Cash registers at Target stores are working again after an hourslong outage Saturday afternoon brought checkout lines across the country to a standstill.
The big-box retailer said the outage was "an internal technology issue" and was not caused by a data breach or security-related issue. It was not immediately clear how many of the company's 1,850 U.S. stores were affected, though shoppers reported outages in several states, including Iowa, California, Minnesota and New York. The hashtag #targetdown was trending worldwide on Twitter.
"Our technology team worked quickly to identify and fix the issue," Target spokesman Joe Poulos said in an email. "After an initial but thorough review, we can confirm that ... no guest information was compromised at any time."
Shoppers posted photos of long lines snaking through stores and said employees were handing out chips, drinks and popcorn. Some cashiers were using handheld devices to manually enter bar codes so customers could check out.
"It was just a sea of very frustrated people," said Brodie Butler, 44, who was next in line for his Starbucks coffee at an Edmond, Oklahoma, store when the registers went out shortly before 2 p.m. Eastern time. "People were throwing their things on the ground or just pushing their carts down the aisle and walking away."
About 3:30 p.m., Butler said the registers came back for about 3 minutes before going down again. As of 4 p.m. Saturday, he said the store's systems were running normally. Butler said he waited those two hours because he wanted to see what would happen.
The big-box retailer experienced a similar systems failure exactly five years ago, when its registers went down for several hours on June 15, 2014.
"Target has identified an issue impacting checkout at some of our U.S. stores,'' spokeswoman Molly Snider said at the time. "The glitch is causing delays at some checkouts, but it is not in any way related to a security issue.''
In 2013, a large-scale data breach at Target affected more than 40 million shoppers who had their names and credit card information stolen during the busy holiday shopping season. The blowback was swift: The retailer posted a $202 million loss and later paid $18.5 million to settle with 47 states and the District of Columbia.
On Saturday, Target executives offered few clues into what had happened. Shoppers said employees across the country sprung into action - they handed out samples of mascara and shampoo in Ohio, fruit snacks in Missouri and strawberry chocolate chip Frappuccinos in Oklahoma.
In Marlton, New Jersey, Target employees offered strawberry lemonade and 5% discounts to those who remained in line. About an hour in, workers told shoppers they would hold their carts for 24 hours if they wanted to come back and pay for their purchases.
Louis Barnes, 18, had stopped in for sunglasses and a Father's Day card in Brentwood, Mo., when he noticed that the lines were abnormally long. He waited 45 minutes before leaving empty-handed.
"The lines were moving very slowly and only because people were leaving," he said.
Around 6 p.m. Saturday, the Target store near Glenbrook Square Mall was busy with customers. When asked if the cash registers were working, a clerk said they were.
"They've been working on and off all day long," she said. There was no explanation for why, she added.
While some customers got frustrated, others "were patient," she said.
A call to Target guest services department put customers on hold. The voice message indicated that the lines were busier than normal Saturday.
- Jamie Duffy, The Journal Gazette