What's the real story of Target and Wii?
December 27, 2006 6:22 PM   Subscribe

Why would Target employees not be truthful about when they have had/will get Wiis in stock? Is there a secret handshake I can do to figure out the real story?

I want a Wii, and got a bunch of Target gift cards for Christmas so I can buy one. I've been following various threads online to see when and where I might get one. Without getting into details, I have called three different stores and visited one, and have talked to probably 10 different employees. I have gotten 10 different stories.

As for when they had them, stories range from "we just sold our last one" to "we haven't had any for two weeks."

As for when they will get more, stories range from "we will probably get some tonight or tomorrow" to "come back on Sunday" to "not until a couple days after the new year" to "mid-January."

As for when employees know about shipments, stories range from "we get a memo a month in advance," to "we find out three days in advance" to "we find out when we unpack the boxes."

Online stories suggest that this is a common experience, and that the best results are either (a) knowing somebody or (b) finding someone who is willing to tell the truth (or even reach under the counter and give you the product).

I don't get it. Here's my question: what would be the motivation for not telling the truth? If it's to keep people from calling incessantly, I'd think either a "sorry we can't comment on availability" or at least a standard script would work a lot better. This way just confuses and frustrates people.

Also, has anyone encountered a way to figure out the real story (other than just finding a nice person who is willing to break the code of silence)? Are there signals that can be observed? Certain people to ask? Good times to drop by the store?

I know someday I'll get my toy; that's not even really the issue. I am just confused about what is going on and feeling like the Target Corporation is playing a massive practical joke.
posted by AgentRocket to Shopping (26 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I know two people who work for Target and neither would lie to me. I just IMed one of them but she's apparently not at her computer and I won't be able to talk to the other until tomorrow. If you don't get a good answer sometime in the next twenty-four hours (though I expect you will), send me an email and I'll see what I can come up with.
posted by Clay201 at 6:31 PM on December 27, 2006

Check 'dis out, yo --> http://wii.bidnearby.com/
posted by _aa_ at 6:35 PM on December 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

If you want to see what their actual inventory is, take this and scan it in one of the price checker thingies. Should tell you what they have in back, if any.
posted by Otis at 6:40 PM on December 27, 2006 [4 favorites]

It's not uncommon for stores like Target, Best Buy, and others to run ads in their weekly circular for hot items like the Wii. These ads are printed in advance, and often feature "minimum 10", or some other number.

If one of these stores is running a Sunday ad with "minimum 10", and they get a shipment of 10 on Friday - they're likely to be either a) unable to tell you they have any if you ask on Saturday or b) tell you that they're unavailable until Sunday.

This is a very common practice, and it happens all the time in retail when there's a hot item like the Wii that is guaranteed to sell out.
posted by jcummings1974 at 6:41 PM on December 27, 2006

what would be the motivation for not telling the truth?

This way just confuses and frustrates people.

I'd think either a "sorry we can't comment on availability" or at least a standard script would work a lot better.

You sound pretty motivated and persistant - do you think you'd be any less frustrated if you spoke to 10 different employees who all gave you the same script?
posted by forallmankind at 6:41 PM on December 27, 2006

Best answer: When I worked at Target there was no way for a store employee to know when a shipment of a particular item would be delivered. Area managers where also not told. I spoke with a relative who works for the Corporate office and they said that stores are not told in advance when the next shipments would be available. A very reliable source who would not lie to me as I have been hunting down a Elmo TMX.

Another relative works for Best Buy Corporate and said the same thing, that most employees (corporate or stores) are not told when hot items will be in stock.

The best solution is to learn Targets stock schedule and check the morning of stock days to see if a shipment came in. Target is pretty good about putting things out on the shelves as soon items arrive because most stores don't have large amounts of storage areas.
posted by randomthoughts at 6:42 PM on December 27, 2006

Yeah, what randomthoughts said. They probably just don't know. Add to this that they likely get asked more than they'd like and as such may have extra motivation to tell some stores for fun.
posted by rhizome at 6:56 PM on December 27, 2006

Best answer: I work in a store where I could easily see you getting ALL of the above answers from people who were being totally honest, because well, you're a CUSTOMER.

