From The Customer's Perspective...

Although we try and focus on the IT and E-Commerce issues confronting enterprise retailers, we often get E-mails from consumers describing particularly frustrating retail experiences.

Some of them are so classic that it might be helpful for retail IT execs to hear these customers' stories in their own voice, without editorial comment or filtering. From time to time—when we see some that look especially intriguing—we'll share these.

This one comes from a reader describing a holiday shopping attempt: Essentially, I purchased two bar stools (I have a breakfast nook in my new apartment…and no, I never thought I'd use the words "breakfast nook") from Target, using a Target gift card and a Visa gift card I received for Christmas.

I bought the 30" stools, but upon returning home and doing the intelligent thing (measuring), I realized that I only had 35" counters.

I decided to return them to the Target closest to me and get the same exact product, in the 25" variety.

The store I returned them to ignored the fact that it was an even exchange (same cost, same brand, same everything except the height) and did a full return regardless of my girlfriend's protests. This resulted in us getting the funds put back on the original VISA gift card, and getting the rest on a new Target gift card.

Turns out they were out of the stools, and we had to go to the Target across town. We gather the stools, get on line, give them the gift cards (both the old Visa and new Target cards) and everything goes kablooey.

Supposedly, it takes a few days for the funds to clear and be available on the Visa gift card that they insisted on giving us back. So now, it's the day before New Years Eve (we're entertaining of course) and I'm standing in a Target with the stools I want, but can't buy them b/c they did the full return and not an even exchange.

Supposedly, the computer systems don't talk, so they couldn't remedy the original customer service mistake in the second store, and suggested we drive back there, take care of the mistake, and then drive back to get the stools (gas is approaching $50 a gallon or something…I was rather pissed and uncomfortable with this solution).

I eventually got it straightened out by calling the first store, getting them on the phone with the manager from the second store, and having them do some kind of voodoo to allow me to leave with my chairs.

Getting everything straightened out took approximately an hour-plus and made me miss my broomball game that night. Needless to say…not happy.

The entire situation was caused by a bad customer service mistake and not listening to the customer, but the underlying problem was a silly Target policy. Supposedly, they can't give you a refund from a "credit card" purchase (or a Visa gift card in this situation) on a Target gift card. I don't quite get that. Wouldn't they like a guarantee that you'll spend those funds in their store and not somewhere else?