Target can suck it.

I know some people love the place, but I swear I will never again buy anything at Target that costs over $19.95. Why $19.95, you ask? Because I have arbitrarily determined that this is the largest amount of cash that I am willing to voluntarily toss in the trash if my only other choice is being forced to deal with the crack-smoking assknobs in the Target Returns Department.

I needed a new vacuum cleaner recently, so I decided to check out Target and see what they had. A surprisingly good selection, as it turns out. The only issue was, just like any big-box store, there was no way to actually check one out. You could look at the pretty pictures on the side of the boxes though, so I started browsing. Eventually, I found an upright that claimed to be able to suck a golfball through a garden hose or some such. I bought it.

So I got the WonderSuck 2000 back home and put it together. It looked really high-tech, and I was happy, because if your vacuum cleaner doesn't look high-tech, you ain't got shit. Just ask anybody -- I am all about how cool my wife looks when she vacuums. (If she's reading this, I'm just kidding. If she's not, well then I'm still lobbying for that french maid outfit.)

I plug the vac in, and switch it on. The lights dim for a second, and then all hell breaks loose. The vacuum instantly tries to eat the fringe on our oriental carpet. I barely prevent this from happening and regain some semblance of control. This beast is LOUD -- incredibly so. It sounds like someone is stress-testing a DC-10 jet engine. It was louder than my shop vac and lawnmower combined.

Underneath the jet-engine whine, there is another noise I am pretty sure you can't actually hear, but instead just feel resonating in your brain stem. It affects you at a reptilian level, evoking something like dread. I half expect a dimensional warp to open up and suck me into an alternate universe --maybe even the same place all the dirt goes when the vacuum cleaner sucks it up through the cord and into the wall. (that's what I thought happened to it when I was a kid.)

The cats and I both come close to peeing ourselves. It was obviously too loud to use for any length of time at all. I shut it down, my testicles descend, and we all heave a collective sigh of relief. This thing scares me, and must go back. Right Now.

I take it apart, pack it all back in the box, jump back in my car and drive 30 minutes back to Target. In my possession is the receipt. No problem, right? I get in line at the returns desk and wait. When it's my turn, I explain to the woman behind the counter that I just bought this vac an hour ago, and would like to return it. She immediately sees that the box is open, and says, "What's wrong with it?" "Nothing," I tell her. "It just sounds exactly like a jet engine. It's really loud. Too loud to use."

She then proceeds to pull the entire contents of the box out on to the counter and Begin The Inspection. Apparently, I don't look trustworthy, and she wants to make sure I wasn't returning a box of empty Mountain Dew cans and old porn magazines. She looks it over, and says, "We can't take this back."

I politely inquire as to why.

"It's been used. There's dust in the cup."

I said, "Well, I turned it on to try it, but it's certainly not what I would consider used. I just bought it today. A few hours ago, actually. I want my money back because, as I said, it sounds like a jet engine."

"It's been used. I can't do anything about that. It's our policy. If it's too loud, you might want to try contacting the manufacturer for a refund."

I ask her if she's kidding. She says no, and then adds, "If it was defective, I could take it back."

So I tell her (between clenched teeth) that I would be more than happy to take it back out to the parking lot and smash the shit out of it if that is what she required to issue me a refund.

"That won't work now." she says. "I've already seen it."

I wasn't sure which amazed me more -- the fact that she wasn't going to issue a refund, or the fact that breaking the vacuum in the parking lot was, until the point I mentioned it, actually an acceptable option to her.

OK, I am done with this bitch. I ask to see the manager.

The manager comes out and attempts to explain to me the arcane and mysterious rules that govern the return of vacuum cleaners to Target. I am certain that they have similar rules for all the other bullshit merchandise they sell, but this was my first experience of the joy and wonder that is the Target returns counter. By this time, I had mentally vowed it was also to be my last.

She cannot give me my money back. She cannot give me a different vacuum cleaner. She can, however, give me a new one of the SAME vacuum cleaner. I ask her what prevents me from just turning around, going to the back of the line and returning the new one. She chews on that for a while, then says, "Well, because I would know that's what you were doing, and I wouldn't allow it."

