossing, paying duty, and my general aversion to busting out a passport in order to stock up on paper towels, I'm not likely to be paying it a visit any time soon. I'm guessing that my area doesn't have a sufficient concentration of middle-to-upper-middle class residents to make it worth the company's while to come here. Which is another way of saying that for quite a lot of people, CostCo isn't an alternative to WalMart or Target, because it isn't there--and very likely won't be there, either.
posted by thomas j wise at 4:50 PM on October 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


I was an a manager of the electronics department at a Toys R Us for about half a year. This is exactly the same thing that they would do. They would employ almost every one they could as part-time so that when they made them clean up the shelves and everything else at night, they wouldn't have to pay overtime. You have to stay really, really, really late to get everything reset in the store. Then I left and went to be in a leadership position at an Old Navy store. Same thing happened there. I'll never work retail again in my life.

Also, the myth of seasonal retail workers being kept on after the holidays are over is complete B.S., because it just doesn't happen.
posted by GavinR at 4:56 PM on October 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


> you're right--sometimes unions can be good. one of my friends is in two unions: one for being a licensed plumber and one for the checkout job he had at the local grocery store. he told me the other day that the grocery store union does nothing for him--all they do is collect his check. the plumber's union? they give him health insurance and a whole host of other benefits. they even help him find work.

but these target employees--they're not going to get a high class plumbers union. they'll most likely get a small union that can't do much for them other then collect dues.
posted by lester at 4:58 PM on October 23, 2011


"These employees should stop bitching and instead use cellphone to secretly document these practices. Isn't this false imprisonment? Make sure you document every second they force you to work off the clock too."

And do what with it? Tell your mother? The employees arn't being detained exactly, the emergency exits don't lock. Working off the clock is against store policy and part of the problem is that that is strongly enforced in a kafka-esque way. The only legal answers to this are a union which can pay lawyers for a class action suit, or for a firm to take the risk and pay for the suit hoping to be paid with the proceeds. Neither seem available to these workers for systemic reasons.
posted by Blasdelb at 5:00 PM on October 23, 2011


I'd been boycotting Target for over a year, since the first anti-gay donation stuff came out. It really, really, really hurt to boycott Target -- I used to spend a buttload of money there. You know how you can't walk into Target for, like, laundry detergent and lightbulbs without also buying argyle knee socks and bath towels and lip gloss and dinner plates with monkeys on them and a copy of Super Troopers on DVD? Multiply that by 48 or so, because that's how many weekend visits I would probably make to Target in a year. So much money. Oh my god.

A couple of weekends ago I completely blew it. It was the perfect storm: I was in Portland (aka magical tax-free shopping land), I'd just gotten paid, I was all weepy and despondent after visiting a very very sick friend, and I was stoned. (I cope with grief by getting stoned in rental cars behind elementary schools. Don't judge me.) Somehow I ended up in a Target in some random part of Portland, wandering the aisles, crying silently and putting very many things in my handbasket. (This is a great way to have other shoppers give you a wide berth.)

Now I feel kind of guilty and ashamed. But these fucking bedsheets, man. They're so nice.
posted by palomar at 5:07 PM on October 23, 2011 [25 favorites]


(I did the same thing at Ikea a couple of hours later. Mea culpa, Portlandites.)
posted by palomar at 5:08 PM on October 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh, and here's and addition to my Toys R Us story. There was one guy who was really reliable and totally a solid worker who worked in the "warehouse" or actually the back storage area. Let's call him Jim for the purpose of this story. It was about ten years ago but Jim still did have a Walkman that he listened to when he worked because he was that old of a guy. He drove a motorcycle to work so wore a backpack to work to carry his lunch, Walkman, cassete tapes, and batteries . Whenever they locked the doors and then finally let us all go they pretty much did a search to see if anyone stole anything. Jim would buy his batteries from my department and get his 10% discount. One night during the lockdown search the manager went through his backpack and found batteries. Then he accused him of stealing them and the next day fired Jim. I protested but was told that the GM was told he needed to cut back on person and so he had to make a call. Retail is fucking cut-throat and just plain sleazy.
posted by GavinR at 5:10 PM on October 23, 2011


I wish I didn't have such a weakness for Target. And I wish Costco filled the same niche for me.

But I mostly buy clothing at Target. I would only buy clothing at Costco if I wanted to look like a frumpy geriatric retiree. Which I don't.

Plus the lighting in Costco triggers my migraines.
posted by Squeak Attack at 6:07 PM on October 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


No offense, Civil_Disobedient, but you sound kind of unhinged. The Gestapo? Stockholm syndrome? Really?

Well, the Gestapo comment was a reference to "Papers, please!", because of the photo ID requirement. I assume you're familiar with the phrase and its origins.

