Massive Mobile Payments Shutdown Strikes Target

June 18, 2019         By: Steven Anderson

Sundays are an unusual day in the week, the contents of which are often left up to the individual. It’s not a big day for parties or going out, but some choose to shop, visit family, or just relax at home. For those who made Target shopping part of their Sunday, they ran into one serious problem: they were mostly unable to check out.

No matter what form of payment you were using, reports note—anything card-based by many reports, including mobile payments—you were largely unable to have it processed for roughly 90 minutes Sunday afternoon. This turned into a serious problem as Target customers faced long waits and lines to match.

Target in turn blamed NCR for the outage, claiming that an issue in a data center shut down the store’s operations. What’s worse, though, is that this wasn’t the only technological snafu Target faced over the weekend; an “internal technology issue” struck Target just a day prior, unrelated to the NCR issue, that also left customers unable to pay for goods.

Target rushed to tell customers that there was no security breach that prompted this issue, nor was there any kind of illicit data access that left customers unable to pay. No data had been leaked; this was just an internal issue where they couldn’t actually use their most mobile payment systems. Reports suggest that the company had dealt with something similar back in 2014.

Target, who is frantically trying to distinguish itself from Walmart at pretty much any given opportunity, didn’t need this. Distinguishing itself by becoming “the place where sometimes your credit card doesn’t work” isn’t a great strategy, and one that Target is likely trying to remove itself from as quickly as possible. Sure, breakdowns in the system are all but inevitable—even those who plan ahead with redundancies may find that several points have failed at once—but making these as few and far between as possible is vital.

Since Target hasn’t really had such an outage in the last five years, this simply may have just been time. It also speaks to the importance of cash as a backup; even if the store can’t process a card, it can generally accept cash and reconcile it in the accounting when systems are back online.