Thursday, November 09, 2006

Free Gift Cards

Sometimes, we’ll have a sale that includes a free gift card. In the circular, it might say something like, “Paper towels, 2 for $15, free $5 gift card!” (I just made that up, by the way.) You would have to buy the specific brand and size, of course. And each pack would cost $7.50 whether you bought two or not. But if you buy two, and only if you buy two, you get the gift card.

A prompt will come up on my computer asking me to scan one. I’ll ask you which one you want – it doesn’t matter which one you pick. They are all worth $0 until I activate them. No, you can’t say you don’t want one; you don’t get a choice.

I’ll scan the card, and the cost of the card will not be added to your purchase. However, the card will not be active until your purchase has been completed. In other words, no, you cannot use your free gift card in the same purchase in which you receive it.

Let me repeat that: no, you cannot use your free gift card in the same purchase in which you receive it.

You can break your purchase into two purchases, so that you receive your card in the first and use it in the second. That’s annoying, but acceptable.

Look at it like a rebate. It’s not a coupon; it’s money you get back after purchasing the item.

Oh, and if you get multiple free gift cards, I can’t put all of them on the same card; I had one Guest end up with something like eight $5 gift cards at the end of one purchase. What you can do (though I don’t recommend holding up the line to do it) is use your small-denomination gift cards to buy one larger one; that’s what this woman did.

And you can do this at any time, so if there’s six people in line, I’d suggest waiting until next time.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Red Cards

You will be offered a Red Card.

Now, this should come as no surprise. Most stores these days have cards of one sort or another.

No, this is not a club card. It is not a freebie that you swipe for extra sales. All our sales are for everybody.

It is a credit card. Actually, it is two credit cards.

The first is just the Red Card. You can only use it at Target. It’s easier to get, but has higher rates.

The second is the Target Visa. You can use it anywhere, and has lower rates and a higher credit limit. Obviously, you need better credit for this one.

But worry not! If you apply for the Target Visa and are not approved, we’ll see if you’re approved for the Red Card, and you’ll get that one.

(Rates vary by state and by how good your credit is, by the way.)

For every dollar you spend at Target using the card (and every $2 you spend elsewhere, if you have the Target Visa), you’ll get a point. When you’ve accumulated 1000 points, you get a coupon in the mail for 10% off your purchase.

Also, you have the option of signing up for Take Charge of Education, which donates 1% of your purchases at Target (and ½% of your purchases elsewhere) to the school of your choice, K-12.

So, how do you apply? You tell me you want to. I scan a credit agreement and your driver’s license (state ID, military ID, and passport are ok too, but that’s it). The card reader asks you some questions, and then the computer scans the big scary database to see if you qualify. You’ll probably get approved right away, in which case you’ll be given a temporary card and a coupon for 10% off one purchase; you’ll probably use that right away, since that’s usually why people sign up in the first place. Your permanent card will come in the mail in a week or two. When it does, you'll also get a code so you can save 10% off a purchase at

If you’re not approved right away, you’ll be told that you’ll have to wait. That means we have to do more checking. Sometimes you’ll get approved, and your card and 10% coupon will come in the mail. Sometimes you won’t, and you’ll get an explanation of why.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Card Reader

Ok. Every store has a different type of credit card reader. I wouldn’t be surprised if they varied from one Target to another. And it *certainly* wouldn’t surprise me if they changed them again after you read this.

That said: the card readers are not new. Yes, you have seen them before – last week, when you were in my line. Seriously, they’ve been there a few years. I’ve fought with that piece of hardware through several shifts in software.

But, that said, let me explain to you how to use it.

You can put your credit or debit card in at any point during the transaction. In fact, I’m supposed to encourage you to do so as soon as I start scanning your purchases (although there are certain situations where that’s not the best idea).

If your card is only a credit card, the machine will take you right to the form where you sign. Use the attached pen – not a real pen. Yes, I know someone used a real pen recently, and their signature is still there. I’m trying to get it cleaned up.

