Target Text Gift Card: A Fail Experience


It is a great concept: send a gift card to someone using text messaging. That’s exactly what I wanted. I had a friend who was at a nearby Target, and wanted to send him a birthday gift certificate. As I consumer I was thrilled to be able to do something as cool as sending my friend an instant gift card and have him get it while on the phone with me. It didn’t work.

Target mobile Gift card fail

Target even created an iPhone app that allows one to send a text or email version of a gift card to a mobile-phone user. But what the company failed to tell me is that the transaction usually takes 24 hours to process! Yes, 24 hours. There’s nothing instant about that. I didn’t find that out until several hours and three different customer service calls to India later. In my mind there was nothing to process! You have my money, you have the recipient’s phone or email address, then send the darn email out. Now. Not 24 hours from now.

Great idea + poor implementation = fail. Marketing did its job promoting the product but IT (information technology) failed to deliver on it. After all, we can ship a package around the world in 24 hours. It’s ridiculous to expect that a text or email certificate needs the same amount of time to process.

I tried BestBuy‘s gift card option, and in less than 1 hour, my friend received his email confirmation.

Great ideas usually die on the crucible of bad implementation. Think about the great looking website that is slow and poorly organized, or a book that has a strong concept but that is tedious to get through. They are failed good ideas.

What about your product? Whether is physical product, an experience, or a promise. Are you delivering on the promises or do you need to tweak your system so what was a good idea will not fail because of implementation?


  • Mark Jeffress

    Often times people don’t think through the entire consumer experience and expectation. Waiting 24 hours to send out a text in today’s world is just not realistic. 

  • Steven Shantz

    It will take me a while to get over you slamming IT (Information Technology) like that.  You’re right though. IT people need to see themselves as “rain makers” within the organization and contributors to the sales and marketing process. If IT thought about how they would like to be treated as a sender and recipient of the gift card, they perhaps would have put a system in place that could deliver it quickly. 

    • I wasn’t trying to diss IT folks, but that’s usually where these issues ended up happening. I’m sure they are batch processing their credit cards or something that serves a retail operation but is completely inadequate for the eGift product.

      You’re right, the solution should match the consumer behavior and expectation instead of what’s already in place in the back office.

  • Brett Clark

    If Jack Bauer has to wait 24 hours for a freakin text the world as we know it would be… tick…tick…tick…BOOM!

  • Similar experience I had.  Kroger grocery has gift cards to benefit schools.  Grerat idea.  I go to customer service, load my card, and proceed to checkout and use the card.  Card is denied.  Cashier “Did you just load this within the past 10 minutes?” When I replied yes, “well, the card doesn’t work for about 30 minutes after you load it”.  Are you kidding me? So, I had to pay with my debit card, proceed to customer service, get a refund, and re-pay with the gift card!!!  #FAIL

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