The Stockholm Syndrome quip was a reference to the people that patron Wal-Mart even though they acknowledge they're a product of a fundamentally broken system. The sort of folks that knowingly don their blinders and check their conscience at the entrance before setting foot inside.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:08 PM on October 23, 2011


I currently work at a Target store in Massachusetts. I do know about the "no work on your break" thing which is really weird because when else are you supposed to find an hr person to complain to about your schedule? Honestly, if you are clocked out they will not talk to you about work. So you have to come in early, or stay late and be on the clock, which is ok, I guess.
I don't work til close, so I can't speak to the getting locked in. What I can speak to is the absolute dysfunction of the HR department. My training from day one has been half-assed, and in the case of photo-lab safety, actually dangerous. (Despite what all of our materials from Kodak say, I am the only photo employee who wears safety gear when handling the chemicals. I was told I don't have to, but I am not keen on getting silver bearing chemicals in my eye. Or on the one pair of khakis I can afford right now).
I have a doctor's note forbidding me from working past a certain time, mainly because I need to be home taking my meds and getting in bed and not getting manic. I have had this note for weeks, but I still get scheduled past 9:30. Trying to figure out which of the 5 or 6 HR people is responsible is a part-time job in itself.
This is a horrible ramble, but this is such a major thing in my life right now. I come home after every shift with more reasons to hate Target and the people who shop there. Last week a woman returned 13 unopened bags of potato chips. We had to destroy them. Sometimes I'll be working an 8 hour cashiering shift and I start to get déjà vu, because the grocery order I'm ringing up for this family is almost identical to the grocery order I just rang up for that family. It's weird knowing that half the costumes I'll see on Halloween will be from Target, possibly ones I stuck in a bag myself.
I once said hey, I have a college degree, I'll never have to work retail again! Then I had to get a job at the mall after college. Then I said I have a Master's, I'll never have to work retail again! Yet here I am, almost 40, working at Target after a year of unemployment. I have a job opportunity that's about 95% ready to happen, and even though it's in my field I'll probably STILL have to keep a few hours a week at Target cause it's still not enough.
Ok, I guess I'm done complaining. If you have a chance, watch the hilarious anti-union video they make all employees watch. It's on YouTube.
posted by Biblio at 6:21 PM on October 23, 2011 [21 favorites]


You mean the locally owned businesses that are almost certainly all over wherever you live?

I think you are referring to all the locally-owned businesses that used to be all over the place until Walmart put them out of business. If a store loses 20% of its business to a competitor, it's usually history. A lot more than 20% of people will go to the cheapest outlet.


About unions: there are unions, and then there are "unions."

My first real job was in a book bindery whose employees were in the International Brotherhood of Bookbinders, AFL-CIO. That was a serious outfit. We worked really hard, but there was no bullshit about wages and hours - it was all out in the open. The company moved its business to Chicago while I was in the Army. so I had to find other work when I got back.

One of the jobs I took was at another bindery. It had a company union, which amounted to no union at all. When I started,there were three guys keeping the sewing machines loaded with work. This was heavy pile-it work; we didn't run the machines. One of the guys left, so there were two of us. Then the other guy left, and the boss had two guys doing a half-shift each to make up for that guy. Of course, each of them only did one-third of the work while they were there, so I did twice as much as when I started working there. The company "union" was useless. In that other bindery, stuff like that would never be allowed.

There are also some useless AFL-CIO unions, but that's too long a story.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:40 PM on October 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hate to break it to you, Civil_Disobedient, but I returned a shirt to Walmart a few weeks ago, without a receipt and they never even bothered to ask me for ID. I'll grant you, it wasn't a fifteen year old shirt, though. This kind of thing isn't all that uncommon with modern chain stores.


The Stockholm Syndrome quip was a reference to the people that patron Wal-Mart even though they acknowledge they're a product of a fundamentally broken system. The sort of folks that knowingly don their blinders and check their conscience at the entrance before setting foot inside.


Oh, wait. Yeah, kinda unhinged. I can see you're on a crusade.
posted by 2N2222 at 6:48 PM on October 23, 2011


He is making sense to me.

I was hanging out with a few union carpenters recently and one guy was busting my balls about owning a Honda. Another guy half-heartedly started in about how Japan was part of the Axis during WW II, yadda, yadda. I said to the first guy, "At least I don't shop at Wal Mart" and that brought the conversation to a halt. The second guy was like, "Dude, they are the fucking worst anti-union outfit going, how could you shop there?" Priceless.
posted by mlis at 7:14 PM on October 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


why wouldn't someone who is being held against his/her will just call the police and ask to be rescued?>

why would a store lock its employees in at night while they're off the clock? Are they *working* off the clock and locked in (and if so, how is that legal)?

It's called lockdown and it's just standard operating procedure, happens every night. It's when they clean out all the registers and reset the tills for the morning, or at least that's what they say it is, although in retrospect that's always done by tube anyway. Stilll, they say there is money moving through the store and thus everyone has to be locked in so they won't - steal the money they could have stolen during the day, I guess. Perhaps they are afraid that we'll just run amok, although after 9 hours of retail all your amok is pretty much used up. I never understood it. Anyway, when you're closing, you clock out and then run like hell for the entrance, which is about a football field away from the time clock (another small and nasty detail that means you always, always have to get there early and leave a little late) and hope you make it. If you don't make it out, which most people won't, because they can't leave their stations, before they announce lockdown you have to go sit in the breakroom and just wait. No, you can't clock back in or work off the clock - you must just sit there until the money is all safely locked up. There is an emergency exit in the breakroom; that's how it doesn't break fire codes. So it's 30 - 45 minutes, sometimes longer, of "your" time, that you're not being paid for, where you still cannot leave work.

The thing is, nobody, but nobody, questions this. It just is, as if it came down from Mt. Sinai and if you say, well, that's nuts, everyone just goes "Oh ha ha, you're such a kidder. Yeah, that's the way it is." End discussion. They'll bitch about the scheduling - you don't get your schedule until probably Thursday of the previous week, so forget appointments and plans - but none of the employees will say anything about lockdown. I guess it's just so awful it's better not to think of it. And, no, if there were other jobs around, believe me, I would not have been working there after 2 degrees and 15 years of non profit management experience.
posted by mygothlaundry at 7:14 PM on October 23, 2011 [11 favorites]


Oh, wait. Yeah, kinda unhinged. I can see you're on a crusade.