When I hit “Total,” the purchase goes through and you get your card back.

No, it doesn’t eat the card. It does not destroy the card. If the card is rejected, the machine will just spit it out at you.

Now, if the card can be used as either a credit card or a debit card, then the default is the debit card screen. If you want to use the card as a credit card, hit “Cancel.” It’ll give you the option to use it as a credit card, or to cancel altogether. You should be able to figure out which one you want.

If you want to use it as debit card, use the attached pen to poke in your PIN. You don’t have to use the pen, but it makes things much easier.

Do you want cash back? If so, how much? It looks confusing, I know, but all you have to do here is read the screen. It’s all written out pretty clearly. Simply follow the on-screen directions.

A major difference between the credit and debit options is that in debit, you can cancel at any point. In credit, once the card is approved, you are stuck; your entire purchase will go on the credit card. So if you choose “Credit,” be sure that’s what you want. Otherwise, tell me how you want to do this; I can take care of any other options on my end of the register.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Gift Cards Part II

If you have to give gift cards, these are the kind you want (not these). True, you can only use them at Target stores. But I would assume that if you’re giving them to someone, that someone lives near a Target.

Gift cards are easy. There are displays of them all over the store, with a decent selection right by the register. You know where the magazines, candy, and/or impulse items are? The gift card display is right above that, on both sides of the lane. Just grab one you like and hand it to the cashier.

You can put any amount you want on the card, from pennies to thousands of dollars (be warned, though: if you put more than a few on, I’ll have to check with Assets Protection). It doesn’t even have to be a round number. You want to give someone, say, $17.76 for the Fourth of July? Go for it.

Now, interestingly, new cashiers aren’t always told how to process these, so I’ll walk you through it.

We can ring up the gift card at any point before we total up your purchase. We scan the bar code on the back of the card (usually with the scan gun; it’s easier), then type in the amount the card is worth. No sales tax; no discounts. In fact, if you use the 10% that goes with your Target Red Card, it won’t apply to any gift cards you purchase.

When your purchase is complete, your gift card will be activated. You can use it immediately, if you like. Or, you can hold onto it; they don’t depreciate, which is nice.

When you use your gift card to buy things, you need to be a bit more mindful. You cannot, for instance, feed the gift card into the card reader. It probably won’t fit; if it fits, it’ll probably get stuck; if it doesn’t get stuck, it still won’t work.

Also, if you are using a gift card and a credit or debit card, do not feed the other card into the reader. If you do, then when I hit the “Total” button, the amount will automatically go onto your card, and I cannot apply the gift card.

Instead, as soon as I total things, give me any gift cards you are using (you can use as many as you want). I’ll scan them, and the amount will automatically come off the card and go toward your purchase. Anything left over will be evident on your receipt. Once we’re done with the gift cards, you can go on with whatever payment method you like.

Yes, we can check your card to see how much is left on it. But not during a transaction; that’s a separate function that we cannot access on the registers in the middle of ringing things up.

You may be asked if you want the card back, even if it is empty. Please don’t look at us like we’re crazy; we’re supposed to offer (though we often don’t). If you don’t want it back, it’s fine. We’ll take care of it. If you do, say so, even if we don’t ask. Plenty of people keep them for scrapbooks, or for their kids to play with. In fact, once my GSTL bought two gift cards for, like, a dollar each, because one had a toy card attached and the other had a picture of Elmo on it; his son just wanted to play with them. And if you want to do that, you’re welcome to it.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Rain Checks

Target offers rain checks on certain items. However, there are rules and restrictions.

For one thing, rain checks are only available for items on sale. Other discounts do not qualify for rain checks.

Seasonal items also do not apply. Since they are seasonal, once they are gone, they’re gone. Check the sale circular; it usually will say in small print if the item is not eligible for a rain check.

On that note, the item must be listed in the sale circular. Otherwise, rain checks are not available.