For the record, at my store, we do not get official notice because right now Wiis are drop shipping from the big N directly, and do not come via our depot. That said, once in a while we get a few hours heads up when the store in the next city over gets some and IMs the manager of my store with a heads up regarding what they saw on the truck.

As for the all the different answers you got, that's easy.

1) Different departments get different setups, so if I (in the computer department) assumed that things in Entertainment department worked the same way they do for me, they'd I'd say we always have plenty of notice before stuff arrives (because it's true for computer stuff, and I've no reason to learn the details of Appliances and Home Theatre, etc.).

That is to say, since you said you asked 10 different employees, I can only assume you were asking at least some people in the wrong department.

2) There's no daily briefing on stock for min wage employees on the store floor in any store I've head of - most of the people you asked likely didn't know for sure, and where giving you an answer based on their prev experience. (See #1)

But here's the real answer, if you work in retail (I'm guessing you haven't?) you'd know that the right answer is always what the customer wants to hear, so the more you ask the more the details will change. No one wants to say "We don't have it, go away" to a customer.

The more you ask 'do you have this?' 'when are you getting it in?' 'can I reserve one?' 'when will you know?' the more the employee wants to find the answer will make you go away. They've already said no and they've all had perfectly reasonable looking people yell at them for things that are outside their control (probably in the last week, and I live in Canada, rumoured to be much more polite than the US of A).

So the employee who told you they just sold the last one was probably telling the truth; but if you wander around some more you can probably find someone who didn't hear they got any recently and thinks they've been out for week. (For example, I have no idea how long exactly we've been out of stock, but if I knew for sure we were out of stock then I'd give my best estimate because saying 'um' in front of the North American species known as 'Customer' is a recipe for getting yelled at).

And frankly in my store I know at least two sales staff in unrelated departments who would direct you to the washroom if you asked for a Wii. Doesn't target mostly sell clothing?

So anyway, my answer based on both personal experience and having a related job: I'd be willing to bet $100 that none of the people you talked to were lying per se. Lying implies an intention to misrepresent the truth; they were either mistaken because you were asking them something that was outside their area, had outdated information (things change so fast in sales in Dec that if I even tried to explain it to a customer their head would explode) or depending on just how much of a demanding customer you were being, they were just trying to phrase the truth in a way that would get you out of their face. After all, they'd already said no to you once, right?
posted by tiamat at 7:29 PM on December 27, 2006 [3 favorites]

My wife was able to get a heads-up the night before a shipment arrived at our local Target. She asked the guy in the electronics department and he told her that people were already lining up outside (this was about 10 pm). Don't know how all of the other people got word, but it turns out that they did end up selling 12 or so Wii's the next morning. I guess this meant that the shipment must have already arrived when my wife asked...

Don't know if this helps, but that was our Target experience.
posted by richmondparker at 7:41 PM on December 27, 2006

tiamat is right right right. The average employee at any store has no control on what shipment will come when, and no information on it, either. If you were going at them like they were witholding information from you, of course they were going to tell you whatever they could to make you happy and go away. These are minimum wage employees. Cut them some slack. You will get your Wii. Breathe, breathe.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:21 PM on December 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the info so far. To clarify, I was never anything other than patient and courteous with the employees. I never was pushy or accusatory (in no small part because (a) I was a retail employee for several years and (b) I will be back at that store trying to buy the Wii and know I will not get anywhere if they are like "there's that jackass guy again.")

Generally, each employee was patient and courteous in return. I didn't feel like any of them were trying to tell me what I wanted to hear. Instead, I felt like each was saying what he or she thought he/she was supposed to say. It just seemed weird.

