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- Target prides itself on being an extraordinarily customer-centric retailer, but some shoppers push that too far, according to workers.
- “We’re not fans of the word ‘no,'” one employee told Insider, a sentiment echoed by several others.
- They say customer issues are compounded when stores reduce staffing levels but increase responsibilities.
In an episode of the animated show “SpongeBob SquarePants,” one of the characters recalls the excellent service he had at a fancy hotel and noted the establishment had a golden motto engraved on the wall: “We shall never deny a guest even the most ridiculous request.”
At Target, where shoppers are referred to as “guests,” one worker in Texas said that motto would be right at home.
“We’re not fans of the word ‘no.’ That’s kind of the culture that we have at Target,” the worker said, a sentiment echoed by workers from four more states who spoke with Insider. Four of the five workers requested anonymity in order to speak candidly, and Insider has verified their identities.
A common refrain was that while each employee took great personal pride in delivering exceptional service, the company can be overly reluctant to inconvenience a guest or push back against bad behavior. That leaves workers feeling stuck.
“The eggshells that we walk on is incredible at Target, and what sometimes you have to tell the guests is no,” the Texas worker said. “Sometimes the guest is wrong.”
Target representatives did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment on this subject.
Adam Ryan, a backroom worker in Virginia and organizer with Target Workers Unite, said that providing the level of customer engagement the company expects is increasingly difficult as stores operate with leaner staffing and more services are introduced like drive-up returns, slated to begin this spring.
“If we’re getting pulled in multiple directions at the same time, you’re gonna have to cut corners in that process to be able to get the work done,” Ryan said.
“They’re trying to make it even more convenient for people to want to come shop at Target, but that’s coming at the expense of the workers,” he added. “This isn’t translating into higher wages for workers — it’s not translating into more staff for the stores.”
A service team lead in California said that even though Target’s wages are better than the norm in retail – its average is about $17 per hour – lean staffing and an emphasis on performance metrics puts a lot of pressure on everyone in the store.
“I feel like they’re just trying to squeeze us out of a rag when it comes to hours and work efficiency, where we’ll work as thin as possible to achieve the metrics that we’re supposed to be achieving,” he said.
And when overstretched workers are met with impatient customers, tempers can flare.
Employees in Michigan and Oklahoma each described dealing with customers yelling at or harassing them in the parking lot as they attempted to fulfill drive-up orders.
A service team lead in Michigan said one customer told her, “I hope you slip and die,” when she informed the customer that curbside pick-up was interrupted due to sub-zero winter weather.
“I’m glad it was me she was yelling at and not my team members,” the employee said.
Some guests “really go after you,” a drive-up worker in Oklahoma said. “They want to try and get you fired.”
To be sure, the negative experiences reflect a tiny percentage of the hundreds of positive or neutral ones in a given week, the Oklahoma worker said, “but it’s the one negative that just grates on you.”
“I don’t think guests realize just exactly how they’re coming across to us and how privileged it all feels,” the Oklahoma worker said.
“I think everyone should have to have the experience of either working in retail or working at a restaurant,” she added. “Everyone should be required to work at one of those jobs for at least a year to fully understand what it is that we do.”
If you are a Target worker who would like to share your perspective, please get in touch with Dominick via email. Responses will be kept confidential and Insider strongly recommends using a personal email and a non-work device when reaching out.