Right On, Target!

“We are prepared for insults, but compliments leave us baffled.” 
Mason Cooley
It wasn’t my first choice, but the line at Starbucks where I’d met a client

Naturally occurring fold in bag made a Target happy face

to discuss new PR efforts was too long, and the drive home longer still. So begrudgingly I entered the second stall in the drab bathroom at Target on Commerce Way in Woburn.  The minced remains of the last occupant’s toilet paper waved at me like albino seaweed.  Typical low-flow toilets. 

While engaged in my quest for the least objectionable option, I heard the crackle of an employee’s walkie-talkie.  “Thanks for doing that, you did a great job, and customers will like seeing it!”  The occupant left without my ever seeing her, but I did hear that she washed her hands and blew them dry before exiting.  A good sign, I always listen for.  Now I was intrigued.  I didn’t know what “that” was, but to be commended for your efforts in a discount store seemed pretty rare,  so now I was compelled to figure out what extraordinary task warranted such recognition. 

I decided to poke around.  In the women’s clothing department I heard another associate being commended; this time for a display.  “You just finished that display and it’s so good, customers are already looking at the earrings.”  I went to the earring department.  Nothing too unusual, just some funky earrings near an aisle, not my style.  From there I headed through baby clothes (without any reason to be there) to belts and heard yet another compliment being exchanged.  I tracked the voices with my acutely trained overhearing ear and found an average, pleasant-looking woman. 

I couldn’t figure out if she was the praisee or the praiser so I  just said.  “I don’t know what happened here, but it’s so nice to hear a supervisor praise her team.  I just want to let you know that hearing how well the staff’s efforts are appreciated made being here a pleasant experience rather than a chore.”  The woman asked if she could repeat that to her boss and I said “sure” and walked away.  A few minutes later after visiting other

Did someone buy bunny treats?

departments to see if this was a store-wide “policy”, I, who intended to just use the bathroom and leave, had two lip stains,  snacks and a more expensive broom/dustpan combo than I might otherwise have considered purchasing.  I saw the woman I spoke with talking to someone I assumed to be her boss, so I headed over and stated my case thinking it would have more impact coming from the original source.

And here’s the thing, I’ve been to many other Target stores and this one was unique.  And when I went to check out and the lines were long-ish and checking out a bit slow, all the customers I overheard were patient, kind, polite and engaging.  I believe that is because the appreciative manager/s set the tone for the entire store.   Everybody knows that they need to treat customers well to maintain them,  but how many recognize there is a better way to achieve that goal than by a forced and rote “have a nice day” at the checkout counter.  The trick is treating EVERYONE in the store with respect, appreciation and grace – employees and customers alike.   I did have a nice day because of these exchanges and spent more money than intended (I intended zero and spent $25) plus I had a blog subject and Target gets some free and positive press. 

My seldom cynical and regularly hilarious husband fears this tactic will take on an evil life of its own with stores hiding speakers with recorded pleasantries throughout the store coaxing the curious (like me) from department to unintended department.  But I’m not so sure it would work, few people have my mad overhearing skills and fewer still my rampant curiosity.  Plus it seems a lot less costly, and easily implementable to go with the real, sincere thing.  It is after all marketing genius, and it’s free.

©2011 by Alison Colby-Campbell

7 thoughts on “Right On, Target!”

  1. Top – down management style, no? It’s amazing how some organizations manage to create culture, and some, well – don’t. Glad you took the time to blog about this!


    1. Yea Betty, I no longer feel like my mom keeps replying. It was an eye-opener for other reasons too. For another client I have been experiencing first hand their newly developed retail strategy by actually being in a discount store for them (they are a product not a store), and I really haven’t seen a positive reinforcement strategy in play at the stores, not that people are negative, they just don’t overtly show support and appreciation, so this was an obvious difference to me..


  2. Of course since Jon made that comment, I’ve been thinking of how to market to instore customers via hidden speakers (aided by instore cameras) that appear to let secrets out to individual customers…(pssst you there in the blue dress buying crackers…did you see the great sale on cheddar). It would work like it did at amusement parks when an obviously lifeless dummy commented directly to us (except speakers would be hidden in the shelves – no dummies needed). I saw that decades ago at Knotts Berry Farm with a sheriff dummy and was startled and giggly about the exchange, and never forgot it. Hmmmmmmm, that’s not too big brother-ish is it in this day and age. Or it could be or maybe is a smart phone app with recorded messaging.


  3. If you spent another half hour in there maybe you would have been running out gasping CAN’T…BREATHE…AIR…TOO…CLOYING! Like being trapped in a Disney theme park. But I suppose if they made you happy and people were standing in the checkout lines with more product than they intended to buy, then their insidious plan of being decent to each other is working.

    The smiley bag is horrifying. It’s like seeing Pennywise on your toast in the morning or something.


    1. hahahah Rambo…as for the smiley Target (aka bullseye symbol) it was part of a shot I took with the rabbits when they were terrorizing the bag for a treat. I was cropping and there it was, too much coincidence to ignore. But it really did make shopping there more comfortable than some of the stuff I’ve witnessed elsewhere. I was just fascinated by hte concept of the power of being nice.


  4. The Experience Pros Radio Show in Aurora, Colorado has asked me to call in to their program at 11:25 MTtoday (June 24) to discuss this blog post on the positive experience I had at theTarget store in Woburn, MA. 560 on the am dial. The show is LIVE on http://www.560TheSource.com from 10:00 until noon Mountain Time.


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