I am going tomorrow morning in the hopes that I will luck into one. I'll report what happens.
posted by AgentRocket at 8:37 PM on December 27, 2006

AgentRocket, I don't by any means intend to imply that YOU are the bad customer, but it only takes one yelling idiot per year to make employees tread very carefully.
posted by tiamat at 8:55 PM on December 27, 2006

randomthoughs is exactly right, based on my experience. I worked at Target about two years ago, and according to people I know that still work there, the situation with respect to individual employees having extensive information about product availability has remained the same as it was during my tenure.

If I remember correctly, most targets receive shipments of product every night, and the night-time shift sorts through it all, and puts it on the shelves for the next day's shoppers. What exactly is in those shipments is known by no-one (not even the "Team Leaders", or managers, of the store) — the reason for this is that Target, like most retailers today, uses a sophisticated tracking system to monitor when a particular store is sold out of an item, and then automatically send more stock to said store as soon as possible. When I worked there, we were encouraged to simply say "We don't know when more of X will be arriving here, we get shipments every night — you're best bet is to call ahead and see if we have what you want in stock another day."

There are a few tricks you can use to your advantage, though:

1) Every price checker in the store can tell you if they have any of anything in the "back". Either take the tag with the barcode on it from the shelf and scan that into the machine, or write down the number and type it into the reader, and it will tell you if they have any in stock.

2) If you go to "guest services" a.k.a. the return desk, and give them that barcode or number, they can check on their computers if another area Target has what you are looking for. Under normal circumstances, they will call ahead for you and ask that store to hold the product for you, but I doubt that they will do that with a Wii.

3) If you feel insulted or that you're being given the run-around, you can ask to speak to the "LOD" or leader on duty (the "manager-on-duty" in target-speak). This person will be one of less then a dozen store "executives" who are each in charge of a particular section of the store, and rotate store-wide supervisory responsibilities with each other. This person won't know any more about when the Wii will be in stock then the lowly employee you were dealing with in the first place, but they are more free to level with you, and may give you some useful information.

I hope this helps. Good luck on your Wii-Hunt.
posted by mikespez at 9:06 PM on December 27, 2006

There is no secret handshake. I'd suggest you start hanging out on forums like Slickdeals, Fatwallet, Cheap Ass Gamer and/or the Games section of Something Awful. All four of those sites have threads or forums dedicated to Wii availability. Between those four sites, you can get a pretty good indication of when and where you can pick up a Wii. By cross-referencing, you can also figure out what's bullshit rumor and what has reasonable basis in fact.

I got mine because, several weeks ago, word went out early in the week on all of those sites that Target (and Circuit City) would have the Wii in their Sunday ad. I lined up that Sunday about an hour and a half before the store opened and they handed out vouchers about fifteen minutes after I got there.

If I hadn't been reading those threads and forums, I would have had no way of knowing such information, because the stores really don't publicize it. The normal shoppers that got there at the store opening completely missed out.
posted by MegoSteve at 9:13 PM on December 27, 2006

Target stores get shipments based on average sales for the store. A store making a lot more money obviously gets several more trucks a week than a store making lower profits, and sometimes they try to stretch out the consoles between stores, and sometimes it seems as if the high money stores get twice as many shipments.

This formula does vary during the holidays, and your average sales floor employee will probably not know when the trucks are coming, what is on them, or if they are due in any time soon. They have tracking devices in place that they can pull up on their computer (PDT) but especially during the holidays, these numbers are often completely wrong (at least that was the case in the stores in my area).

There is a way to pull up exactly what is on a truck, but this can only be done 24-48 hours before the truck arrives, and the only people who know/will bother to do so are in charge of the freight. If you want to know if a Wii is coming in, buddy up to the team lead in charge of the flow team. Many a time there will be rumors that a shipment of something is coming, or this team lead will get an email to look for certain product, but the DC can and sometimes will divert shipments to other places last minute.