I am completely and utterly baffled by this line of reasoning.

I am also really pissed, because I have now been arguing with these two fuckwits for about 20 minutes. I decide to cut my losses, save what's left of my sanity, and take the new one. I also tell them in no uncertain terms that this whole thing is bullshit, their company is bullshit, and dealing with them has been the most pointless, aggravating and frustrating experience I've ever had in a store.

I toss it in the car, then drive about 30 miles to a different Target and return the unopened vacuum cleaner, no questions asked. It's probably a good thing they didn't look at the receipt too closely, or I'd still be using that vacuum. I'd also be learning sign language right about now.

The next night, we went to Sears, tested out about 5 different vacs on real rugs with real electricity, real accessories, and real dirt. Added bonus: a knowledgable salesperson.

We ended up buying a Kenmore. Sometimes, there's something to be said for paying a little more. The extra 50 bucks I paid for the Kenmore would have been well worth it to avoid the massive amount of aggravation, wasted time and gas spent on Target and their minions of mind-numbing madness. I will remember that little lesson next time.

Newly-released DVD's, paper towels and cat food. And even if it's one of those three things, there would have to be a serious Target coupon involved before I'd think about it. Buy anything else from Target at your own risk.

Don't say I didn't warn you.


  1. That was an awesome post!
    I totally understand, some stores seem to make up thier own return rules as they go...

  2. You're like a cross between MacGuyver, Martha Stewart and Andy Rooney.

    That's a good thing.

  3. Anonymous1:18 PM

    The noise you described that went into your brain stem reminded me of the Queen Latifah concert I saw in '91. (Erik, I think forgot to put that on my list). But yeah, it would suck when it's a vac and not some incredible bass.

  4. I used to work at the Target returns counter the summer right after I graduated from high school. I'm telling you we took back anything back then. No questions asked. You didn't even need a receipt. Seriously. This one guy came in with a dirty old toilet seat and said that he bought it here a couple weeks ago but didn't have the receipt, AND WE TOOK IT BACK. I swear!! The manager just was like I'll give you $20 for it. A couple years after I left they completely redid their whole policy-probably because they were getting screwed by people like used toilet seat guy.

    Anyway, I loved your vacuum story, but if you make fun of Target again I will cut you I'm not even kidding.

  5. I love target, but I feel the exactl same way when it comes to returning thing. Their policy is whack. Customer service does not exist for Target when it is dealing with returned items. It's sad, really.

  6. I used to work at the Target returns counter the summer right after I graduated from high school. Only there was no such thing as Target then. It was just the box that our washing machine came in and I set it in the driveway, sat inside it, and called it "The Target Returns Counter." It was where my brother would bring his bb gun targets after a good round of shooting to have them evaluated by an independent third party. I would tell him he was a shitty shot, then my brother would kick it over and hit me in the nuts. Man those were the days.

  7. you should have bought the roomba - http://bberk.blogspot.com/2005/03/roomba.html

  8. That Roomba is a fucking scam - turns out it's a live webcam and criminals use it to map out all the rooms so they can break in and take your 70s porn tapes and leftover Mad Dog. http://www.roombathievesonline.com Seriously. I also heard one killed a kid once. In Milwaukee.

  9. Great post! I feel your pain. Maybe you should have just sucked it up and bought one of those $600 vacuums?


  10. Shoulda shopped at WalMart...they take back used tampons.

  11. Hey JV, I've been reading your blog for quite awhile. I'm going back and reading some of your older posts that I haven't caught before. I just want to know....have you still banned Target? :-)
    I can't wait for your book! Please get on that right away!

  12. Yes, still banned!! I bought some laundry detergent and a sushi set there. Under the 20 buck limit, though, and no chance I was going to bring it back.

  13. Anonymous1:57 PM

    I have no history with their returns dept. It seems that Kenmore still has good vacuums. I got a used one in 1972 and used it 3-4 times/year max. Twenty years later I gave it to a thrift store; it ran ok, but by then I was after something less noisy.


  14. Anonymous3:52 PM

    You get what you pay for. Not "sometimes". ALL the time.

