American giant retailer Target has apologized to Israeli customers who ordered products through a third-party shipping company offering free delivery to Israel last month, telling them their purchases were canceled due to an unanticipated high demand.
In recent days, Target has canceled an unknown number of orders to Israel offered through the Borderfree Free Shipping company, which promised free shipping to Israel on orders placed between August 18 and 20 and delivered via DHL delivery service.
“Due to the much higher than anticipated response to the Borderfree Free Shipping promotion, we are unable to deliver order [number] and had to cancel it. We apologize for this inconvenience,” read the cancellation notices, which display the Target logo and address customers as Target “guests” but are signed “Borderfree Customer Care.”
According to Hebrew media reports, some 20,000 orders were placed from Israel through the promotion but just a few thousand of them had arrived before the mass cancellation this week. Some customers reported that they received a partial list of their orders, without explanation on why other product orders were canceled. Others had received shipping notices before being informed by DHL that their orders could not be delivered and would be returned to Target.
Although the companies involved in the mishap have cited high Israeli demand, customers speculated whether Israeli bureaucracy stopped the promotion in its tracks.
Israel has a $75 cap for tax-free personal imports, but food-related items and electronics are under special regulation.
Many of the customers who spoke to Hebrew media, and those who took to social media to complain, revealed that among their orders were snack foods like cookies and chocolate bars.
One customer told Channel 2 that his snack orders, totaling $25, were canceled after he was informed that he would need to pay $140 in various import taxes to receive his products.
Israeli journalist Itamar Eichner, the diplomatic correspondent for Yedioth Ahronoth, wrote a widely circulated Facebook post shortly after placing his Target order last month, detailing how the American retailer did not anticipate Israeli red tape and taxes and was set to absorb high costs, a potential motivator for the eventual cancellation.
On August 24, Eichner said he placed an order of about 200 NIS ($55) of “all sorts of American food items not available in Israel,” like various candy, skeptical that it would work but still hopeful.
He said the order arrived in Israel four days after he placed it but an agent with DHL informed him that his order would require an inspection by the Israeli Health Ministry, estimated at about NIS 500 ($140), and that he would have to pay another NIS 230 ($64) for exceeding the 5kg (11 lbs.) limit for a package.
Eichner said he told the agent she could toss the whole order as he did not intend to pay over $200 in fees for some $55 in candy, but was told Target would absorb the cost, and would “curse Israel and never do another [free shipping promotion].”
An angry Eichner signed off his post by blaming Israeli bureaucracy, likening Israeli rules to those in North Korea.
Target is America’s second-largest retailer after Walmart.