Now, Target has come over the hill, so to speak, and into our cities. And in one giant blunder, it may have thrown a lot of that progress away. The software screwup that exposed close to 40 million Target credit card accounts is a major mistake for Target. It has built up a reputation with a specific, SUV-driving population that leans very heavily on credit standing.
Conservative writer Francis Fukuyama wrote a column titled “Left Out” for The American Interest in 2011. Fukuyama wanted to know why, even in the toughest of American economies, people never throw capitalism overboard. They may vote for a different candidate, but they never change the economic system.
One of his points was that as long as Americans have good credit, as long as they can buy stuff, there is a less hostile political environment. Now, the Target Corporation, in its holiday-maddening sloppiness, has poked a giant hole on that reliable trend.
Middle America is not on solid economic ground today, but those cards that they have in their wallets say otherwise. Next to limited parking, credit card vulnerability is the biggest affront to the Target nation.
Can Target rebound from this? Certainly it can with people under a certain age. People who understand that identity issues are a part of modernity will forgive Target. Those of us who remember what writing a check out to “Cash” means, however, will be hard pressed to trust them again.
I never had store credit cards, and only one actual credit card through a credit union. I opened a Target store card this November as a way to get a break on an iPad, and then this snafu occurred.
A student asked me at the beginning of shopping season if I was a Target person or a Walmart person. I view big box stores with skepticism like a lot of people, but I tend to wash ashore at Target more than any other big retailer. The days of handing over my information to them, however, are over.
The Cano Lesson
Last week, the Nippon Professional Baseball League of Japan and Major League Baseball agreed on capping the amount of money a Japanese team can receive in exchange for a Major League team negotiating with a Japanese player.
In other words, teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, or Angels cannot offer a king’s ransom to get first dibs on a star Japanese player.
The logic here is that the player will sign with the team he wants to be with and there is less of a financial race to the top. The cap is a robust $20 million. The Rakuten Golden Eagles, the team for which sought-after pitcher Masahiro Tanaka currently plays, can accept a capped amount from the Yankees or whoever wants to sign him.
In a similar way, the Yankees uncharacteristically pushed back against their star free agent, second baseman Robinson Cano. The Yankees realized what others teams already knew, that a ten-year contract was a nutty idea.
We don’t even give presidents ten years, and before someone invokes Babe Ruth’s retort about earning more than Calvin Coolidge (“I had a better year than he did.”), Cano did not have a better year than the president. (Okay, maybe it was close.)
Cano batted .314. He hit 27 home runs. He is a home-grown player. All of that is impressive, say nothing for his tendency to play almost every game. But he should not have been insulted by an offer of $175 million when he did not lead the league in a single offensive or defensive category.
Cano will get big money from the hapless Seattle Mariners, virtually anchoring that team to the bottom of the standings. They will not have the money to build hitters around Cano, meaning that .314 batting average is really .305 now. Those 27 home runs are leaving Yankee Stadium and going to Seattle, where they will be 20 home runs.
It would have been great to still have Cano, but it was better to see the Yankees exercise proper judgment. The Nippon Professional Baseball League was unafraid to protect their sport, and that is the feel-good story we get from winter baseball.