Here’s a rant/report on an experience I had with Target Stores that might prove helpful as you think about your interactions with customers, how you support them and what it does for a brand — and a huge caution if you ever considering buying Target’s consumer electronics brand, TruTech.
Before I get started some disclosure is necessary: my wife was once the audio buyer for Target and I was a manufacturer’s representative calling on her with Pioneer Electronics (no…I didn’t ask her out while she was a buyer but waited until she was promoted out of the area into a non-conflict of interest position…but I digress). So we both know this game well and I can only imagine what Joe SixPack thinks since alot of “Joe’s” seem to be having similar experiences.
In November of 2006, I purchased a Target brand TV/DVD combo for my first year college daughter (this Target “TruTech” model). It was cheap but more than sufficient for her needs. When plugging the batteries into the remote I remarked on how cheap it was and — having broken and lost many remotes in my day — was not terribly concerned since universal remotes are so easy to find and cheap to buy…
…unless you’re a major mass merchandiser that buys from multiple vendors that do not offer or publish their remote control codes and have one place to buy a replacement for nearly 17% of the retail price of the unit itself!
(Please note the updates at the bottom of the next page)
I couldn’t find the original manual (who of us with *any* geek street cred would keep a manual for a TV/DVD combo for God’s sake!) so didn’t have the customer service number. Turns out there are no codes available *and* Target has used multiple OEM vendors to make the TruTech branded consumer electronics. Therefore, no universal remotes work. I bought one figuring I’d solve the problem, and after a couple of hours of screwing around (and reading this and all of these on Google, for example), I ended up at Alco Electronics support (just one of the Target TruTech OEM vendors) who indicated that “LG or Goldstar codes might work”.
They didn’t nor could the universal remote find a compatible code in “seek” mode.
I finally reached out to Target customer support. The first guy was helpful and indicated Starlite Consumer Electronics had supplied these particular models (which I think is Funai Electronics in Hong Kong) though calling back later a second woman hung up on me which was disconcerting. The Starlite 800# call was next and I talked to a very curt woman who sternly proclaimed, “NO…we do NOT publish the codes and we’ve TOLD THEM IN HONG KONG what a problem this is but they haven’t done anything yet.“
She indicated that — even though I could purchase one of a dozen or so universal remotes on a Target endcap for under the amount — she’d help me get a replacement remote for $30 and it would ship “sometime in the next couple of days and you will probably get it next week.“
$30 for a cheesy and cheap plastic remote (which is why it broke in the first place) for a TV/DVD combo set that retails for $179? It might ship in a couple of days and I might get it next week? WTF is THAT all about? In a day of great customer service, conversational marketing and precision in shipping information, this is baffling for a retailer the size of Target.
My wife calmly explained to me over lunch that writing a letter addressed to Target Corp and “video buyer” would probably be the best way to reach someone and indicate change was required. I thought I’d do this post first and reference it in the letter.
Here’s the deal: this is completely unacceptable and my time is too precious than to spend more than 10 minutes on this matter (which has been about the amount of time I’ve spent in the past replacing remotes for an untold number of devices). If it wasn’t for my little girl asking, “So Dad…have you been able to get me a remote yet?” I would’ve given up and bought another set (and for what I charge for consulting I could’ve bought 3 or 4 of the damn things and been done with it…but it’s the principle of the thing that gets me).
Furthermore, not either stocking replacement remotes or using the power, might and buying influence of Target Stores to DEMAND that the OEM manufacturer bend-over-backwards to support this TruTech brand by publishing codes or buying infrared (IR) chips from a mainstream vendor so universal remotes are supported is mystifying.
My faith was in the Target brand and the ethics expressed by my bride when she was buying audio (as well as other buyers I’ve known over the years). I expect nothing less of *anything* Target carries but I’ll *never* buy TruTech again and suggest you don’t either until such time that Target gets their act together.
UPDATE 10/25/08: Two
pieces of interesting news today: One is that I just checked, and there have been 37,086 pageviews of this post since it went live in May of 2007. The other is the most distressing as my daughter just informed me that the TV is making such a loud audio crackling noise (she hits it to make it stop) that she wants to make it go away (and we’ll buy her a new one for Christmas, no doubt, and there isn’t a snowballs-chance-in-Hell it’ll be a Trutech!).
So this means that THIS TV LASTED FOR ONE YEAR AND FIVE MONTHS since there’s no way it would be cost-effective to have it repaired.
UPDATE 12/25/07: I’ve been amazed at the hundreds of pageviews of this post every day between the day after Thanksgiving and today, Christmas day (over 16,000 total so far). I’ve received emails from people, you can read the comments, and see for yourself that there is a tremendous amount of dissatisfaction with the Trutech products. Please note that I cannot do anything myself but have, in fact, reached out via email to Kimberly Youngstrom (firstname.lastname@example.org) who is the person sanctioned as responsible for public relations for the Target Owned Brands. Ms. Youngstrom is with Target’s public relations agency in New York, Kaplow PR. I’ve emailed twice, the last time on November 26th but there has been no response.
UPDATE 9/3/07: This post has been amazing in the HUGE number of people that have read it (especially during this back-to-school season) and, most troubling, how many have commented AND have sent me emails asking for help. Target has used at least two vendors to make electronics for the TruTech brand. I’ve tried to locate the electronics buyer for Target Stores responsible for this brand, but after four hours of trying I’ve given up. I’d recommend calling Target Customer Service (1.800.440.0680) and let them know of your displeasure and what you could and should do.