Tuesday, January 6, 2015

An Open Letter to Target: Stop Badgering Me About the REDCard!

The following is an open letter to the Target Corporation. Hopefully, someone within their corporate body will see this message. If not, then perhaps it will make the rounds on the internet in a viral manner. If you're reading this letter, please share it. Either way, my point will have been made.


Dear Target,

Please stop asking me if I want your REDCard.

Your associates are forced to ask me if I want to sign up for your REDCard -- sometimes two, three or even four times in one visit. No matter what department I try to complete a purchase, I always manage to hear the following.

"Would you like to sign up for our Target REDCard and save 5% off your purchase?"

Seriously... please stop.

Let me explain why I don't want your card.

In essence, your Target REDCard acts as an unnecessary middleman between my bank account and me. Instead of simply paying for my purchase via cash or my personal debit card, you want me to jump through ANOTHER hoop to pay for something. Why would I need a separate debit card that's only good at one retailer? I already have a debit card from my credit union that works just fine. I swipe my debit card at any location that accepts VISA, enter my PIN and I'm done. I get my item and you get your payment.

Most people with half a brain would ask... "Gee, why does Target want to be a middleman between my bank account and me?"

The answer is simple. By being the middleman in a purchase, you get to collect personal information about who I am and what kind of products I regularly purchase. This information is used by you, as well as the other corporate affiliates you share data with. If one were to carefully read the fine print in the REDCard's privacy policy, they would discover this important piece of information. Then again, you're banking on customers to never read the privacy policy. Most customers won't, which your lawyers and accountants have carefully predicted. By superseding the established relationship I have with my bank or credit union, you carefully insert yourself as the new intermediary in my wallet. To be quite honest, I'm just not comfortable with that scenario.

Alas, let's not forget that supposed 'generous' 5% purchase rebate you afford all customers with the REDCard. First, let's get one thing straight -- 5% is pathetic. For every one dollar I spend with your corporation, you only want to return five measly cents? I can find five cents on the ground in your parking lot! Let's expand this notion to a larger purchase. Say I spend fifty dollars in your store. That would equate to a $2.50 rebate off my total purchase. The sacrifice of my personal information for a few dollars is not worth it. If I genuinely need to save a tiny, almost ineffective amount off a purchase, I'll use a coupon. I'll wait until an item goes on sale. I'll wait until the regular price drops. I'll wait until the item is clearanced. Again -- your 5% rebate is insulting. We both know my personal information and shopping data is worth a considerable amount more than any 5% rebate. The data that is mined from personal shopping and expenditures has become, as the World Economic Forum calls it, a new asset class. In layman's terms, that means my data is worth big bucks to you. It helps you learn how to make me give you more of my personal wealth.

Perhaps the more human and tangible issue I have with your incessant asking is the interaction experience with your associates. To begin with, I'm going to provide you with the honest truth about what your own associates feel about the REDCard.

Your associates absolutely HATE pressuring customers about the REDCard every time they want to complete a purchase.

I've spoken with multiple Target employees, both in private and off the clock. They will remain anonymous for the sake of their jobs. The day-in and day-out badgering they are forced to comply with to remain employed is degrading. When I use the word 'badgering', I mean it literally. I am badgered by your unwilling employees to sign up for a service I neither want nor need. As one employee informed me, a customer must decline interest in the REDCard three times in one encounter for the associate to relinquish their corporate-mandated assault! Let me be clear. I place no fault upon the associates I encounter; their compliance is forced in order to stay gainfully employed. The Target Corporation is completely at fault for this rude and hounding behavior.

If I want your REDCard, I will ask you about it. Your endless stream of flyers, signs and advertisements are enough to let me know that the REDCard is available. Should I decide I want the service (which I won't), then I will approach one of your associates about signing up, not the other way around.

According to a study completed by the U.S. Department of Education in 2014, only 14% of the American adult population is either mostly or totally unable to read. That means, under the worst possible conditions, 7 out of every 50 customers that walk through your doors may not be able to read the flyers, signs and advertisements I mentioned previously. Your most likely response to that fact would be...

"We ask all our customers about the REDCard at every opportunity because not everyone has the same ability to read."

My response to that position would be this -- if a person can't read, should they really be signing up for a debit card? I think not.

I've said my peace on this matter. The endless bullying about the REDCard is boorish and upsetting. Your employees feel terrible asking about signing customers up. If I feel pity for anyone in this fiasco, it is your associates. Please rethink your REDCard marketing strategy. As it currently stands, you are pushing customers away.


Jared A. Manning


References for the information I used in this letter:

1 comment:

  1. Cashier here. I usually don't badger and don't have a particularly high conversion rate but I do slip the words Red Card and 5% off somewhere in the casual greeting conversation, If you have heard the spiel 50 times while making $50 purchases this year, it adds up to $125. So while 5% may not significant it does add up. The 1% that is donated to the school of your choice may seem even less significant but the top 5 schools in the area average about $4000 a year from Target. Personally I don't care if Target knows how often I buy eggs, or which brand clothes I am more likely to buy. I disclose the data gathering aspect when asked why target offers the discount, along with Target saves on transaction fees (because without the card customers are more likely to process the transaction as a non Target credit card). I've never heard the ask each guest a minimum of 3 times per visit mandate. I've never been asked to ask more than once but am strongly encouraged to ask every guest.

    I certainly don't dispute that the Red Card isn't for everyone but there are those who are more than casual shoppers who benefit from $100-$500 in savings every year.