Ok. Now, you need the item number (DPCI) to get the rain check. The easiest way to do this is to take the Rain Check tab off the shelf. These actually aren’t always there, but the way it’s supposed to work is: when we run out of an item, we program a tablet of papers and place it where the item would go. You take one, and when I’m ringing up your purchase, I just scan the little paper and the register will print up your rain check.

Note that one rain check is good for any “reasonable” number of the item, so if you want three, you still only have to take one paper.

If there aren’t any rain check papers on the shelf, you can go to Guest Service. They can look up the DPCI and print a rain check there.

To redeem your rain check, just hand it to the cashier with the item it’s for, just like you would with a coupon. The price adjustment will happen automatically.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Small Talk

As a cashier, I tend to make inane small talk – brief, cheerful things that remind you that I’m a human being and assure you that I remember you are one, too. If you have a little kid helping you out, I’ll say hello to him or her (and not take offense if he or she won’t respond. It’s cool; I’m a stranger, after all). If you’re buying dog food, I’ll ask you what kind you have (I’ve tried that with cat food, too, but people tend to look at me funny and say, “Just a cat”). If there was rain earlier, or if I have a sinus headache due to changing fronts, I’ll ask about the weather. If I only have a half hour left in my shift, I may mention that in a conspiratory tone.

Guests tend to either engage or tune out. I’m fine either way. Some start conversations with me; this is usually fine, too.

Except once, when a man asked me if I was a student. “Yes,” I said, because I am.

Where do you go?

And I told him. No harm there.

What year, what are you studying?

I mentioned my grad program.

Oh, where did you go to undergrad?

No harm in that. It’s a local school and it’s not unusual for me to know people in common with the Guests.

Then he asked me about high school. And grade school. And my last name. And my parents' names. And my neighborhood. And what time I was done work.

So, in case he’s reading, or in case any of you, my few and faithful readers, don’t see the problem with this line of inquiry, let me explain:

This is creepy. Even disturbing. How do I know you won’t stalk me, kidnap me after work, or hack into my credit card? Maybe you’re completely innocent. Maybe you really meant well and wanted to make conversation, and as soon as you walked outside, you realized how inappropriate it was.

Fortunately, no harm is done in these situations, other than a mild case of the willies.

See, when questions get too personal… I lie.

Let this be a heads-up to any who ask too many personal questions of their cashiers, and a word of advice to any cashier who gets asked.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Gift Cards

Sometimes, Guests pay with gift cards. Not just Target gift cards (which are a post for another time), but gift cards provided by Visa, Mastercard, or American Express.

This is not a good thing.

First of all, when you buy one of these gift cards, the bank actually charges you on top of the amount on the card. So that’s a point to the “con” side of the tally sheet.

Then, there’s the usage. When you get, say, a $25 card, you know it has $25 on it. But when you use part of it, will you remember that you have, say, $4.82?

Well, I hope you do, because if the amount of your card is less than the total cost of your purchase and I don’t know that ahead of time, we’ll have a problem.

Some of these cards want to work as debit cards. I don’t have a problem with that, as long as you have a PIN. But 9 times out of 10, you don’t, and my register doesn’t accept debit cards without PINs.

So we use it as a credit card. Except when the card has less money on it than your total, the register will reject it, just as if you were using a normal credit card and went over your credit limit.

The way around this requires you to know exactly how much you have left on the card. You tell me that amount, and instead of having you insert your card for automatic payment fun, I tell the register that you’re using a card – and how much you’re putting on it. I essentially treat it as if I were going to run the card on my end rather than through the reader.

Which I’ll explain another time. Just trust me on this one.

Ok, so you’ve put your $4.82 toward your purchase, and now it’s time to pay the balance. But wait! You can’t use a credit card, because the register will only accept one credit card and one debit card per purchase.

Complicated, isn’t it?

So what’s the lesson of this story? If you want to give a gift, but you won’t/can’t give an actual gift, and you don’t want to limit your loved ones by giving them store-specific gift cards, but you find cash tacky…

Write them checks. Everyone wins.