I woke up on Sunday with an insatiable urge to go shopping. I blame the warm weather, which made me realize that my tanks and Ts from last summer weren’t quite the right size anymore. I needed new ones, STAT.
My boyfriend and I reserved a PhillyCarShare and headed south to the Delaware Avenue Target. We don’t shop together often and I was so excited about my potential purchases that I skipped—literally skipped—from our borrowed blue Impreza to the store’s entrance. Once inside, we each scurried to our favorite sections—clothes and accessories for me, kitchen gadgets for him. When we reconvened an hour later, we grabbed household items like a ginormous bag of dry cat food and one of those ridiculous 12-packs of paper towels.
As we pushed our loaded cart toward the cashier we took bets on how much our bill would be, agreeing that we’d need to split the cost equally. “Ready to stimulate the economy?” I joked. Our checker was a seemingly nice woman wearing the standard red T-shirt. If I’d have known how the afternoon would progress, I’d have bothered to read her name tag.
The total came to $383.90. When I asked her to split the cost down the middle so could each charge half she snottily said, “I don’t know what half is.” I was annoyed by her flip reaction, but pulled out my cell phone to calculate the cost. We’d each pay $191.95, I told her.
I slipped my Visa debit card into the automated machine and pressed the requisite buttons. When the total came up, it read “$383.90.” The cashier instructed me to sign my name and click “Pay another way,” which I did. My receipt printed and the cashier said, “You paid for it all. He can just get you back.” I bristled. I’m quick to anger when I feel I’ve been slighted and curtly said, “Well, you’re going to have to fix it.”
She asked me if I was okay, a move I perceived as condescention. I told her I was fine, but that she has no idea what my financial situation was like. “How do you know I have $400 in my account right now? How do you know you didn’t just overdraw? What if my rent is due?” I asked. My boyfriend stood by, mortified.
The cashier called over another woman dressed in red Target garb, presumably a manager or team leader. “This girl is freaking out,” she said as way of explanation and then walked away. After listening to my explanation, the team leader voided the original transaction and processed a new one. She rang me up again. I slipped my card in the machine, signed my name and then watched as the receipt printed out. She’d charged me $383.90. Again.
I was dumbstruck, stunned by the incompetence of not one, but two employees. She voided the second transaction and then stared stupidly at the computer screen for several minutes. I was steaming, so angry that I wasn’t even capable of forming words. I’ve worked in retail—I was even a store manager for a few months in college. I know that splitting a transaction between two credit cards is not that friggin’ hard.
“We’ll have to re-ring everything,” the team leader finally said. I couldn’t believe she wanted me to unpack $400 worth of merchandise so she could process it for a third time. I asked her if she couldn’t just punch in the codes on the previous receipts. She didn’t understand that I meant this as a quicker solution and spent the next five minutes explaining her inefficieny to me.
My boyfriend, aware that I’ll argue for hours, started ripping open the plastic white Target bags and dumping our purchases back on the conveyor belt. Sensing his frustration, I followed suit and within a few moments, everything was re-rung and bagged again. Because I no longer trusted Target employees, my boyfriend put the entire purchase on his card. Knowing how upset we were, the cashier gave us a discount, though I still don’t know quite what she did. Our final purchase came to $329.18, enough to cover the cost of the deep fryer my boyfriend had convinced me we needed.
“So, my card won’t be charged?” I made sure to clarify before we left. I was assured my money was safe, though the cashier gave me two Void slips “just in case.” I was perturbed but as we left the store my boyfriend joked about how my freak-out had gotten us a free deep fryer. I felt a twinge of pride for standing up for myself and my right to quality customer service.
Fast forward 24 hours. It’s Monday afternoon and I’m at Liberty One, buying a sandwich from Bain’s Deli. (Turkey on rye, for the detail hungry.) My credit card is declined. Instantaneously, I know that the problem is linked to Target. I dig some cash out of my purse, pay for my food and hustle back to my desk. I check my bank account online: $383.90 has been taken out of my account. Twice.
I call my bank and a nice woman instructs me to call Target. After going through the automated system, I’m connected to a customer service rep who rudely tells me, “You gotta come down to the store so I can see your bank statement. You could be lying.” Furious, I slammed down the phone.
I try to book a PhillyCarShare so I can get to the store after work, but since my card has been frozen, I can’t charge the reservation. I don’t have any cash, so I can’t take a cab. I frantically text my boyfriend, hoping he’ll have a solution, but his job doesn’t allow cell phone access. I realize that the receipts are at home, so a co-worker lends me the cash to take a cab to retrieve them. While I’m on the way back to the office, my boyfriend calls and convinces me to trying calling the store again. “Unless they’re going to reimburse you for the cab rides, you shouldn’t go down there,” he says. He’s right, I know.
I call Target again and this time get a more sympathetic representative. She transfers me to another employee, who puts me on hold for a full 10 minutes while she helps other customers. I’m irked, but wait patiently and try to remain calm when re-telling my story.
“It takes 72 hours for a void to go through,” she said when I finish explaining my ordeal.
“Are you fucking kidding me? A clerk’s mistake is costing me $800!” I yelled, so outraged that I didn’t even care that I was making a scene in my workplace.
To this woman’s credit, she listened to my rant and tried to empathize, telling me that Target didn’t actually have the money, that it was in limbo. She apologized that the clerks on Sunday didn’t explain this to me. I wasn’t having any of it, though, and rudely spit out “Thanks for your help,” before hanging up the phone.
I’m crossing my fingers and hoping hard that “72 hours” is a padded estimation and that I’ll actually have my money back sooner. I’m lucky that my rent isn’t due, that I didn’t write any checks recently. I’m fortunate enough that my boyfriend will lend me the cash to get through till my bank account in unfrozen. But what if I wasn’t so lucky? Eight hundred dollars is a significant amount of money, especially now that the U.S. economy has gone from kinda shitty to unbelievably fucking terrible. Eight hundred dollars is almost two full months of rent for my apartment, it’s practically an entire paycheck, it’s more money than I’d ever spend at Target.
I suspect Wednesday will not be the end of this story and that my bank will charge me overdraft fees. There will probably be more angry phone calls in the coming days.
All this, because I wanted new tank tops.