Target Canada takes to YouTube to apologize for pretty much everything

Desperate times call for desperate measures


In the world of corporate mea culpas, we’ve seen plenty from companies in the wake of calamities like recalls, contaminations, and privacy breaches. But it’s rare to see one like this video, posted by Target Canada last week, apologizing for, well, pretty much everything. (One notable exception being this 2009 viral hit from Domino’s Pizza).

READ: A timeline of Target’s rocky first year in Canada »

Target has been plagued with difficulties since its launch in April 2013—check out our timeline of Target’s first year in Canada, and it’s clear that it was a rocky start. And the signs of trouble were there from before the start. As our own columnist Bruce Philp warned about the launch of Target Canada exactly one year ago:

Sure, [Canadians] say we want more choice, but time and again our behaviour organizes markets into a few dominant brands, from airlines to telecom to banks to coffee shops. Maybe we like to keep our lives simple. Maybe we just want to be able to keep an eye on everybody so they don’t try any funny business. Either way, Target needs to remember that, while not especially orderly, the Canadian marketplace for its products is actually not under-served.

And don’t imagine that careful market research is going to protect Target from overestimating us. Canadians have a bad habit of answering surveys as if they’re being asked whether someone’s new pants make them look fat. In the abstract safety of a focus group, we were probably fulsome in our enthusiasm for Target. Of course we’ll shop there. Of course we think it’s going to be better than where we’ve been shopping until now. Nobody says they don’t want something better than what they have. But the Canadian consumer wears pretty deep grooves on the road to the mall, despite her best intentions. Just ask Krispy Kreme.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and this remarkably candid video is the result. The cheery “Target Hearts Canada” icons just weren’t cutting it anymore, while in marketing circles trust is a competitive advantage. While this vague promise of change falls short of the kind of daring transparency that marked McDonald’s Our Food, Your Questions campaign, it’s a start.

READ: Our 2012 feature on the chain’s ambitious plans — Target’s friendly invasion »

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16 comments on “Target Canada takes to YouTube to apologize for pretty much everything

  1. I finally quit there a month ago, after working there for the past year. I can honestly say that this past year was the most discouraging, depressing year of my life. I have never worked for a more unorganized, badly-managed company in my life. They treat their staff (sorry, “team”) like garbage. Some highlights of my year from hell? Perhaps when they made a big production about treating the staff to the expired pastries they were throwing out from Starbucks. No, perhaps when our Christmas present was…wait for it…a reusable shopping bag. THE EXACT KIND THAT WE WERE GIVING AWAY FREE TO GUESTS…that’s what we each got, one lousy bag. Um…yeah, thanks. The worst part is, I was so excited for Target to come to Canada. Now I couldn’t care less, and you couldn’t PAY me to shop there. Not only do the stores suck, but the way they treat their people is even worse. #EPICFAIL

    • I agree. I used to work there and it’s was the worst experience of my life. They had a lot of empty promises and standards they couldn’t meet. The lack of properly trained management was shocking. And your lucky we didn’t even get a bag for Christmas. I see them in Canada 5 years at the most

  2. I think the marketing shows a lack of understanding of English in Canada. Many Canadians are annoyed at being called “guests”. In U.S. it has greater implication of honour, maybe because Americans are generally known for hospitality. In the “national-apologetic state-of-mind” in Canada, if you think you are a “guest” , you think you are on some-one else’s property, may be interrupting important business, and are looking for when you should leave. Mostly, we are aware of American-English, and know what they are “trying” to say,… but then, it just feels Fake & Manipulative. Target should research the local perceptions of their words, and call people Customers or shoppers or just citizens in the locations where that is better received.

    • Valid Comments. I agree, mostly because when I heard in the Video someone refer to customers as ‘guests’ I sort of cringed inside. Then I read your comment and validated it. They need to also stop with the ‘team meetings’ in the middle of the store, it looks contrived and it makes Canadians uneasy. Canadians just want to go in, get their shopping done, at a cheap price, and if something goes wrong, THEN we will want someone there to handle our situation with great Customer Service.

      • So right Brian

    • Calling customers “guests” is not an American thing. It’s a Target term, and when Target came to Canada, they promised the real Target and not Target light. That’s why they continue to use the term “guest”, not because it’s more American and they failed to understand “Canadian-English”.

  3. Zellers was just so Canadian. Everybody loved Zellers in the 80s. Too bad thy couldn’t keep the momentum going. Target is just another step in America’s elimination of canadian owned stores. I look forward to the day, and it will come, when everybody shops online and eliminates the time and waste of these large stores.

  4. I visited the Moncton NB store twice and twice I was over charged.. I’ve never gone back.

  5. Stop calling people guest, this is so stupid they are customers, paying customers, not guests

    • Maybe they could start by FILLING the stores of product rather then spreading out (scantly)
      all the stock they DO have. I don’t ever remember seeing as empty shelves at Zellers or even
      at Wal Mart for that matter. I worked retail years ago and the number one thing I learned was
      you can’t make sales or earn a profit out of the stock room. Get it OUT and get it onto the shelves NOW!

  6. I think the problem is the canadian target isn’t like the US one. for example: Target US… you would see 3 vitamin water for $2… and some crazy deals like that. So you grab some of those… then keep walking… and everywhere you walk there would be good prices standing out at you.

    But… I walk around and there’s no good deals… so… I assume everything is a bad price I guess.

  7. have been to several Target stores and can’t remember buying anything. stores are nicely laid out, clean, well stocked but not for me. cant get men’s jeans W36/29L. prices and quality not great either. cleanest men’s toilet anywhere. for now I would bet a negative for 5 years survival. other stores offer better value and pricing. too many stores for limited population. goods, food and drugs offered are not unique to Target. if Target fails the Canadian consumer will not miss it’s demise. really.

  8. Karma’s a bitch!!! I’m a former zellers employee of 14 years and I will never step foot into a target. They stormed into this country, taking away thousands of jobs from longtime, loyal and committed employees. Some that were at zellers since the doors opened 40 years ago. What a shame!!!! Sure they said we could REAPPLY for a job with them….bullshit! I know many zellers staff that APPLIED and not one of them got a job with target. I would really like to know if ANY former zellers employees got a job with target. Most of us have families and mortgages…and to lose our jobs and guaranteed paycheques and benefits was devastating!!! There aren’t very many full time jobs out there. All there is is part time, minimum wage jobs where you only get 4 or 8 hours a week which means some of us need to get 2, 3 or 4 jobs. And not to mention that they didn’t even open a target store in all the zellers stores they closed down…some towns just got swept aside…and they sold some of the stores to walmart (zellers rival competition)…looks to me like they were in cahoots together…some of the smaller towns only have a walmart in them now….why wouldn’t target open in those towns to give walmart a run for their money???? I hate walmart and I hate that I am forced to shop there! Zellers was a “FAMILY” store…not a store for guests!!!!!!!!!