Letter: Parents, Save Your Receipts!

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Back to school time seems to be bilk-parents-with-school-shopping time for some local businesses.

Target has had a kiosk with lengthy lists of supplies needed for each grade level at Cornell and Ocean View (but not Marin?) and AMS for most of the summer.

I am a kindergarten teacher at Cornell and, according to Target, my students need to bring "Play Dough", a rest mat, and about 15 other items to school—items that are not on our legitimate supply list (which parents should have received at the end of last year or with info mailed out over the summer).

I've complained to the manager twice and finally got the response that this display was from corporate headquarters and they can't remove it.

Office Depot has similar lengthy lists, but does not title them with actual school names, allowing for the impression that this is a suggested, rather than required, list of supplies.

Given how supportive our Albany families are of our schools, I hate to think that they're being taken advantage of.

When my students show up on the first day of school with their Target shopping bags full of unnecessary items, I'll have to let their families know that they've been had.

Brian Parsley August 24, 2012 at 01:56 PM
For years Albany Target has requested the School District provide a list of items their students need, they have not provided said list. It might be worth a little more investigation before accusing a business of fraud.
Ross Stapleton-Gray August 24, 2012 at 02:56 PM
Actually, it sounds like she's provided ample evidence, including asking a representative of the store for clarification. And if you're aware that AUSD hasn't been providing information to Target, well then it's really hard to reach a different conclusion.
Kirsten Schwartz August 24, 2012 at 03:25 PM
Just because a major store wants a list of supplies does not mean the school district is obligated to help them sell things. I'd say that telling customers their kids will need Play-Doh and other things when their teacher actually says they won't--that's fraud.
Brian Parsley August 24, 2012 at 03:28 PM
What I take issue with Ross is the notion that Target is out to defraud families by supplying a generic list of back to school items. I have been to Target a number of times in the past month and have not seen schools listed by name, rather lists are made up by grade. Did the author inquire with the district office or the PTA's before submitting this piece?
Ross Stapleton-Gray August 24, 2012 at 05:06 PM
Brian, your several replies are puzzling--you seem to be confirming that AUSD doesn't provide Target with such a list, but the author did observe lists attributed to schools, and, when she asked a Target employee, was told that "corporate" required that they be posted. Sounds ever so much like someone in Marketing produced generic lists of "Kids in Grade $grade_val Need This!" and ran it against some schools database (that perhaps mistakenly assigned Marin to some other district), and then the diktat went down the chain. A savvy store manager would say, "Well, that's a dumb thing to do to my community!," but s/he may not be afforded enough responsibility for sensible decisionmaking.
Brian Parsley August 24, 2012 at 05:11 PM
I just checked Target and I stand corrected. There are lists by grade and school, which was different from a month ago. However I still don't believe this rises to the level of bilking Albany families. I have a child entering 2nd grade next week and still have not recieved a list of need school supplies. Maybe what is needed is better communication between the district, local stores, and Albany families to make the school year get off on the right foot.
Brian Parsley August 24, 2012 at 05:29 PM
Ross, I am sorry you are puzzled. Here is a little background. Three years ago, when my son was entering kindergarten, we had no idea what supplies he needed. We recieved no list from his school or the district. A friend told us to check with Target as her school district and Target communicated to compile lists of needed supplies for students. I checked with our local Target and the manager then said that they tried to communicate with AUSD with no luck. It appears to me that not much has changed since then. You are probably right that this is a generic lists and I would now agree that is probably a bad idea to list the schools, which I have not seen before. But I stand by my comment that this doesn't rise to the level of fraud.
Jon Meyers August 24, 2012 at 09:57 PM
Hi, all. My take is perhaps a little different, perhaps mostly the same. I see Target's approach as being in the gray area of business marketing. They come to AUSD asking for a list of supplies. AUSD decides that providing such a list either is a tacit (or direct) endorsement of the business, which they don't want to do, or that there in fact is no master list of supplies they can identify for all schools and/or grades. Still under orders to do their marketing, the local Target goes ahead and uses the "Ross Algorithm" to come up with a generic list. And that's where they stray into shady territory IMHO - providing a presumably authoritative list lacking any real authority.
Robert Marshall August 24, 2012 at 10:03 PM
Are they really using the term "needed" in their display? That's tantamount to saying "required" in my books. While fraud may be a bit harsh to apply it's certainly deceiving, especially if they're referencing specific schools. Recently, there was a notice about AUSD's mailing packets "going green." I would hope that the suggested supplies list would be mailed out to those that don't have a valid email address.
Robert Marshall August 24, 2012 at 10:08 PM
As an FYI: I just did a quick search at the AUSD site, and while I didn't see a generic supply list there, I did see mention of one on the Cornell School Site: http://cornell.ausdk12.org/apps/pages/?uREC_ID=96129&type=d
Holly McCroskey August 24, 2012 at 11:11 PM
Interesting that the Cornell families receive a supply list in the mail. I've often wished for such a list to be sent during the summer, because we've never been provided one until after school starts -- which is long after the sales are over and the stock well picked-over. The flip side being, usually we haven't been asked to buy much, at least compared to what I hear from my friends across the country. FWIW, I did notice, approximately a month ago, that the Target lists had school names on them, which led me to believe that they *had* communicated with the schools, and I agree it's outrageous for them to misrepresent their "suggested" supply lists in that fashion. The lists with just a grade level at the top, rather than a specific school name, I regard in much the same way as Babies R Us' suggested baby-gear lists: way overboard, but not deceptive.


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