Target’s 4 Mile Moment


Last Tuesday, thanks to a tip from SteelSnow, I wrote “Breaking News: Today only buy Target gift cards 10% off!”  Target gift cards are usually quite valuable so this was an amazing deal, but there was a lot more going on than a simple 10% discount…

I didn’t put details in my post, but people over on SlickDeals had a great scheme going.  They were buying Target e-gift cards for 10% off and then using them to buy more e-gift cards for 10% off, and so on!  In other words, they had a great perpetual money machine going while it lasted. 

I call this Target’s “4 Mile Moment” because it reminds me of United’s 4 mile mistake fare from a couple of weeks ago.  In that case, United had a programming glitch in which people were able to book first class flights to Hong Kong in exchange for only 4 miles.  In this case, I think Target’s marketing department simply hadn’t realized how this promotion could backfire.  In the heat of the moment, United stopped their bleeding by temporarily blocking all award flight redemptions to Hong Kong.  Later, they canceled all bookings that began more than a week out.  Target stopped their bleeding in three ways:

  1. Target delayed delivery of e-gift cards until the next day (when the sale was over).  Their web site promises delivery “usually within 4 hours”.  They were saved by the word “usually.”  I thought this was a smart move by Target.
  2. Target also imposed a 10 item limit clause that was apparently buried in some document somewhere.  Most people who ordered more than 10 items had their extra orders canceled without explanation.  Some people were lucky enough to have more than 10 orders go through.
  3. Most gift cards were out of stock before the day was through.  I can’t figure out how anyone can run out of e-gift cards, but that’s what happened. 

Personally, I found both United’s and Target’s mistakes to be great fun regardless of how they turned out.  All three of my United trips were canceled.  With Target I did better.  I had more than $1000 of Target gift cards at home in preparation for other experiments, so I used them to buy 14 $100 e-gift cards and 1 $100 physical card.  5 of the e-gift card orders were canceled, but still I was able to turn $900 worth of gift cards (that I had bought at a discount previously) into $1000 worth of new gift cards.  Nice!

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