Commentary

Target's Tech Travails: Processing Payments Again After 2 Cash Register Issues

After surviving a crash of its cash registers at 1,800 stores nationwide on Saturday -- #Targeteddon was one hashtag  that popped up  on social media -- on Saturday, Target yesterday suffered a similar but unrelated problem processing credit cards at some stores. Both incidents were the result of tech issues -- the first of its own making, the second at vendor NCR -- Target says, stating that neither compromised customers’ data.

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“Target said Saturday night an hours-long register outage had ended, after nationwide ‘system issues’ prevented customers from checking out at registers. The outage caused long checkout lines at Target locations, with upset customers posting images and video on social media. It’s unclear what caused the outages, though the system has since been restored,” CBS News reported on Saturday.

Target later issued a tweet  and news release  stating, in part: “The temporary outage earlier today was the result of an internal technology issue that lasted for approximately two hours. Our technology team worked quickly to identify and fix the issue, and we apologize for the inconvenience and frustration this caused for our guests. After an initial but thorough review, we can confirm that this was not a data breach or security-related issue, and no guest information was compromised at any time.”

But computer gremlins are resilient and adaptable, as we all know.

“Target customers Sunday reported issues checking out at stores across the country…,” CNBC’s Spencer Kimball reports

“Customers said card readers weren’t working and they had to pay in cash. In a statement to CNBC, a Target spokesperson said the company’s payment processor, NCR, experienced issues at one of its data centers. As a consequence, Target was unable to process card payments at some stores for about 90 minutes,” Kimball continues.

“Joshua Mcbride said that fellow shoppers at his local Target in Phoenix were ‘annoyed’ at the situation and that there were about 50 people waiting in line to pay on Sunday afternoon,” Derrick Bryson Taylor writes for the New York Times.

“‘The lines were wrapped around the place,’ Mr. Mcbride said. ‘They were super long and all the managers were saying the entire system had crashed, and that they were only able to accept cash because their credit card systems were down, as well as the Target system itself,’” Taylor continues.

“Mr. Mcbride, who said he waited about 20 minutes to pay on Sunday, said managers relayed that their computers needed to be ‘rebooted’ and that they were on the phone with Target’s corporate office. ‘The managers seemed kind of frantic, but they gave us $10 off all of our bills, Mr. Mcbride said,” Taylor relates.

“The technical problems are a setback for Target, which has been investing heavily to remodel its stores and improve its technology as it battles Walmart Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and others for customers. In recent quarters, it has reported strong sales growth boosted by U.S. consumer spending,” Khadeeja Safdar writes  for the Wall Street Journal.

“In 2013, Target suffered a data breach, which affected as many as 70 million people and led to an $18.5 million settlement to resolve an investigation by state prosecutors,” Safdar reminds us.

“Eric Schmidt, chief information security officer at Butler University in Indianapolis, wasn’t surprised to learn that the outage was related to maintenance. ‘Weekends are a normal maintenance time for most IT shops,’ Schmidt said. ‘Retail is different especially with stores being open seven days a week,’” Kelly Tyko writes for USA Today.

“Sometimes, Schmidt said, even a simple upgrade doesn’t go as planned. ‘It’s one of those things that happens, unfortunately,’ he said.”

“Standing in line @Target with no time frame for the registers working again. So far they’ve handed out: popcorn, bananas, icees, Starbucks, coupons. Next up: just take your stuff and go?” Blair Driscoll tweeted from Tampa on Saturday, along with a picture of fellow thwarted shoppers that attracted the attention of BuzzFeedNews, FOX 13 in Tampa and @seattlepi.

Later, she wrote: “Made it out!! The @Target team members made it as fun and ‘enjoyable’ as they could. And it sure beats being stuck in a Walmart, any day. #Target.”

Not exactly the tagline for an ad campaign but somewhat comforting to the folks at Minneapolis headquarters, I imagine.

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