As someone who had to deal with numerous "big console releases" I can assure you that we were never told to lie to anyone, but in a big box retailer communication between the flow people and the sales floor people is minimal. I was a merchandiser, and sometimes the team lead over electronics didn't even know what was coming into their department. No one is trying to mislead you, but as other have said, they are trying to give you the answer that you want to hear.

I suggest calling before the store opens and asking to talk to the flow or back room lead. They will know exactly what came in off of the truck.
posted by haplesschild at 9:24 PM on December 27, 2006

From one of my Target-ite friends (she answered the IM):

randomthoughts and mikespez are closest to the right answer.. for instance, all of the information I have on wii availability is based on breakroom conversations with electronics team members.. "we had 12 this morning and had to raffle off the last one to avoid a fight".. of course, it's not my department, I've seen sometimes when they know a few days ahead of time when we'll get more in, and some times when it's a surprise that there was some on last nights truck.

shipments arrive almost every night, and for the most part, no one knows what will be on that truck before it arrives, though I've heard rumor that they're trying to change that practice a bit so that team members have a better idea of what to expect so they can help guests get the item they want.

such changes are not yet in place though, and my impression is that when we know we're getting more wii's or ps3's, it's not from an official source

posted by Clay201 at 1:40 AM on December 28, 2006

They aren't lying. They just don't know the answer. So they're making their best guess, to placate you.
posted by Kololo at 6:52 AM on December 28, 2006

Response by poster: I just got back from my field trip, and the answer very clearly seems to be what you all have told me: nobody really knows.

They guy there today was super-helpful, and looked up what other stores had them (two of them had three apiece, but really far away from me). He was surprised by that, and guessed that the shipping must be unique for Wii - i.e. not on the regular Target truck. He told me to call back later and talk to him, and that he would tell me if FedEx had brought any in this morning.

So it seems I was a bit nutty and unnecessarily conspiratorially-minded when I asked the question.
posted by AgentRocket at 6:58 AM on December 28, 2006

I think George Carlin has the best answer to your question here:

"Just think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of them are even stupider!”
posted by slavlin at 7:26 AM on December 28, 2006

I worked in a Target Electronics department for nearly three years, and the answers above tend to jive with my experiences. I worked there when PS2s were inpossible to come by, and the only people who seemed to know when they were coming were the distribution center employees who would come in swearing that we had gotten them in (they would usually come to early).

It sounds like they're being shipped via something like UPS, Fedex, or DHL which means (if things are the same as they were when I worked there) that they get received during the day and then dropped into recovery (which they wouldn't do with something like a Wii) or taken directly to Electronics.

As for why you got different answers, in any retail store there are many employees who just don't know, some who know and are exceptionally sly, and some who are telling you the exact truth. The only time I would lie to a customer would be hotwheels. It was store policy not to pull hot wheels boxes for customers (for good reason), I used to explain that to people and they would get pissy, so then I would scan it, and then say we were out of stock. It usually kept people from asking other employees to try to pull them.

And for the love of all things sacred, please don't pick up an employee's scanner and try entering the number in to check in stock quantities. I don't work in a store anymore, but if I ever saw someone do that my eyes would glaze red. How would you like it if someone went where you worked and pressed random buttons on things?
posted by drezdn at 7:32 AM on December 28, 2006

I don't get it. Here's my question: what would be the motivation for not telling the truth? If it's to keep people from calling incessantly, I'd think either a "sorry we can't comment on availability" or at least a standard script would work a lot better. This way just confuses and frustrates people.

Turn it on its head: what motivation does a store or a whole corporation have to spend the time, money, and effort on creating, training, monitoring, and maintaining an unusual information pipeline for something that only happens every now and then anyway? Especially given that, if they do nothing, they'll still sell whatever the product is like it's crack hotcakes.
posted by cortex at 7:54 AM on December 28, 2006

And for the love of all things sacred, please don't pick up an employee's scanner and try entering the number in to check in stock quantities. I don't work in a store anymore, but if I ever saw someone do that my eyes would glaze red. How would you like it if someone went where you worked and pressed random buttons on things?