Are you really saying giving walmart money is morally defensible even if they weren't actively evil?
posted by cmoj at 7:15 PM on October 23, 2011


Anyway, the closest CostCo to me is two hours away, so it's not really an option.

Well, then you reach down, you reach way down, you grab a hold, and you get in yer fucking car, and you drive!

You drive, hear me?

You drive like a motherfucker, and you get yer ass to CostCo!

And by god, when yer done with those aisles, when you've done it right & proper, you'll swear the goddamn Holy Choir is singing you home. Every mile will be a blessing.

And if you can't do that, well, then I just guess yer gonna have to rot right there in your closet. Alone. In the dark. With no goddamn Holy Choir singing shit for you.
posted by aramaic at 7:25 PM on October 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


"...after 9 hours of retail all your amok is pretty much used up."
mygothlaundry, that is a great statement. Not funny, because having your amok used up is no laughing matter.
posted by Cranberry at 7:57 PM on October 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wish I could justify $50 to shop at Costco each year.

They still cost $50 a year, right?

Until I'm living on my own, I can't really justify that.
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:10 PM on October 23, 2011


Walking into the Washington, DC Costco feels like stepping into the other side of the Iron Curtain. Everybody's wearing red, there's nothing on the shelves, the lines are long, and nobody's happy.

Also, the existence of the "Ethnic Hair Care" asile makes me laugh and weep every time I see it, given that the store is located in a white-minority neighborhood.
posted by schmod at 8:44 PM on October 23, 2011


***into the DC Target

The Costco in Pentagon City is lovely, apart from its parking lot, which was evidently designed by Vogons.
posted by schmod at 8:46 PM on October 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


falameufilho: "This is pretty awesome, but honestly, it doesn't make any business sense at all. How much to they pay for an used item returned 15 years later? Sticker price?"

The "business sense" that it makes is that it gives people comfort that CostCo stands behind the quality of the products they're selling. It's a good-faith gesture that gives them an incentive to make sure your purchases are going to continue working. Contrast that with the alternative: the perverse incentive that stores with "normal" 30-day return policies would love for those products to break 31 days later so you'll have to buy a new one (not saying other stores always act on that incentive, but it's there).

CostCo's return policy also makes sense because in practice most people aren't going to try to return their dishwashers fifteen years later just so they can get a new one, but they'll sure as hell remember that they could have if something was actually wrong... so where do you think is going to be the first place they look for a new one?

Many major corporations seem to hold this poisonous, greedy, management-centric view of the world: employees and customers are the enemy, and they're always trying to keep you from the money that's rightfully yours. The truth is, when you treat your employees and customers like the enemy, they will act like the enemy. CostCo has some of the lowest shrinkage (inventory theft) rates in the industry and it's largely because everyone involved (management, employees, and customers) is on the same team; you don't screw over your teammates.
posted by Riki tiki at 9:01 PM on October 23, 2011 [8 favorites]


Potomac Yards Target is where it's at in the DC area (and Michelle Obama agrees with me!). This requires a car though.

I second Squeak Attack's point about the draw of Target being the clothes. I am a 27-year-old woman, and I am not buying clothes at Costco, sorry.
posted by naoko at 9:04 PM on October 23, 2011


No CostCo in Buffalo.
posted by oflinkey at 9:14 PM on October 23, 2011


mygothlaundry: It's called lockdown and it's just standard operating procedure, happens every night.

Jesus. In the mid-1990s I often worked the closing shift at The Real Canadian Superstore, and never experienced this. I wonder it was different company policy or maybe I'm just out of date.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 10:41 PM on October 23, 2011


It's funny. I had a Costco in my neighborhood (Chiba City, Japan) 10 years before the northern suburbs of Chicago finally got one. It's one of the things here that makes life a great deal easier than it would be otherwise. Sure, I can survive without tortillas, or cheese, but surviving isn't living.

A friend used to work at the Costco nearest to me, and as far as bad things, he said that they like to move people from department to department, instead of letting people just get used to one job. Sure, having people being able to do a variety of jobs is good, but his frustration was that when it was obvious that an employee was really good at one thing, but awful at another, they would keep switching them anyway. And that was about the worst thing. He worked at the customer service desk, and told me stories of the return policy. Most things that Japanese people don't buy tend to get dropped from their inventory, but for whatever reason, they still sell pumpkin pie (and whole turkeys, thank god) around Thanksgiving every year. The thing is, the spices in pumpkin pie are incredibly foreign to the Japanese palate, and my friend dealt with customer after customer returning partially eaten pies. The customer would tell him that the pie must be rotten, but, well, no, it was perfectly fine. Still, refunds were given for every pie.

Costco employees here have always been incredibly helpful (a company they'd contracted for shipping refused to deliver after 5pm, even though I'd arranged an evening delivery. Some employees actually delivered the freezer to my house, using their own van) to me, and most people who've shopped there. Very early on, I went there with a co-worker, and we started talking to a woman near the exit. She asked us if we needed a ride back to the train station, and we said yes, and waited with her for her husband, who turned out to be the guy in charge of expanding Costco in Japan. If my coworker hadn't been in the car, I remain nearly certain that I could have easily schmoozed my way into a job there. Definitely not a bad place to work.
posted by Ghidorah at 10:54 PM on October 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Man, we really don't like snark here, do we?

