Data breach hasn't dampened loyalty

1/18/2014

By RENÉE JEAN

By RENÉE JEAN

rjean@gctelegram.com

Shoppers may be changing some of their buying habits in the wake of the recent Target hacking, but one of those changes doesn't seem to include crossing Target off their shopping list — at least, not in Garden City.

A random selection of interviews on Main Street found mostly sympathy and loyalty to the big box chain, which had to announce a data security breach during the holiday shopping period. Initially, the company had identified the window of concern as being between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15, but they have since widened that to unspecified times before and after, and they have said as many as 70 million consumers may have been affected.

As a result, they've extended free identity theft protection and credit monitoring to all guests at their stores. Shoppers have three months to enroll in the program, which is available online at target.com.

Target had reported a drop in national sales between 2 and 6 percent in the wake of its reported data breach. Target officials recently announced the planned closing in May of eight outlets — the Garden City outlet, however, is not among them.

In Garden City this week, it was easy to see why. It was difficult to bump into anyone who wasn't a loyal Target shopper.

"I don't have any problem shopping there. I actually like it. It's a good store," Garden City resident Doug Pearson said.

He describes himself as a little old-fashioned, and doesn't own a Target credit card. He likes to pay for everything with cash or a check — new-fangled hacking won't force him to stop shopping at Target or anywhere else for that matter.

Cassandra Gonzales describes herself as a Target shopaholic since about the age of 16.

"How do you stay out of it? They have pretty much everything except groceries. They have high-end items that are at prices the average person can afford, and that's mainly the reason I go there," she said. "It's just so convenient."

Gonzales didn't shop at Target during the problematic holiday period, but had actually identified about $400 in fraudulent charges on her bank account prior to that. The charges were for a Starbucks located inside the Garden City Target store.

While the experience was worrisome at the time, it hasn't dissuaded her from continuing to shop at Target, despite the company's recent data security breach.

"I was kind of frustrated whoever chose to spend my money chose to spend it at Starbucks of all places," said Gonzales, who is the manager at Patrick Dugan's Coffee House in downtown Garden City. "But there are always going to be flaws in technology. You do have to be careful, but I am confident, if there is a problem, it will get figured out."

Diane Hancock was among those who shopped at Target during the time period the company had reported as a concern. The grandmother actually lives in Tennessee, but was in town visiting her granddaughter, Britteny Tatum.

Such problems may be distressing, but she, too, has no plans to stop shopping there altogether — she just plans to pay in cash or with a check.

"I love Target. It's one of my favorite stores," she said.

Mia Michalek adds her name to the list of loyal Target shoppers, and says all of her friends are, too.

"I know we look forward to getting the Saturday paper for the Target ad," she said.

Michalek doesn't know anyone who had fraudulent charges as a result of the Target breach, but said her bank had notified her she and 1,800 other customers had been affected. She added that she experienced a fraudulent charge once for Amazon on a Paypal account.

"It was corrected right away," she said.

She now uses a site called karma.com to monitor her credit.

She shrugs and says, "Anybody could be hacked. You can go to a gas station and, if for some reason, they're hacked, you're hacked. It wasn't Target's fault per se. You can swipe a card here, swipe a card there — there's always that chance. There are even people walking around with things in their pockets to scan for other people's credit cards. It's just the world we live in today."

The investigation into Target's data breach is continuing, but in the meantime, Target Chairman and CEO Gregg Steinhafel has announced the chain will invest $5 million to create a coalition to accelerate dialog on cyber security threats, as well as to educate the public on how to better protect themselves.

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