MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — WCCO-TV first broke the story about customers not getting all their money when using some coupons at Target.
The mega-retailer is based in Minnesota, but we’ve now seen stories all over the country about shoppers getting shortchanged. Target said it would fix the problem. It’s been more than two months. We decided to go back and see if it is still missing the mark.
We went shopping with Amy Gunderson last August. She showed us what happened when she tried to use a coupon for $5 off 10 Weight Watchers Smart Ones meals.
“At Target, I should have gotten $5 off, and I got $2.40 off,” she said.
When we contacted Target, they said it was the first they’d heard of the problem.
“It was really a slap in the face to hear them say that they hadn’t heard of it until WCCO contacted them,” Gunderson said. “I’ve contacted them, other people have contacted them.”
The story didn’t go away. It just got bigger, covered by journalists all over the country — in Philadelphia, Miami, Chicago, Boston and Los Angeles.
We heard from coupon clippers in 27 states.
Michelle e-mailed and said, “I live in Portland, Oregon, and the problem is horrible here.”
Darla in Ohio said, “I will take my business to Wal-Mart!!!”
Christy in Missouri wrote, “I wonder how much money they have made?”
We decided to go back to Target. This time, we took Carrie Rocha. She runs a website called PocketYourDollars.com. Just like before, we used a Weight Watchers Smart Ones coupon. We hit two Targets — the Maple Grove SuperTarget and the Brooklyn Park store.
“So it was $4 off when you buy 10, and the coupon at the register didn’t take off the correct amount,” Rocha said. “The cashier was prompted to enter the correct amount, but in neither case did we receive the correct value.”
At Maple Grove, the coupon rang up wrong — $2.54 instead of $4. The cashier caught it and ran the coupon a second time. That ended up giving us a dollar more than we should have received.
In Brooklyn Park, it was just like our August shopping trips. The register took off $2.09 — almost $2 less than our coupon.
“So the register is saying, ‘Hey, you’re buying Smart Ones, you have a Smart Ones coupon. If we give you something more, it’s as if we’re giving you cash back,'” Rocha said. “That’s not the case, ’cause the coupon specifies you need to buy 10, but the register’s not that smart.”
So what does Target have to say about all this?
“We totally apologize for that inconvenience, but we know our guests count on both fast and accurate checkout, so anything our guests can do to even help us help them until we get the system fix in place would be appreciated,” Randy Rients, director of store operations, said.
What they won’t say is who’s pocketing that extra coupon money — Target or the manufacturer.
“That’s not at all what this is about, as far as we’re concerned,” Rients said. “That’s not at all what this is about. This is about making sure that our guests have a fast and accurate checkout.”
One thing is clear. Customers are getting shortchanged.
“When you add it up, if you think about how much money people are losing, it can be an astronomical amount of money. I’d be curious to know how much it actually is,” Gunderson said, the Oakdale mom who tipped us off to Target’s coupon problems.
The General Mills’ chair of marketing at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management said this is an issue that could catch the eye of the legal system.
“If it turns out to be a substantial amount, I can imagine the Attorney General’s office getting involved,” Akshay Rao said.
Rao thinks the continued coupon screw-ups may have shoppers asking, can I still trust Target?
“One of the dimensions of being a good retailer is being able to charge me the price you said you were going to charge me. If it turns out you’re messing up on that, where else are you messing up? It could do some serious damage to the Target brand,” Rao said.
Rocha thinks it already has.
“We want to teach our kids that we’re Target shoppers, but when we can’t trust that we’re gonna get the value that we should be getting in coupons, it really makes us, as customers, considering looking elsewhere,” she said.
Target doesn’t know when they’ll get this problem fixed. Until then, here’s what you should do if your coupon doesn’t ring up right at Target: Bring your receipt to Guest Services, and they’ll give you the amount you were shortchanged.
Paula Engelking, Producer