Gawker is over-the-top snarky news/gossip/celeb/liberal politicking. That's what they do. They may not "break" a ton of stories and you have to weed through their heaping sarcastic snark (which is part of why I love Gawker's writing) to get to the nuggets of truth, but they're primarily focused on aggregating news of interest, adding a bitchy/snarky bent, and letting you click through to read the story elsewhere.

The only part they broke was having commenters submit their own stories of awful Targetness. Grain of salt and all that.

But if you're reading Gawker as a news site instead of as a snarky blog news aggregator, you're doing it wrong.
posted by disillusioned at 11:03 PM on October 23, 2011


No CostCo in Buffalo.

Isn't there one in St. Catharines?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:15 PM on October 23, 2011


The retail boosterism in this thread is nauseating.

motherfuckers act like they forgot about K
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:26 AM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh yeah, clothing. I know this is at tension with the whole don't-buy-China thing, but if I'm going to buy jeans from China at $50 or $100 elsewhere, I think I'll get them from Costco for $10 instead.

Ok, I have to ask, how do you do this exactly?
I mean, Costco(at least mine) doesn't have dressing rooms, so how do you try clothes there?

Buy them, try them at home, if they don't fit, bring them back?
Sneak off to the bathroom and use a stall?
Just slap them on right there next to the books?
posted by madajb at 1:56 AM on October 24, 2011


My older son quit Wal-Mart to take a job at Target. He says it was a mistake, Wal-Mart is a better place to work. Who knew?

Well it depends on if the sexual harassment is verbal only or physical. But yeah...
posted by hal_c_on at 2:49 AM on October 24, 2011


I second Squeak Attack's point about the draw of Target being the clothes. I am a 27-year-old woman, and I am not buying clothes at Costco, sorry.

Umm I've bought clothes from Costco. Really nice hoodies, quality denim, and lots of shirts.

I think your argument is the same I had with my parents when I was 13. "I am 13 years old and am not wearing clothes from kmart".
posted by hal_c_on at 2:51 AM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


At my store at least, the time clock is right near the back, employee only door. Nobody checks your bag or last you down...at least during regular hours. As I said, I don't know about closing.
posted by Biblio at 4:14 AM on October 24, 2011


I second Squeak Attack's point about the draw of Target being the clothes. I am a 27-year-old woman, and I am not buying clothes at Costco, sorry.

I got a Lacoste polo shirt at Costco for $50. That stuff is like $90, anywhere else. Do you know how often Lacoste discounts its polo shirts? Never.
posted by Comrade_robot at 4:21 AM on October 24, 2011


All these comments about retail, and no mention of Trader Joe's?

(Yes, I know they only sell food, but still...)
posted by Sir Cholmondeley at 5:10 AM on October 24, 2011


Costcos in New York

116th Street Manhattan
Brooklyn
Commack
Holbrook
Lawrence
Melville
Nanuet
Nesconset
New Rochelle
Port Chester
Queens
Rego Park
Staten Island
Westbury
Yonkers

UFCW 1500???
posted by mikelieman at 5:24 AM on October 24, 2011


Target's coming to Canada.

Oh no. I suppose it'll be the death knell of Zellers if it does. Which is where I shop. Although it has a lot of the same issues as other big box retailers, at least it's Canadian and not as evil as Wal-Mart.
posted by orange swan at 5:30 AM on October 24, 2011


I'm not surprised by these stories, and I'm now amused at people being all shocked about the anti-gay donations because Target was supposed to be some relatively non-evil alternative to Wal-Mart. I worked as a janitor there over twenty years ago, not for Target themselves but for a sub-contractor, and it was possibly the most demeaning employment experience that I've ever had. Every night, they wrote down what we were wearing, including the color, down to our socks--they skipped our underwear, but in the back of my mind I knew they really wanted to check that, too--and then checked the same when we clocked out in the morning. And, yes, they could be complete dicks about taking their sweet time letting us out in the morning, amazingly passive-aggressive given that they clearly didn't want filthy janitors hanging around when they opened. They'd even have security stay overnight with us sometimes; they never announced our presence, but we could hear them crossing the store to follow us in their little catwalk above the suspended ceiling sometimes. In the several months that I worked there before I talked my employer into transferring me to an office cleaning account (it was so much better of a work experience, I can't begin to tell you), not one of our guys got busted; it was always their people. And none of us ever wanted to work directly for them, because we know they had it worse, in a lot of ways.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:45 AM on October 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Orange Swan, Target actually purchased a whole bunch of leaseholds from Zellers in order to get a foothold in Canada (press release).
posted by sevenyearlurk at 6:20 AM on October 24, 2011



Hate to break it to you, Civil_Disobedient, but I returned a shirt to Walmart a few weeks ago, without a receipt and they never even bothered to ask me for ID. I'll grant you, it wasn't a fifteen year old shirt, though. This kind of thing isn't all that uncommon with modern chain stores.


I'll do you one better: I returned a car battery with a three-year warranty to Walmart after two years and they didn't even ask for a receipt. They just told me to pick up another one off the shelves and waved me goodbye as I went out.


The things you can get are surprisingly reasonable. When my mom was still alive and I lived with her, we'd go to CostCo every once in a while and it was only slightly larger than a regular supermarket trip for the both of us, and I can't recall any buying anything larger than necessary because it didn't come in a smaller size.
posted by griphus at 4:21 PM on October 23


CostCo is one of the biggest lies in marketing right now. They claim to have the lowest prices, but only because the products in their stores are packaged uniquely for them, and are not available in those sizes or quantities anywhere else. For example, Tide detergent is available in Costco only in 170oz or larger, but Walmart and elsewhere don't carry a 170, they carry a 150.