  15. I'm sorry you had such a suckworthy experience at Target. I'd like to say it's the Target you went to originally that's the problem.

    For future reference, when shopping at Target, 1) always pay by credit card. This keeps you from needing to keep the receipt. Gotta love receipt lookup. 2) If you have to return something that is obviously used, it's defective. Got me? Defective.

    Defective is the magic word. The item will get tagged with a special color-coded tag and either be destroyed or shipped back to the manufacturer.

    That vacuum WAS defective. Really. And so was the guest service team member. On behalf of all GOOD guest service team members everywhere, I apologize. If you'd come to MY counter when I worked for the Big T, you'd have been able to return the vac - no problem.

  16. We always go Kenmore.

  17. Anonymous11:42 AM

    Wow. I love me some Target, but I totally understand your frustration.

    And I would have totally done the same thing you did. But, I am a bitch, and I would have told them what I was doing.

    Stupid people make my head hurt.

  18. Chris1:20 AM

    Something similar happened to me at Wal-Mart with an MP3 player. I had bought it, took it out to the car and opened it up and to my surprise right out of the box there is a huge crack in the screen. I turn it on and all I get is a grey screen with the black inky stuff. I threw everything back in the box and went back inside to exchange if for another and I argued with the woman at the Customer service desk, her superviser, the assistant manager and the store manager. by the time I was talking to the store manager I was extremely pissed off and the manager clearly saw that. I was still refused an exchange. Drove to the other Wal-Mart in the city on the other end of town and walked up to the customer service desk and explained that I wanted to exchange it, this time she skipped her supervisor and assistant manager and went straight to the store manager, he came out and told me that he just received a call from the other wal-mart (get this, the two store managers are brothers) and was told not to exchange it... never buying electronics at wal-mart again...

  19. Ok....now that I am able to write after laughing so hard....you are an awesome writer. Love this blog!!!!

  20. Long time lurker here.

    I consider myself a vacuum cleaner expert since I own and operate a residential cleaning company. The best vacuum for the money is a Kenmore. Their new Intuition model is fantastic. A new client just got one after doing her research in the Consumer Report and I loved using it.

    I raved so much about it, Dar went and bought me one even though our exisiting vacuum was less than 3 years old.

    I always die a little inside when I go out to do a client's home and they have a (shudder) Dyson.

    No Target stores here in Alberta.

    We bought new $3,000 speakers last week and I didn't even consider checking out Best Buy because of your experience.

    Thanks for the heads up.

  21. I had a similar thing with the Target return department on a price reduction of something I bought 3-4 years ago. Their return policy was 30? days and their price adjustment was shorter..like a week. The price on the item dropped $40 at Target and I had it still unopened...so I figured I'd go in and get $40 plus tax back. I even carried the item in. Only problem it was 2 weeks from purchase. She wouldn't do the price adjustment even though it was within the return period...even after I said "you are going to have me return this here...walk to the back of the store carrying a new one up to the register and buy it at the lower price?". She said the same thing..."now I know you are going to do that..." (Was she going to ban me from buying the item after the return??) haha Eventually the manager told me it was a one time exception (yeah right Mr Manager...next time I will just buy the new one and return the old one as it will be quicker than arguing with you guys).

    I am a new reader to your blog...very funny stuff.

  22. Anonymous4:12 PM

    I think you just had bad luck at your Target. I work Guest Service/Cashier at Target and we have the most laid back return policy I've ever seen. We even accept makeup that someone has tried and found to be the wrong color. We defect it out of course, but we do return it for them. This is the second Target I've worked at and they are in different states, so I know it's not just my Target. Although at both Targets there have been a couple of grumpy (and usually older) people who don't seem to want to help the customer.

    Anyway, as far as I can tell from my work experiences is that you can TRY a product and if it does not meet your expectations you can return it. Also, you don't even need a recipt most of the time. If you paid with a card we can easily look it up in our computer. If you paid cash and have no recipt it's a little harder because we have to give you the lowest sale price because for all we know you could have bought it on sale and try to return it for a full refund.

    Anyway, just wanted to share my point of view because that experience doesn't sound anything like what Target is SUPPOSED to be.