My honeymoon photos are ruined — thanks a lot, Target!

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By Christopher Elliott

The camera Tristan Caulfield and his wife bought at Target for their honeymoon doesn’t work, but the retailer is giving the couple a runaround in their effort to get it fixed. Is this camera a lost cause?

Question

I attempted to exchange a camera we purchased for our honeymoon, which turned out to be defective and ruined all of our honeymoon photos. The store informed us that we would need to pay an additional $100 to exchange the defective camera with the exact same model because it had been on sale, and the item has since returned to its regular price.

The guest services representative, loss prevention person and the team leader (who continuously told us she was the store manager) were extremely rude and condescending while informing us of this fact.

At first, we decided to sell the gift card we accepted online instead of a refund, taking a loss on the camera, repurchasing another camera from a reputable merchant and making absolutely sure that we never give Target another dime of our money.

But, in a last-ditch effort, I contacted Target through its Facebook page. They provided me with an 800-number, and after 15 minutes on “hold,” someone informed me that I needed to speak with the “gift card issues” department.

I spoke with a supervisor who told me she would not reduce the price to the original purchase price, since I accepted a gift card for the return. After attempting to explain that all I wanted was a simple exchange, and was unsure why that was so difficult, she thanked me for calling Target Guest Services and disconnected the call while I was mid-sentence. My wife and I will never be purchasing anything from Target again. — Tristan Caulfield, Memphis, Tenn.

Answer

I can’t think of any reason why a representative would hang up on a customer. Also, your request to exchange a faulty product for one that works is reasonable. The fact that Target had the item on sale and that it then reverted back to its regular price isn’t your problem.

But Target’s return policies are fair and appear to be evenly enforced (I know, because, ahem, I am a Target customer).

If you purchased your camera with a debit card, credit card, or have a store receipt, you have 30 days to return the merchandise, though there is an exception for holiday shopping and using your REDcard debit or credit card.
If you didn’t qualify — say, you paid cash and lost your receipt — the store would offer you a gift card for the amount you paid for the camera.

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But that’s only if you haven’t opened it. Here’s Target’s policy on electronics: “We may deny a refund or exchange for items that are opened, damaged, or lack a packing slip or receipt.”

Maybe no one adequately explained the policy to you, and then when you pushed for a product exchange, they simply hung up on you. Not good.

How to escalate customer service issues effectively

In reviewing your correspondence with Target, I see that a lot of the interaction happened either in person or by phone. Even a Facebook wall post can (and often is) deleted by a company. You need to get your request and a response in writing in order to protect yourself and establish a paper trail that proves you are dealing with the company.

You can start by emailing an appeal to one of the executives. The naming convention for emails is [email protected] — it’s fairly easy to determine the rest. (Here’s how to contact the CEO directly.)

At the risk of repeating myself, I don’t have a problem with Target’s refund policy. I do, however, take issue with “customer service” representatives disconnecting a call. The employees you spoke with may have handled your request by the book in terms of Target’s refund rules, but they dropped the ball when it came to customer service.

I contacted Target on your behalf. It issued a gift card for the difference between the camera’s sale price and current retail price. A simple apology would have sufficed, but you gratefully accepted the card.

Did Target offer Tristan Caulfield too much compensation?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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