But once you start comparison shopping based on unit price across the basket of goods you or your family use, you discover that Costco is slightly more expensive than Walmart before taking the $50 annual fee into account. If you factor in an intelligent shopping route (e.g. paper towels, toilet paper from Target, detergent from Walmart, etc.) you can do much much better.

Costco makes a big deal that they limit the markup to 15%, but this is actually bad for the consumer. The way modern retailing works, the customer is offered an at-cost or even below cost item to entice them into the store where they also buy impulse and trade-up brands and pay more. This is the case with endcaps, which are usually commodity goods on sale for less than that particular brand is, but for more than a competing brand is currently selling for in the aisle.
posted by Pastabagel at 6:30 AM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]



I got a Lacoste polo shirt at Costco for $50. That stuff is like $90, anywhere else. Do you know how often Lacoste discounts its polo shirts? Never.
posted by Comrade_robot at 7:21 AM on October 24M



Lacoste Polo Shirt, $39 at Macy's


Lacoste Polo Shirts under $50.

Polo shirts of nearly identical quality and color, for $4.97

And this is only after about 35 seconds of work. I'm quite confident that if I put an hour into this, I can find exactly the same shirt you got at costco (regardless of which shirt it is) for 33% less than you paid at costco.
posted by Pastabagel at 6:37 AM on October 24, 2011


And if you need an explanation, here it is: there is no intellectual property protecting fashion designs. You can literally by a pair of $90 designer jeans, take it home, reproduce the stitching exactly, and it is perfectly legal to sell it, as long as you don't also copy the trademarked logo. There are entire cities in China devoted to this, and entire strip malls in the US devoted to selling them to you. And if that little alligator is that important to you, there is always ebay.
posted by Pastabagel at 6:42 AM on October 24, 2011


Yeah, and next time I need an XXS Lilac shirt, I'll be sure to go ahead and order that one.
posted by Comrade_robot at 6:43 AM on October 24, 2011


I'm sorry, that might have been a little snippy. Look, if you want to argue that designer clothes are stupid, well, fine, OK, maybe they are a little silly. However, 'designer clothes are stupid' is a completely different argument than 'Costco gave me a good price on this specific shirt'. If you want to be all 'Why didn't you buy the functionally equivalent generic brand shirt sitting right next to it for $10!" Well, I did that too. I don't like those shirts as much, though.

Believe me, I would love nothing more than to find the shirt in question for 33% less than I paid at Costco. I have tried. The eBay price is somewhere around $50-$55 new, and many of those are obviously counterfeit. Maybe I'm not super good at extreme couponing or whatever.
posted by Comrade_robot at 7:19 AM on October 24, 2011


But once you start comparison shopping based on unit price across the basket of goods you or your family use, you discover that Costco is slightly more expensive than Walmart before taking the $50 annual fee into account.

While I don't have a Costco close enough to actually shop at, I'd rather pay slightly more to a place that I know pays/treats their employees well, then get the absolute best deal available.
posted by drezdn at 7:21 AM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Last week a woman returned 13 unopened bags of potato chips. We had to destroy them.

Why?

But once you start comparison shopping based on unit price across the basket of goods you or your family use, you discover that Costco is slightly more expensive than Walmart before taking the $50 annual fee into account. If you factor in an intelligent shopping route (e.g. paper towels, toilet paper from Target, detergent from Walmart, etc.) you can do much much better.

Well, if you don't value your time and the extra trip to a second or third store doesn't increase your gas usage.
posted by jeather at 7:26 AM on October 24, 2011


That locking people in at work sounds like a class action plaintiff's attorney's wet dream.
posted by dpx.mfx at 7:36 AM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why?

Tampering. I don't know about anyone else, but I would never shop somewhere I knew they were putting returned food back on the shelf, open or not.

(I mean, I'm sure I already do, but I don't know about it.)
posted by griphus at 8:20 AM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Umm I've bought clothes from Costco. Really nice hoodies, quality denim, and lots of shirts.

I think your argument is the same I had with my parents when I was 13. "I am 13 years old and am not wearing clothes from kmart".


Ok, I'm probably going to be sorry I started this digression, but...you're a guy, and so I don't think that's really the same. Women's clothes have a lot more variety, and are also more susceptible to trends (yes this is silly, but it is also true). Not only that, but I think that the clothing considered appropriate for your age changes a lot more from decade to decade(-ish) than it does for men. My three brothers (18, 21, 24) and my dad and my grandpa could all wear pretty much the same things in different sizes and they'd all look great. If my sisters and my mom and my grandma and I did the same thing, someone would probably look ridiculous. I do not think that Costco caters to the average 20-something's fashion tastes in the way that Target does.

As for hoodies and denim: hoodies and denim are fine and all (although, as a woman, finding good jeans is a more tricky prospect). I'm a grad student right now, so I wear a lot of hoodies and denim. But for a few years there I was a professional person who had to dress like a grown-up, and with the exception of a very small number of quality, classic pieces from Ann Taylor and the like, the bulk of my work wardrobe came from places like H&M and...Target. Because they carry the sort of things that a 20-something might wear to work. I'm not denying that you can't find ANYTHING like this at Costco - I'm sure you can. I'm sure there are indeed Lacoste polos (which are not really my style, but certainly nice) and other 20-something-woman-acceptable things to be found at Costco. But if anyone is really trying to claim that on average, the Costco clothes selection has in mind the same demographic as the Target one, you are just off your rocker.

