Missing the mark – why you should hate Target

target fail

Last week Target Canada announced that after 2 years of losses, it was going to take it’s little dog and go home, leaving the land of maple syrup and poutine to pick up the pieces of a shattered dream for over 17,000 Canadians.

Sure, Canada can be an inhospitable place when it comes to the frozen retail jungle, with our high taxes, importing tariffs, base labour rates, etcetera, etcetera.  That much we know, so why didn’t the big brains at Target know that?  Maybe they could have nudged a friendly Canuck on the arm and found out what we’re all about, or sifted through the ashes of other failed chains like Radio Shack, Sam’s Club and Marks & Spencer for clues.

Perhaps the giveaway of their eventual demise was their clamor to buy up retail space from the failed Zeller’s chain…an omen of things to come?

We can all sympathize with the dire news that hits us every January in this country, when the bean-counters tally up the coveted Christmas retail sales numbers only to find another chain is waving the white flag and liquidating it’s inventory as sales fell short of what was needed to keep the ship afloat.

For that, I feel sad.  For Target, my feelings are not so benevolent.  It has nothing to do with it being a U.S. chain that invaded our snow-covered borders.  Heck, we were excited to have them here!  We welcomed the enormous bulls-eye with open arms and open wallets.  No, my wrath has nothing to do with where Target came from.  It’s in how they came and how they left.

Target arrived with more fanfare than a Presidential Inauguration.  “We are the great Target, and we will give good jobs to hard-working Canadians.  We will support distributors, vendors, support services, and landlords; bring tax revenue to this quaint little country, and we will take on the much-despised Walmart”.

They traded here on their U.S. strength, deep coffers, savvy buying and great prices all wrapped in a sophisticated retail environment.  They said, in so many words, that they were a huge American company, so trust them.

Vendors signed up to deliver goods without credit check, terms or deposits.  They were happy just to be one of the few chosen to stock the shelves in this great retailing giant. Workers were romanced into leaving good paying jobs to join this amazing company. They all had dreams of long-term growth, as demonstrated south of the border.  And Target traded on their impressive U.S. CV.

But something went very wrong.  Their first store openings were as unimpressive as a beach party during a Canadian snow storm.  Empty shelves, weak pricing, boring selection all had the Canadian shoppers shaking their collective heads as to what Target was thinking.

It never got any better.  Stores continued to suffer from delivery issues, non-competitive pricing, and ineffective advertising.  The only thing emptier than the shelves were the check-out lines. The writing was on the wall right from the first ribbon-cutting in Guelph Ontario.

Bad planning?  Perhaps.  Underestimating the Canadian retail landscape?  For sure. These things are tragic and stupid, but that’s not what has me writing this.  The ire is in what Target did next.

After using the American head office muscle to sway us into a false sense of security with Target, they decided to pack up and leave not as an American retail powerhouse, but as a failed Canadian company that has applied for creditor protection (Canadian version of Chapter 7 – bankruptcy protection).

That’s right – Target, with all its money and influence, chose to slink back south of the border without having to make good on it’s promises to us Canadians.  Besides the 17,000 plus employees that are left in the dust, Target has used a legal loophole to avoid having to pay it’s bills here.  Not as that big American company that used all its leverage to gain favour, but as a uniquely Canadian company unable to cover it’s debt.

So now they’ll leave with hat in hand, saying ‘Gee, shucks.  Really sorry about all that inventory you shipped us, but we can’t pay for it’.  Nowhere is the American parent, still with deep pockets and international influence, swooping in to take care of the mess their offspring created, even though it was that parent who persuaded us to ‘trust’ their kid.

Where is that strong giant parent company, now that all those workers are applying for employment insurance?  What about the suppliers who are hoping to get something from the inventory liquidation process to cover some of their losses – and probably having to lay off more people – the contractors who clean, maintain, and provide security to the Target stores? All out of work, and possibly out of pocket.

There are more, I’m sure that will be affected by this, and many won’t get paid for outstanding invoices.  Target will carry on south of the border as if nothing happened up here, and some of us will still travel across to cash in on bargains, just like they have in the past.

Instead of stepping back into the mess they’ve created and making good on their financial commitments, Target chose to protect itself from taking responsibility for a lousy business strategy, and for causing a huge ripple effect on the Canadian economy.

