Wrong Key creates Halloween Headache for Target

Target is a major retailer and Halloween is a big sales time, especially in the US.  In the US, Halloween ranks second in holiday to Christmas and far out paces the other holidays.  One type of item people buy at Halloween is costumes for Halloween parties.  (Yes it is a vicious consumer-driven concept but it is also a lot of fun).  This year the online sales site for Target listed an item called “Illegal alien” costume.  The Costume is composed of a space alien mask, orange prison suit, and a green card (important US immigration document).  The humor is that the space alien is illegally in the US.  However, immigration is a hot button issue in the US and many groups were not amused by the humor. http://www.startribune.com/business/64651167.html?elr=KArks:DCiUo3PD:3D_V_qD3L:c7cQKUiD3aPc:_Yyc:aU7DYaGEP7vDEh7P:DiUs

 

Social media is part of the story.  The Facebook site for  “Wise Latinas Linked” was among the first to question the taste of the costume.  The group has over 2,200 members basic information is at  http://www.facebook.com/search/?init=srp&sfxp=&q=wise+latinas+linked#/group.php?gid=127501697528&ref=search&sid=1184822407.1026919738..1

Target has also received negative comments from the League of United Latin American Citizens and for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.  The news stories are reporting the criticisms but also note some consumers the situation is not important.  However, the incident has raised a negative profile for Target with some consumers saying they will not shop at Target until the item is removed and Target apologizes.  http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/us_halloween_illegal_alien_costume;_ylt=ApSjGRaRc.S7_Blj04plITl0fNdF

Target has taken action and spoken out although the company has not posted the information at its own web site.  Instead, Target’s response is appearing in the media, both traditional and online news stories.  Here is an example:

“Target spokesman Joshua Thomas said the item was put on its website by mistake when an employee entered a wrong number into the system. Target has a strict review process with its vendors, he said. ‘We apologize. This was never intended to be part of our assortment. We are moving as quickly as possible to remove it from our website.’

Target started getting complaints Thursday afternoon, Thomas said, but the costume was still online Friday evening. Target’s website is managed by Amazon.com, and Thomas said it could take as long as 48 hours to take it down.” http://www.startribune.com/business/64651167.html?elr=KArks:DCiUo3PD:3D_V_qD3L:c7cQKUiD3aPc:_Yyc:aU7DYaGEP7vDEh7P:DiUs

 

Questions to Consider

  1.  How effective was Target’s response to the incident?  Justify your evaluation.
  2. If you worked for Target’s public relations department, what advice would you have given them for handling the situation?
  3. Is the incident worthy of Target’s attention?  Why or why not?
  4. What would the rationale for Target not discussing the incident on its web site?
  5. Are there any advantages to Target being more aggressive in using social media to present its response?  Explain the reasoning for your conclusion.
  6. What would be the danger of an “overreaction” by Target?
  7. What is the core problem in this situation?
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