31 Target employees shared the most useful thing they have learned at work, and 5 lessons kept coming up

  • Target store employees gain firsthand experience in the world of retail.
  • Business Insider corresponded with 31 current and former Target team members to get a sense of what they have learned from the experience.
  • From what they told us, it sounds like working at Target brings about plenty of potential learning opportunities.

Target store team members have to deal with all sorts of customers and situations.

Whether those interactions are troubling, funny, or just plain exasperating, they all offer employees an opportunity to learn on the job.

Business Insider recently corresponded with 31 current and former Target employees. We asked them to share the most important lesson they have learned from working at the retail giant.

For the most part, their answers were all over the place.

Some of their responses reflected frustration with the sometimes bewildering nature of retail work. Others said they felt that their experience at Target helped them to become tougher, more flexible, and more empathetic.

Here’s what Target team members said they have learned on the job:

Navigating conflicts requires skill — and a sense of humour

Three Target team members told Business Insider that their experience on the job made them realise that they never wanted to work in retail again.

But five other Target employees told Business Insider that they learned how to deal with conflict and brush off rudeness.

And the biggest weapon in their arsenal? Having a sense of humour when conflict arises.

“Overall, I would say that my way of dealing with difficult people – particularly guests – is to simply remain polite yet stay firm on company policy,” the team member told Business Insider. “Also, I constantly remind myself that these people are making complete fools of themselves and that the experience will make a great story in the break room later.”

The team member said that many “difficult customers” get mad because they won’t lower the prices of certain products or return items “that exceed the 30 day return policy.”

“So basically, they’re a bunch of – usually – middle-aged to older individuals throwing literal temper tantrums because we won’t change the rules for them,” the team member said. “And that, to me, is hilarious. I’ve been called incompetent, stupid, rude, and who knows what else. I never take it to heart because, at the end of the day, I’m not the full-grown adult yelling at the college kid because she won’t accept the four year old coupon you want to use. “

A Target team member in Colorado added that they learned to expect people to be “super rude for no reason,” while a Texas-based employee said they learned “how to hold back anger” when conflicts arise.

“People are wild,” one employee in North Carolina told Business Insider.

And one Target employee from Texas told Business Insider that sometimes it’s best to just “smile and nod” when dealing with unhappy people.

Working in retail also presents a good opportunity to hone certain soft skills

Five Target team members told Business Insider that they had gained valuable soft skills through working at the chain.

“It has benefited my confidence and made me come out of my shell, because you have to be more outgoing and bold,” an employee from Pennsylvania told Business Insider. “I deal with all kinds of bull-crap – sorry – everyday. So it, in a way, forces you to step up or you’ll get walked all over.”

Two employees said that they learned that patience is important, while another team member from Colorado said they learned “how to talk to people.”

And a team member from California told Business Insider that they learned they were a “strong a– person.”

“I know how to do so many things now, and, even if I don’t I know, I’m capable of learning,” the team member added. “And I’m fast. Adaptability is key, and Target has really helped me to hone that flexibility in my work life and my personal life.”

Everyone has stuff going on in their lives, and being nice goes a long way

“People may not remember your name, but they will remember the way you made them feel,” one Target team member told Business Insider.

The team member said they always tried to remember that “you never know what kind of day someone is having” and that a smile “can make someone feel important.”

The team member described an encounter with a woman who called the store. The customer, who said they were facing a family tragedy, was frantic because the store’s pharmacy was set to take two hours to fill her anti-anxiety prescription.

“The woman on the phone was in the middle of the worst panic attack of her life,” the team member said. “I can never forget how shaky and frantic her voice sounded. At this point, I realised that I was the only person she had to keep her sane.”

“I hope I helped her enough until she could get the proper assistance she urgently needed…” the Target team member added. “I think about her a lot and want to give her the biggest hug ever.”

Retail workers are there to help you — but it’s a two-way street

A former Target team member from Virginia told Business Insider that they learned “how to be less of a nuisance and more helpful to retail workers” from working at the store.

The former employee said they developed a better “understanding that retail workers are actual people and not in control of every sale Target has, so getting mad at them accomplishes nothing.”

Target’s layout is designed to make you spend money


One Target team member from Virginia said they gleaned a ton of information about the strategies Target uses to sell its goods.

“The way the whole store is constructed is done to make people spend money,” the employee told Business Insider. “The dollar section is placed at the entrance to catch your eye, because it is cheap in price and encourages you to pick it up.”

The employee continued that the seasonal and grocery items are toward the back of the store.

“So you have to walk by the clothing and toy section to get to them,” the employee said. “And Starbucks is in the front, to keep you wired as you make all your purchases.”

Are you a Target team member with a story to share? Email [email protected]