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There must be something about June 15th that makes Target’s computers want to take the day off.

Exactly five years after a massive outage caused Target’s checkout systems to go down across the country, leaving customers waiting in long lines trying to pay for their purchases, it happened again on Saturday. And shoppers who stuck it out were richly rewarded with snacks, free gift cards, and war stories to tell their grandchildren someday.

Things started going wrong at about 1:30pm Eastern Time, or 10:30am on the West Coast. Weekends are normally the busiest times at Target as it is, let alone the day before Father’s Day. So when Target’s registers suddenly stopped working in the middle of a busy Saturday, coast to coast, it may have been one of the worst possible times for it to happen.

“There’s a global outage on every single Target related device. This for real feels like the start to the apocalypse,” a Target employee tweeted early on. “I thought today was going to be a beautiful day and then #targetdown occurred and now America is slowly collapsing,” a shopper tweeted.

Some shoppers complained that they weren’t being told what was going on, as checkout lines slowed to a standstill. “Long lines and no communication,” one shopper wrote on Target’s Facebook page. “My store is not even telling anyone, just making them wait in the long lines and then not being able to get anything anyway,” another wrote.

But once Target figured out the extent of the problem it had, the company issued a statement: “We’re aware that guests are currently unable to make purchases at Target stores. Our teams are troubleshooting now and we apologize for the inconvenience.”

As it happened, checking out was difficult and time-consuming, but not impossible. Some shoppers said their cashiers managed to get customers through the lines by manually typing in items’ bar code numbers. One shopper said it took “several swipes to actually scan each item,” while a cashier posting on an employee message board explained that, as items were scanned, it was taking “15-20 seconds per item to process before the register will recognize them”.

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To calm the growing crowds, many stores started handing out popcorn and Starbucks samples. Others gave away $5 Target gift cards. “I walked in, they apologized profusely, and handed me coupons,” one lucky shopper wrote.

And some customers even managed to score some unexpected deals. “Got my produce for free because the scales didn’t work,” one shopper tweeted. “My cashier didn’t know how to price my items so I only paid $0.50 for each of my makeup products and $5 for my clothes,” another wrote. “God really blessed us with the registers going down.”

That particular sentiment was not shared by many, Even so, shoppers for the most part seemed rather serene about the whole thing, and most of the comments on Target’s Facebook page were positive. “The employees were super helpful and calm. Cheers to how well they were managing a difficult situation,” one commenter wrote. “Super impressed with this quality of customer service and making guests feel comfortable,” another offered.

A couple of hours later, Target managed to get things back up and running. “The temporary outage earlier today was the result of an internal technology issue that lasted for approximately two hours,” the company said in a statement. “After an initial but thorough review, we can confirm that this was not a data breach or security-related issue, and no guest information was compromised at any time. We appreciate all of our store team members who worked quickly to assist guests and thank everyone involved for their patience.”

(Update: Making matters worse, Target experienced even more issues Sunday that it said were unrelated to Saturday’s outage. Many stores Sunday couldn’t accept credit or debit card payments for about 90 minutes, so customers had to pay cash or not at all. Target said it was because of an issue with its payment processor NCR.

“We never want to disappoint any guests and we’re working tirelessly to ensure these issues don’t happen again,” a no-doubt weary Target spokesperson said Sunday. “We know many guests had a frustrating shopping experience in our stores this weekend. For that, we are truly sorry.”)

The odd part about all of this was that the very same thing that happened Saturday, also happened to Target five years ago to the day. On June 15, 2014, widespread register outages also brought Target stores across the country to a standstill. As it did this time, Target reassured shoppers that it was “a software and not a security issue”. But the 2014 incident came just six months after a major data breach that exposed tens of millions of customers’ credit and debit account information. So shoppers at that time were somewhat more suspicious, and less forgiving, about the register outages than they appear to have been this time.

So what about next time? Target certainly hopes there won’t be a next time. But perhaps you should protectively mark your calendar for June 15, 2024. It may be too early to know what your plans might be that day – but just to be safe, you might want to make sure those plans don’t involve going to Target.

Image source: Twitter/@ericbhart

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  1. Pingback: The Day Target Died - again - deranged.mederanged.me

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