Daily WTF: The Target Troll

Last week, Target removed its “boys” and “girls” signs in their toys sections. They did this to help reinforce the idea that toys don’t inherently have a gender and no child should be barred from playing with the toy of their choice. Naturally, this move prompted some complaining, mostly from parents who thought Target was catering to liberals or being overly politically correct.

Then Mike Melgaard came along. At one time, he was just a mild-mannered Facebook user, but he saw the complaints being levelled against Target on their Facebook page and heroically leapt into action. Donning a fake customer service profile and Target’s signature logo, he began responding to customers, sometimes blatantly calling them a “dick” or passive-aggressive congratulating them for admitting to having “both sexes” in their family. In a word, he trolled them.

In fact, he trolled people so hard that several of them complained directly to corporate about Target’s supposed new customer service rep and the account was taken down after a few hours. Fortunately for the Internet, it was long enough for word to get out about his “epic takedown” and send everyone into cackling, schadenfreude-filled fits.

Everyone loves this story. All of my friends were talking about it and posting links to an ever-increasing list of screenshots. We talked about it at book club that night. It was all over status updates, and Mike Melgaard has garnered about 19,000 Facebook followers because of it.

Let me be blunt: I don’t approve of Mike’s actions and I don’t find them funny either. I think what he did was irritating, harmful, and rude, and I wouldn’t appreciate it as either a person or a representative of Target.

When I’ve tried to articulate my stance, I’ve had people quickly begin telling me about all the rude and crazy customers they’ve encountered in their time in retail. I understand. I’ve worked retail and fast food too, though only for about three years and not for some time. I understand how cranky, unreasonable, and downright mean people can be to workers. I understand how it feels to want to say what you really feel towards them – especially when they’re being so rude and unreasonable.

What I don’t understand is being rude to someone for expressing an opinion or being rude to someone on someone else’s behalf. Yes, Target may have wanted to respond similarly to how Mike did, and, yes, they may have seemed to approve of his actions, but they were still unnecessary and he was often rude to people who were doing nothing more than expressing their right not to shop at that particular establishment anymore. I am constantly advocating for “hit them where it hurts – the wallet” and this blog is dedicated in almost its entirety towards expressing dissatisfaction and hurt about individuals and things. However, I expect people to be civil when they do so.

Furthermore, as a person or a business, I would be pissed if someone masqueraded as me and said and did things in my name – even if I liked them. It is not another person’s responsibility to speak on my behalf. I can. I want to. I should be the one doing it. And if that person did something rude on my behalf? I wouldn’t thank them.

So yay Target getting rid of their boys and girls signs – maybe we as a society will stop forcing children and adults into such strict, often hurtful gender roles. But boo on Mike Melgaard. The world doesn’t need more trolls.

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