Shameful…and I hate them for it.

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Canadian Thanksgiving – a vaguely historical account

This weekend, Canada will celebrate it’s 56th official Thanksgiving Holiday weekend.

Up here in the ‘Great White North’ we honour this event on the second Monday of October, not because our season is shorter, and we’ve harvested the crops already, but we really just wanted to beat the Americans at something.

Canada is relatively new at this as an actual holiday, having made it official in 1957. I guess being the polite sorts we are, we didn’t want to offend anyone by being officially thankful without making sure everyone was okay with it.

The original conception for the Canadian Thanksgiving, by my recollection, actually started way back in the 1500’s, when an explorer named Martin Frobisher had loaded his boats with what some historians believe was maple syrup (some insist it was gold, but that would ruin the story – you’ll see what I mean).  He ran into the ice and the sailors had to be saved by the local indigenous people.  By some strange twist of fate, he hit the ice in Frobisher Bay.  Huh.

Most of the syrup was lost, but the kind and gentle natives who witnessed the accident, had a big supply of Canadian back bacon and decided to share it with the sweet-toothed explorers.  Of course, Canada hadn’t been invented yet, so it wasn’t called Canadian back bacon at the time.

Some of the maple syrup that leaked from the ships, froze into smallish disks on the ice and the locals would hit them with their hunting spears. The syrup ‘pucks’ would slide across the ice, giving birth to our greatest national pastime, hockey.  Others would eat the tasty frozen treat, which was delicious, but they had to be careful not to get hit with one of the spears.  This probably led to the hockey helmet being invented.

Hockey, another gift from our First Nations people, accidentally led to the expansion westward from Quebec City, when the natives and explores were playing hockey with frozen syrup on the St. Lawrence river.  One of the explorers got a breakaway, and because they hadn’t invented goalies or nets yet, skated all the way to what is now known as Kingston.

The explorers were so pleased and thankful for this discovery, that they decided to take all the land from the indigenous people, and throw a huge party for themselves.

Although this all happened in the middle of winter, the English and French settlers argued about when to hold this annual celebration.  The French wanted it in October, the time of year that they bamboozled the generous locals into giving up their bountiful harvest.  The English wanted it in the spring, because this is when the river thawed out, and they were able to paddle in-land and take over a significant part of the country.  Then, the English changed their minds, and decided November was a better time for this, since it’s when they officially pilfered the land.

For a long time, the celebration was held on different dates, until the English decided that they wanted a special day to mark the taking over of the country with a separate war-related holiday, thus giving in to the French.  As it turns out, this was the first (and maybe only) time that the French ever actually won anything.

In a weird twist of cultural irony, it is Quebec, our French-speaking province that does not view our modern Thanksgiving celebration as an official holiday.  This is because, when the rest of English Canada got on board with the October feast, Quebec immediately abandoned it, siting a need to be a distinct society.

The precursor to our Thanksgiving in October is another celebration brought over by the Germans, who oddly enough, had nothing to do with the take-over of this land.  Anyway, it was the October festival, known as ‘Oktoberfest’, celebrated in major cities, but primarily hosted in Kitchener, Ontario because of its large German population, that is considered one of our unofficial kick-offs to Thanksgiving.  I mean, what says ‘Let’s get this party started’ more than drinking too much beer while wearing leather shorts?

Today, our modern Thanksgiving is celebrated in a very similar fashion to that of our American cousins.  Families gather for the long weekend to dine, close the pools and cottages, rake leaves, and spend time together. They eat themselves into a tryptophan induced coma with turkey and ham, and all the usual fixings, like stale bread stuffed into the backside of a dead bird.  Sometimes, it defies explanation how these traditions came about.

Unlike our American counterparts, we may not have the big football game, or the official kick-off to the Christmas season, but we, in very Canadian style, reenact some of our unique history by watching English and French millionaire athletes chase a puck around the frozen pond. They don’t use syrup any more, and instead, in a back-handed, slightly racist tip of the hat to our First Nations people kind of way, use an ‘Indian rubber’ puck.