I don't care about designer clothes - clearly, since I shop at Target (or used to - I wouldn't say I've got a full-on boycott going, but I have definitely reduced the frequency of my visits a lot since the whole anti-gay thing). When I see something cute at Costco, or Kmart (yes I have shopped at Kmart), or even Walmart, I might buy it. It's not my fault that they are just less likely than Target to carry things that are cute.
posted by naoko at 8:29 AM on October 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


I think I have a ketchup problem.

I used to live in an apartment building with storage units downstairs that were separated by chain link fencing. The person next to me had a steel shelving unit FULL of ketchup. Like 40 bottles per shelf, so maybe 160 total? I wish I could have checked the expiration dates, because I can't imagine what on EARTH you could use that much ketchup for in your entire life. These were studio apartments, so he didn't have kids or roommates.

Now THAT is a ketchup problem.
posted by desjardins at 8:43 AM on October 24, 2011


I once thought about joining Costco here.

I went through and took photos of everything I thought I might buy there and the price.
Then I compared it to Target and the local grocery store I shop at.

Costco was definitely more expensive. And I like organic stuff, which they do have, but on the average, they were more expensive at a per unit cost. Kind of the opposite of the bulk aisle at the grocery store where I can get nuts and craisins for a much lower per pound cost than buying pre-packaged. But at Costco it seemed to be more.

It's not that they didn't have stuff I wanted, it was just definitely more expensive and didn't come in less packaging. It actually had MORE packaging because of the shrink wrap and/or large outer container that held two or more small containers. (The Costco TP came in a large package - but each roll was individually wrapped. Whereas I could buy a slightly smaller package, same brand, at Target for less per sq foot that was not individually wrapped.)

Maybe it's good for electronics or something, but I don't buy them often enough to justify a membership.
posted by sio42 at 8:44 AM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


But once you start comparison shopping based on unit price across the basket of goods you or your family use, you discover that Costco is slightly more expensive than Walmart before taking the $50 annual fee into account.

Wel, I don't know about wal*mart because I don't shop there, but I can tell you that in the price war between Costco and the other grocery stores in my town(including the discount grocery) the victor is, it depends.

Costco chicken is a least a dollar a pound cheaper (and usually the rest of the meat is, as well). Peanut butter is cheaper, but it is all too often chunky-style. Milk is cheaper, but it comes in those annoying cartons, so we can't buy it there. Cottage cheese is miles cheaper as is yogurt.
The grocery stores win on bread and on cereal (with Trader Joe's a surprising winner there). Pasta and tomato sauce is generally a wash. Paper products tend to come out in favor of the grocery stores.
Gas used to be a big win for Costco, but now that I drive a diesel, it's not an advantage anymore.

So, yeah, comparison shopping is generally a good strategy, no matter what, but as long as you don't wander the aisles, randomly buying a paper shredder here and a 3 volume book on birds there, Costco can provide good value.
posted by madajb at 8:49 AM on October 24, 2011


It's worth it to factor in time and gas into the price as well. Stopping at 3 stores to spend 10% less may not be worth it. To stop at the Sam's Club and Costco nearest my house, it would be 65 miles round trip or 90 minutes according to Google. Figure at least an hour in each store and we're looking at 3 and a half hours to save 10%. If I just went to Sam's club, it's a 20 mile/40 minute roundtrip.

For $7 gas and 1 hour 40 minutes more of my life - I'll pay 10% more.
posted by desjardins at 9:04 AM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


As a yout' in Minnesota, Target was the clean, bright, and cheap subsidiary of the more stuffy Dayton's department store chain. For many people, a Dayton's charge card was their first credit, which they used at Target. They were sorta-local, and we loved them.

Now I live on the East Coast. I was delighted when the familiar bulls-eye sign rose above the land. Yet this past year my wife bought me a bag of M&Ms which, when I noticed they tasted weirdly of plastic, the M&M-Mars company told me was made in 2009. The local Target customer service desk kind of shrugged, while the M&M-Mars people immediately expressed suprise/contrition and sent me a bunch of coupons...and an envelope to send it back to them.

I think a remodel of the store tuned up this candy, and it was simply tossed onto the shelf. Ironically, said remodel was to add access to more food. I don't think so!
posted by wenestvedt at 9:20 AM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I worked at a Target for three years around the turn of the Willenium. While I didn't feel exploited at the time, it wasn't the most enjoyable place to work in the world. Probably the most annoying part (and best for me... in the end) was their tendency to hire people from outside to fill positions instead of promoting from within.

The part that hurt me the most was their policies about closing shifts during the Christmas season. In general, if you're scheduled to close at Target, you don't leave until the store is tidy. During the Christmas season, that can mean staying until 2 or 3 in the morning. The money is good, but I was completely unprepared for balancing that and my 15 credit course load in college.

I'll also never forget the Assests Protection guy who thought it should be illegal for customers to buy and resell clearance items at a profit.
posted by drezdn at 9:39 AM on October 24, 2011


Now (at least for another week), I'm still working retail but it's for a bookstore. The company really cares for their employees, but they've been infected by the same tendency to hire temp employees to cut down on benefit costs.
posted by drezdn at 9:41 AM on October 24, 2011


Yet this past year my wife bought me a bag of M&Ms which, when I noticed they tasted weirdly of plastic, the M&M-Mars company told me was made in 2009.

