Target’s Data Breach and Its Weasel CEO
We have a Target store in the neighborhood. I never liked the place. And I liked it less when Target lawyers sent a letter to my former company ordering us to stop using the term Target Marketing. It makes no mind that Target Marketing has been around for 40 years and Target stores have not. Lawyers are in the business of being weasels, making trouble and collecting fees.
On Dec. 19, 2013, a data breach of Target was reported. Over the coming weeks, the news got worse and worse.
By the New Year, it became obvious:
- Target had created a data catastrophe.
- Target's cover-your-ass P.R. campaign leaked out news of the worsening situation, until it was revealed 110 million consumers were victimized.
That's roughly one-third the U.S. population.
• Dec. 19, 2013: 40 Million Credit & Debit Accounts Stolen
The company early Thursday confirmed a data breach may have affected about 40 million credit card and debit card accounts between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15. —The Wall Street Journal
• Dec. 20, 2013: Okay, Take 10% Off Everything
Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel issued an apology on the company's website Friday to the approximately 40 million customers affected by one of the largest credit-card breaches ever to hit a U.S. retailer. To make up for the problem, which Steinhafel said has been "eliminated," Target is offering customers 10 percent off this weekend, the same discount Target workers get.
• Dec. 26, 2013: Take Up to 50% Off After Xmas Clearance
If you are headed out to Target today—as you know—today is the day that many items will be already marked at 50% off. Clearance will vary from store to store—some stores may have practically nothing, while others may have lots of stuff left. Most of the usual Holiday items—decorations, ornaments, giftwrap, stocking stuffers and more should all be at 50% Off today. But there are lots of seasonal grocery and household items to watch for now that it is after Christmas, too.
• Dec. 27, 2013: Oops, They Got the PINs
Hackers who stole data for up to 40 million credit cards and debit cards used in Target stores removed encrypted data with personal identification numbers—but the theft isn't expected to compromise card holder accounts—the retail giant said Friday.
• Jan. 10, 2014: Golly Gee, It's More Like 110 Million
[Target] disclosed that as many as 70 million customers may have had their names, phone numbers and home and email addresses stolen in the breach. The Minneapolis retailer, which made the announcement early Friday, said those 70 million people are separate from the roughly 40 million credit and debit cards it previously said had been compromised.
• Jan. 13, 2014: Full-Page Apology From the CEO
Target Corp. is running a full-page advertisement in more than 50 major newspapers across the country, apologizing for a recent security breach that affected as many as 110 million customers. The ad appeared Monday morning in The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post and USA Today. It's also appearing in local papers in the top 50 U.S. markets either Monday or Tuesday, depending on those papers' schedules for ad submissions, Target spokeswoman Molly Snyder said.
The Response: A Series of Insults
When a breach of 40 million accounts is discovered, here's NOT what you offer:
"So at Target we get a 10 percent discount if you're a team member, and we want to extend that team member discount to all of the guests that come and shop with us this weekend as a small way to just say thank you for being a great guest at Target."
The discount is available Dec. 21-22, but some restrictions do apply:
"Valid in store only. Limit one offer per guest to be used in a single transaction. Void if prohibited by law. Not valid in Canada. No cash value."
Ten percent discount—with a bunch of disclaimers—was an insulting offer. This is especially true when four days later—post Christmas—everything in the store was on sale at up to 50 percent off.
Instead, Target should have shown the world it really, really cared and immediately offered 50 percent off everything.
This would have gotten people back into the store and used to shopping at Target, even in a crisis.
CEO Gregg Steinhafel's Ultimate Insult
In Target's open letter of apology in 50 U.S. newspapers, Steinhafel's message was as insulting as his 10 percent discount offer:
In the days ahead, Target will announce a coalition to help educate the public on the dangers of consumer scams.
Yeah, 140 million Americans need to be educated because we're all so incompetent and stupid.
This whole mess was clearly our fault.
Takeaways to Consider
- This is a catastrophe, putting one-third the population of the United States at severe inconvenience and serious risk.
- Offering a 10 percent discount—with a series of disclaimers—is insulting.
- Doubly insulting when Target offered up to 50 percent off everything in the store just four days later.
- Triply insulting by offering to educate the stupid masses on the dangers of consumer scams when the Target organization was the enabler.
- This is akin to New York Yankee superstar Alex Rodriguez suing major league baseball for suspending him after playing for years hyped on performance-enhancing steroids and hormones.
- My advice to all CEOs of bush league, cheapsy-weepsy organizations who dump excrement all over themselves and millions of their loyal customers: Hire a world class P.R. firm and do what they say.
- Target stores do not deserve to be in business and a consumer is nuts to use a charge card there.
P.S. Update on Jan. 21's Imagine! Asking for $10MM-plus to start a Dweebsite!
Just in: Ezra Klein has found a home.
Let’s all wish him well.
Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and recently published his latest title, "Write Everything Right!" Denny also is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. Visit him at dennyhatch.com or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.