What would your company do if its point-of-sale system crashed for several hours?
That’s what happened to Target over the weekend as it lost the ability—twice in as many days—to operate its cash registers. The first outage occurred June 15 and lasted for two hours; some customers reported more issues the following day.
The great Target outage of 2019 continued on a smaller scale Sunday with a few shoppers reporting that some stores were unable to process credit card purchases.
Saturday’s approximately two-hour long outage affected all Target stores and was caused by an error made during regular system maintenance, Target spokeswoman Jenna Reck confirmed to USA TODAY.
Sunday’s issue was unrelated, caused by an issue at vendor NCR, Target said in a statement. It was not widespread like on Saturday.
“While this was not an issue within Target’s technology system, Target was unable to process select card payments at some stores for about 90 minutes,” Target’s statement said. “The issue is now resolved and payments are going through normally.”
Target cited a vendor as the reason for the outage—and the outrage.
“Like many other companies, Target uses NCR as a vendor to help accept payments, and on Sunday afternoon NCR experienced an issue at one of their data centers,” Target said.
Target (TGT) said the issue was resolved by Sunday evening and that it wasn’t related to security. It also indicated that “no payment information was compromised at any time.”
NCR could not be reached for comment Sunday evening.
Grumpy customers shared their frustration on social media:
— Antoine Johnson (@HouseofTalentPa) June 16, 2019
— Jim Salomone (@jim_salo) June 15, 2019
Others asked shoppers to treat employees kindly:
Friendly reminder that Target employees are not the right people to be taking out all your anger and wrath on. Don't blame the workers. #targetdown
— Tom Vasquez (@TVasquez) June 15, 2019
Please don’t harass Target Team Members, we have no control over Target falling. Be kind & be patient during our Armageddon #targetdown
— Sooshi (@iiTsSooshi) June 15, 2019
There were many reports of Target employees handing out coffee and other freebies to pacify customers in line. Others said shoppers were sharing carts and baskets to spare tired arms.
Terrible video but had to share. Employees handing out chips. Starbucks handing out drinks. Customers offering their baskets to strangers trying to hold all of their items. Sometimes the most uncomfortable situations can actually bring out the best of human nature. #targetdown pic.twitter.com/iI3owraDoX
— Hunter Sowards (@huntersowards3) June 15, 2019
The incident is another example of how crises spread online and how social media leads consumers toward hyperbole.
The outage lasted for about two hours, according to the spokeswoman, but shoppers on social media compared the inconvenience to an end-of-the-world event.
People used #Targetgeddon and #TargetApocalypse to show what the outage looked like from their local stores. Most photos and videos revealed long-winding lines filled with packed shopping carts pushed by annoyed people.
The register shutdown appeared to have affected stores in New Jersey, Florida, California and elsewhere.
One Texas news producer witnessed Target and Starbucks employees handing out chips and drinks to try to assuage customers stuck in long queues.
Target acknowledged the outage on its Twitter feed:
— Target (@Target) June 15, 2019
— Target (@Target) June 15, 2019
How much should companies worry about this kind of problem? Some industry experts weren’t surprised by the outage.
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.”
Sometimes, Schmidt said, even a simple upgrade doesn’t go as planned.
“It’s one of those things that happens, unfortunately,” he said.
Target took special care to inform customers that personal data wasn’t affected; consumers are still wary after a breach exposed millions of credit card numbers six years ago.
In 2013, hackers stole sensitive information, including credit card, debit card and PIN numbers, from an estimated 70 million Target customers. As a result, the retail giant had to pay $18.7 million in a settlement involving 47 states and Washington D.C.
[Target spokeswoman Danielle Schumann] told HuffPost that Target completed an initial review of Saturday’s outages and determined that it was “not a data breach or security-related issue, and no guest information was compromised at any time.”
The company said that Target registers were “fully back online” as of Saturday evening.
“Our technology team worked quickly to identify and fix the issue, and we apologize for the inconvenience and frustration this caused for our guests,” Schumann said.
Still, the weekend is a significant hiccup for brick-and-mortar retail, which is trying to stay competitive with online shopping experiences. Customers who had to wait in line could be inspired to try shopping from home next time.
What do you think of Target’s crisis response efforts, PR Daily readers?