Was this Target in a poorer area of town? There was a scandal a few years ago where years-old Coke products were dumped on poorer areas (I'm not sure if this involved Target or not; may have been grocery stores).
posted by desjardins at 9:48 AM on October 24, 2011


As a yout' in Minnesota, Target was the clean, bright, and cheap subsidiary of the more stuffy Dayton's department store chain. For many people, a Dayton's charge card was their first credit, which they used at Target. They were sorta-local, and we loved them.

And then they broke our hearts. First, they took over Marshall Field's, then changed all the branding from the Dayton's and Hudson's to that. Then the big department store side was sold to larger firms, and everything became Macy's. I think there's still a protest movement in Chicago over the name change.

Target is still clean and bright. Odd how it, Best Buy, and the Geek Squad were all invented in the same state.
posted by ZeusHumms at 9:53 AM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I know we have to destroy stuff because of tampering, I get that. But some of the things we destroy have clearly not been opened. Some haven't even left the store, and are bing returned because, say, a customer looked at her receipt and realized there wasn't a sale on those cookies after all.

Just a head's up, but Target's return policy is changing. I'm not sure when, but supposedly it's a shorter period of time. It's currently 90 days.

Oh and I totally would have refunded for those M&Ms!
posted by Biblio at 10:31 AM on October 24, 2011


Lacoste Polo Shirt, $39 at Macy's

Lacoste Polo Shirts under $50.

Polo shirts of nearly identical quality and color, for $4.97

And this is only after about 35 seconds of work. I'm quite confident that if I put an hour into this, I can find exactly the same shirt you got at costco (regardless of which shirt it is) for 33% less than you paid at costco.
posted by Pastabagel at 6:37 AM on October 24 [+] [!]


You do realize that the first link ONLY had pink shirts at that price at Macys.

Your second link is a google search that yielded no results. Congrats!

Your third link is a pink or yellow shirt at large, xl, or xxl.

So yeah...your 35 secs of search is not really relevant.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:20 AM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


As a gay man who appreciates the value of unions, I wish Target would stop giving me reasons to keep boycotting it.

What does that have to do with being gay?
posted by hal_c_on at 11:22 AM on October 24, 2011


What does that have to do with being gay?

I would think it's because Target has specifically donated money to anti-gay political candidates.
posted by drezdn at 11:25 AM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


desjardins: "I used to live in an apartment building with storage units downstairs that were separated by chain link fencing. The person next to me had a steel shelving unit FULL of ketchup. Like 40 bottles per shelf, so maybe 160 total? I wish I could have checked the expiration dates, because I can't imagine what on EARTH you could use that much ketchup for in your entire life. These were studio apartments, so he didn't have kids or roommates."

Back during my stint as a driver/supplier for restaurants and delis (shudder), I had several crates of salad dressing, ketchup, and other condiments in my garage.

It was virtually impossible to buy the stuff in wholesale quantities that made sense to even the largest of restaurants. There was virtually no happy medium between buying individual pieces at retail price, and buying an entire pallet of the stuff.

Even those enormous 10-gallon tubs of salad dressing/mayo were impossible to purchase on their own. The warehouses made you buy 4, or pay a ridiculous markup to split the pack. Even though most of this stuff doesn't perish quickly, most places simply don't have room to stock a year's worth of ketchup and salad dressing. (More horrifying were the restaurants who did manage to consume that much mayo every week...)

Thus, it was a very profitable enterprise for us to buy large pallets of certain items, split them up, and resell them to customers on our route at a less-ridiculous markup. It was a win-win for everybody (except for the guy who hated the business, where "normal" business practices make Target look practically saintly by comparison, quit, and ended up with a pallet of ketchup in his garage)

So, if I had to guess, your neighbor was an independent foodservice supplier.
posted by schmod at 11:39 AM on October 24, 2011


You guys clearly don't live on an island. Our local grocery stores are usually 2x to 3x the price of the same stuff at Costco, which makes it worth the trip for us. And even if Costco was 10% more, I'd still shop there because they pay their people living wages. This is the classic definition of putting your money where your mouth is.
posted by maxwelton at 12:31 PM on October 24, 2011


Just to second madajb, my parents have a dog who needs a special diet, meaning that they have to buy shit tons of skinless chicken breasts. Costco is by far the cheapest option for them, aside from the Eastern Market (but still cheaper when you factor in distance from my folks, about 35 miles).

They end up buying a bunch of other stuff there too, and their liquor and beer prices can't be beaten. Anyone can drink a case of beer, so it's not like you have to get a flat.

They're also pretty good for what I think of as standard, nondescript clothes. I've got a pal that essentially kits himself out with t-shirt and jeans, socks and briefs, and ends up with better quality stuff than he'd get at Target (whose Merona line seems to have gone downhill over the years). It's kinda drab, but he's a dude and it works for him.
posted by klangklangston at 12:31 PM on October 24, 2011


So, if I had to guess, your neighbor was an independent foodservice supplier.

Much less interesting than being a ketchup fetishist, but simultaneously kind of reassuring.
posted by desjardins at 12:32 PM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Excuse the Lifehacker/Gawker link (but LH is the least-evil site on the Gawknet), but here's how to shop at CostCo without paying the $50 (about to be raised to $55) membership fee. I'm seriously considering letting my membership lapse and instead investing in some $10 CostCo Gift Cards, but weighing it against the fact that some of my savings come from the monthly coupon books they send members.