I believe they are referring to the prominently displayed scanning stations made explicitly available to customers, not to something an employee would carry.

The primary reason for these (from what I know) is for price-checking items that have lost a tag or where the shelf price tag is missing or misplaced. I haven't used one in a long time, but others above describe how these will also indicate how many are in stock but not displayed (in other words, somewhere in the back).
posted by beth at 8:00 AM on December 28, 2006

If I were you - YMMV (literally) - I would skip by the local big box stores (Target, Wal-Mart, etc.) and stop into your local video game store instead. They may have a better lead on when shipments are coming in, what quantities might be available, and what chances you have for getting one of these golden systems.

I would recommend an EBGames or GameStop in your area, but as I'm a part-time employee of theirs, that would be biased =)
posted by Adelwolf at 8:24 AM on December 28, 2006

I got a Wii at Target this past Christmas season. I received the same sort of answers as you, basically all over the map when I asked about availability. I didn't attribute it to any maliciousness, just the volatility of the Wii over Christmas.

Of course my extra-cute girlfriend went to Target, and found out they would have 41 Wii's available one morning for a promotion, so I got there at 6am and received Wii #32. So she managed to coax a little information out that I couldn't, but she's much more convincing than I.
posted by patrickje at 12:21 PM on December 28, 2006

i work in the receiving department of a target store, so i handle wii/ps3/everything else shipments.

you: Why would Target employees not be truthful about when they have had/will get Wiis in stock?

depends on who you talk to.

for the most part, the TMs you snag on the floor simply don't know. as tiamat says, there are no briefings as to inventory levels, nor are there memos posted that give them this information. TMs are giving you random answers because it sounds better than answering all your questions honestly--"i don't know...i don't know...i don't know."

now, if you happen to talk to ME, i know goddamn well if we received any, if we have any, and sometimes if we're going to get any, but based on my position i'm obligated to play dumb as well. whenever i DO receive shipments during the week, there are typically explicit corporate orders telling us to hold the product until SUNDAY--because target just loves to put things in the sunday ad that we have virtually none of. by refusing to sell units during the week and pretending we don't have any until the weekend, we thwart claims of using bait-and-switch advertising when sunday comes and we don't have anything we advertised in stock.

ps3s and wiis are shipped via small package carrier (ups, fedex) and i believe shipments have started on the freight trucks overnight. if nintendo sends them to us via ups/fedex, we have no idea when we will get any in unless corporate tips us off. they show up, i check them in, they go to the hold. if they're coming in on the truck, the furthest in advance we can possibly know of arrivals is about 12 hours. someone would have to pull up the distribution center invoice for that night's truck(s) on the computer and scour it for whatever you're looking for.

now that you know a little about the internals, don't expect anybody to start checking DCIs just because you asked. it's a pain in the ass, it's time consuming, and few TMs have access to it in the first place. i certainly wouldn't do it for anybody unless it was a personal favor, simply because i can't afford to spend 45 minutes poring over invoices for every guest who asks.

you: They guy there today was super-helpful, and looked up what other stores had them (two of them had three apiece, but really far away from me). He was surprised by that, and guessed that the shipping must be unique for Wii - i.e. not on the regular Target truck. He told me to call back later and talk to him, and that he would tell me if FedEx had brought any in this morning.

be careful with those multi-store lookups; those are updated rather sporadically and are highly inaccurate. whenever i print those off i always advise guests to call ahead and confirm it's still in stock before they drive all the way the hell out to wherever.
posted by Ziggy Zaga at 12:04 AM on December 29, 2006

My friend walked into a Best Buy in Massachusetts yesterday, asked if they had any Wiis, and he lucked out. The clerk said that they had just arrived 30 minutes earlier, that none of the employees on the floor knew they were coming, and that they would probably sell out before they made it to store shelves.
posted by muddgirl at 10:54 AM on December 29, 2006

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