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December 1, 2005 / Maleesha Kovnesky

The Waste Policy of Target

I was recently shopping at a trendy store. Let’s call it “Farget”. I needed several household items and Farget has a great selection, clean aisles, and is generally a very pleasant place to shop. I loaded up my li’l red cart and headed for the checkout aisle.

The pleasant and intelligent Farget employee rang up my purchases one by one. Then she began bagging the items. She picked up the small bucket of cat litter and somehow the lid came off. Cat litter spilled onto the conveyor, between the laser bar code reader, onto the floor and I am pretty sure some bounced into the cash register (I use the blue and white crystals – they are light and bouncy). All in all, only a cup of cat litter was lost, but those particles are awfully small…so it was quite the mess.

The lady called up someone on the speaker and asked for assistance. Another person promptly appeared. She was tasked with running back to the pet aisle to get me another bucket of litter. I didn’t have time to tell her what I already knew — that I had grabbed the last small bucket. Only big buckets remained, and those were more expensive. I wanted the small one.

She returned to inform the cashier and me of the size conflict. The cashier asked me if I could be satisfied with a larger cat litter. “Sure”. So the go-fer ran to the back again to grab me one. In the meantime, the cashier had already “rung up” my purchases, and now I had to walk over to the customer service counter to get my receipt “voided”. See, even though I was getting the same brand of cat litter for the same price, it was a different size. For inventory’s sake, the cashier had to void the entire purchase, denote the “faulty” cat litter as “damaged merchandise”, and print me a new receipt. Once customer service “voided” my purchase, I could return to the cashier and she could give me that new receipt. This is where technology is stupid. Or maybe it is the business rules that the store employs. My point is, back in the day, a cashier might have the freedom. trust, and ability to make a decision all on their own. They might say something like “Well, you can just go swap out the cat litter and be on your way,” or “You can have this one for a discount,” or something like that. But why on earth would a corporation as large as Farget entrust a lowly cashier with responsibility like that? Hell no. The customer has to participate in the circus.

Now keep in mind that maybe, maybe a cup of that cat litter spilled out. The bucket was still 95% full of perfectly good, unused litter. I asked the cashier what they did with the “damaged merchandise.”

“We have to throw it away.”

WHAT??!! I asked her if I could purchase it at a discount. No. I asked if they could leave it out back, and I could grab it later. No. They had to, by Farget law, throw out the perfectly good, albeit slightly lessened, bucket of cat litter. “We can’t risk selling damaged merchandise. Lawsuits, you know.” The cashier seemed to accept this, but the go-fer lady agreed with me. She started ranting about “damn shame” and “wasteful people”. I couldn’t imagine anyone suing Farget for discovering that their discounted cat litter contained a cup less that a regular, full priced bucket. You never know, these days.

So this particular rant is about a couple of things…the sick waste that we have here, perpetuated by corporate policy and fear of demented litigation. It’s also about that Farget employee. Here was a perfectly intelligent and responsible woman in her thirties. Why couldn’t Farget allow their cashiers to make a decision in the event of “damaged merchandise?” Why couldn’t she have been allowed to sell it for a 10% discount, or even to provide it to a nursing home for the purpose of sprinkling the litter on an icy sidewalk for traction? There are probably a hundred uses for cat litter, not all of them poop-related, but all of them better than tossing it. Maybe if mega-corporations like Farget gave their employees some authority and responsibility, we would have a better society. Responsibility is good for people. Without it, there is no accountability. There is also an enormous danger of losing common sense from our DNA.

See http://freegan.info/ for people WITH common sense. Take back the waste…er, perfectly good “stuff.”

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