When I had a car, the CostCo card was the best way to ensure getting the lowest price for gasoline in the area, but usually not by more than 2 cents a gallon, which wouldn't nearly pay for the membership unless I drove over 50,000 miles a year - which I didn't. (And most of the time there were lines for every pump - not as bad at the San Luis CostCo as the ones in L.A., but still, it was a 1970's Oil Crisis flashback every fill-up)

Still, a pack of two 28-ounce jars of Nutela for less than two 14-ounce jars would cost in Target, Walmart or the supers seriously enables my chocolate addiction.

I was actually somewhat surprised that when Target finally put a store in San Luis Obispo, they located it directly across the street from CostCo.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:38 PM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


there is no intellectual property protecting fashion designs. You can literally by a pair of $90 designer jeans, take it home, reproduce the stitching exactly, and it is perfectly legal to sell it

Misinformation. While it is generally easier to protect a song or an iPhone app than a blouse, fashion apparel can be protected under U.S. law, to some degree, under trade dress registration, design patents and, sometimes, utility patent registration. And fabric patterns are registerable under copyright law.
posted by applemeat at 1:28 PM on October 24, 2011


A suggestion to Costco users whose average weekly spending exceeds $75.00:
Buy the Executive membership for 75 bucks and the 2% rebate will more than pay the cost of your membership. My rebate last year was $160.00.
posted by buggzzee23 at 2:46 PM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I work at Target. It's pretty okay, but I'm also in it for a short-term part time thing between undergrad and (hopefully) grad school. I had to watch a really cheesy anti-union propaganda video as part of my orientation (a slightly updated version of the one that made the Internet rounds this summer). In my state, the "no working off the clock" thing is a question of state law, not corporate policy. Although I regularly skip my legally-mandated paid 15 minute breaks, this is usually a matter of personal choice, not something I'm pressured to do by management. The management at my store is decent, but occasionally annoying, as managers often are. I don't make enough money to live on, but I'm not trying to either. Some of my coworkers live off of their Target incomes. Other coworkers struggle to get by.

There are some things I really like about my job -- I don't have to worry about covering up my tattoo, their employment non-discrimination policy protects sexual orientation, and my former supervisor was recently terminated because of, among other things, using anti-gay slurs. There are some things I dislike about my job. I can understand why some Target employees want unions. I would probably join a union if one was available at my store, but things aren't anywhere near bad enough to drive me to organize.

My job is pretty similar to this one, but my shifts are generally shorter. I would say that what that person writes about the job in general is pretty accurate, although the specifics are obviously different between my store and his. Target is a well-oiled software machine, although there are plenty of inefficiencies that makes things annoying at times.

Basically, like some people have said... working at Target is like working pretty much any other job. Aspects of it are probably less evil than Wal-Mart, but corporate America is, ultimately, corporate America.
posted by naturalog at 8:45 PM on October 24, 2011


Here's my scoreboard:

Undies and Bras
Stockings and tights
Toiletries and first aid and such
Minor housewares
-----Target

Meat
Hooch
TP and PT and deterge, yer bulk filth kit stuff
Kitchen appliances
Apple Pie
------Costco (seriously, best apple pie you can buy. I swear one Thanksgiving it's gonna be a Costco bourbon and a pie for me.)

I am a big-time bargain shopper. I get the balance of things from Amazon Student, some from TJ's (mayo, sea salt dark chocolate almonds) and lots for Craigslist or thrift stores (which are great around here).

I get my parentheses from my ass.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:38 PM on October 24, 2011


I get the balance of things from Amazon Student...

Where did I see a story about how Amazon treats its employees? Oh, yeah, MetaFilter.

I'd choose working at a Target store over an Amazon warehouse anyday.
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:10 PM on October 24, 2011


I regularly skip my legally-mandated paid 15 minute breaks, this is usually a matter of personal choice

Why do people do this? Unless you're, say, working for a non-profit or performing a public service (in which case it still shouldn't be a regular thing as staving off burnout is worthwhile, too), rushing to be the most self-sacrificing doesn't help anybody.
posted by asperity at 5:44 AM on October 25, 2011


Why do people do this?

In retail, sometimes you get assigned to do a project that has to be finished that day and you're the only one assigned to/able to do it. Unfortunately, there's no way to finish the project in the time given. It comes down to looking slow/bad employee for not finishing the project or working through a break/off the clock.
posted by drezdn at 6:14 AM on October 25, 2011


I used to work in retail and fast food, and sometimes I had momentum on a task that I didn't want to lose by taking a break. You can't really do anything in 15 minutes anyway, except smoke or scarf down some food.
posted by desjardins at 7:57 AM on October 25, 2011


It's the part about "regularly" that gets me. "Sometimes" happens, and that's fine, but "regularly" is not so good, and shifts workplace culture to a place where working without respite is expected. (And in plenty of places, it really is -- but if you're lucky enough to work in a place with mandated breaks, why make it worse for everyone?)

I totally disagree about not getting anything done in a 15 minute break. Tip: set an alarm! That way you don't waste your valuable break time worrying about whether you'll be late getting back from it, and can absorb yourself in your book, or crocheting, or both at once if you really want to maximize that time. (What, you didn't bring something to do? Well, clearly then you'll have to muck about checking your work schedule while on your break and get busted by your HR person, and then tell Gawker about it.)
posted by asperity at 9:14 PM on October 25, 2011


Oh, I almost forgot my stock Target joke.

I live in Ventura, a lazy exurb north of LA with 100,000 inhabitants. We've got an unimportant, small-town vibe. And, less than a mile apart, two Targets.

Ventura: We Have Two Targets! You Can't Miss!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 8:54 PM on October 26, 2011


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