I can’t confirm that all of the historical points above are completely accurate – I slept through most of grade 9 Canadian History class.  I do know that I can’t wait to head up north where the air is crisp and clean, the leaves are blazing with colour, and we’ll give thanks for the awesome country we live in at a family cottage, while feasting on the above-mentioned turkey and stuffing.

Wherever or whenever, or even however you celebrate Thanksgiving, my wish to you is that you celebrate it with good friends and family, and that you take a moment to reflect not only on what you’re thankful for, but  who you’re thankful to.

Wishing all of you a happy and safe Canadian Thanksgiving, eh!

P.S. – for handy tips on how NOT to cook a turkey this Thanksgiving, see my Blog “Folklore, Flaming Turkeys and Family Traditions”   https://troypulchinski.wordpress.com/2013/05/13/folklore-flaming-turkeys-and-family-traditions/

P.P.S. – If you found this blog offensive, see my Blog, “The Perils Of Humor”  https://troypulchinski.wordpress.com/2013/08/01/the-perils-of-humor/

O Canada!

This Monday, July 1st, Canada will turn 146.  This blog is a list of all things Canada for all those who are Canadian and still suffer from an identity crisis, or those who are not Canadian, and want to know what Canadians are really like.

I’m dedicating this blog to our Canadian family living in the Seattle area, and doing a great job of integrating into their new surroundings. I’m sure the locals don’t suspect a thing!

This is being Canadian…

  • We do say ‘eh‘ a lot, but we think it’s more polite than ‘what?’, or ‘huh?
  • We don’t often say ‘No Doubt About It‘ (sounds like ‘nuh doot aboot it’ – it helps with the pronunciation if you purse your lips while saying it)
  • Almost none of us have even seen a real igloo let alone lived in one
  • We get really excited if ANY Canadian city, object, map, name, person, idea, sport, or anything else Canadian gets mentioned on a U.S. television show
  • No one has a pet polar bear – they eat people
  • Beavers and Canada Geese are annoying…really!
  • Maple syrup is not on every kitchen table
  • Celine Dion and Justin Bieber are our gift to the world…. please don’t return them
  • Plaid jackets and fur hats are not part of our wardrobe…at least not in the cities
  • Most of us don’t speak French…in fact most French Canadians don’t really speak French – they speak ‘Frenglish’
  • Poutine is not our national dish, but it should be
  • We spell neighbour and honour and colour with a ‘u’.  I don’t know why, and Microsoft Word hates it
  • We really don’t like it when we’re told our currency looks like Monopoly money
  • We’ll almost never pick a fight, but we’ll almost never back down from one either
  • Even though we have oceans on 3 of our 4 sides, the West Edmonton Mall has more submarines than our navy – don’t tell Russia
  • Canadians like their beer
  • Overall, we are very polite.  We even apologize when someone else bumps into us
  • We invented basketball and hockey, but our official national sport is lacrosse….I don’t know why
  • We eat chocolate bars and drink pop, not candy bars and soda
  • We don’t know ‘Dave’ from Vancouver
  • Most of us don’t understand what people from Newfoundland are saying, either
  • Universal health care is great, and it doesn’t make us communists
  • We interchange the Metric and Imperial systems because we’re still trying to figure out what the heck a deciliter is
  • William Shatner (Canadian) keeps getting cooler
  • We know that you’re not from here because you pronounce ‘Toronto‘ the way it’s spelt
  • There are only 8 people for every square mile of land (or 3.4 per square kilometer), but most of us are crammed into a tiny area around Lake Ontario
  • The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are almost never mounted
  • Tim Horton’s coffee is an obsession.  Get over it
  • We pronounce it ‘zed’ not ‘zee’

That’s being Canadian, from ‘eh’ to ‘zed’.  I hope you found this blog educational and insightful. I also apologize for anything in the aforementioned blog that may be found offensive or otherwise in poor taste and I in no way mean to slander either Ms. Dion or Mr. Bieber…or French Canadians….or beavers.  The comment on the geese stands.

Happy Birthday, Hoser! (we don’t really say that either…)

P.S. – my band ‘Barefoot’ will be playing a street party this Canada Day in Oshawa, and accepting food donations for a local food bank. It will be a free event.  If you’re in the area and want to drop by, let me know and I’ll give you the details.