Why Target Hates Freedom, America, and Kittens

Yeah, the title is linkbait. Get over it.

So my wife wanted to print some coupons from Target.com today. She’s been using the Chromebook a lot lately 1.

So it’s not too uncommon a request for her to ask me to print something. Neither one of us had set up Google Cloud Print, and I was using the desktop, which is wired to the printer.

So I went to target.com, checked the coupons she I we wanted to print, and clicked “Print Coupons”. This is what I saw (green emphasis mine):

The “problem” here is that I’m using Ubuntu Linux.

I have a printer. It’s hooked up to my system. It works. Very well, in fact. With the latest release of Ubuntu, the printer worked as a plug-and-play printer 2.

But Target insists that I can’t print their coupons if I’m not using Windows. So I restarted the computer to boot into Windows, went back to target.com 3, picked out the coupons again and hit print.

I was then asked to install a browser plugin to print Target’s coupons.

Excuse me? Why in God’s name should I have to install a printer plugin just to do something that my computer and my browser already know how to do without the assistance of a plugin? Target actually had a link to that (almost) exact question. Here’s their explanation:

Q: Why do I need to install the Coupon Print Activator to print coupons?
Coupons are often quite valuable; that’s why many offer providers (e.g. manufacturers, retailers, etc.) require secure controls for distribution and printing of their coupons. The Coupon Print Activator is a small browser plug-in software that provides security controls for printing coupons. Additionally, it enables high-quality coupon prints that will scan easily at checkout.

This is obviously ridiculous. I was going to invent some story about starting a coupon cartel, but I think it would be much more fun to take this offal apart piece by piece.

Coupons are often quite valuable

Really? is that why, right above the barcode, in the fine print, you have written “No cash value”? Pray tell what other significant value these coupons hold, if not cash?

that’s why many offer providers (e.g. manufacturers, retailers, etc.) require secure controls for distribution and printing of their coupons.

Do they? Which ones? Because this is the first time I’ve encountered such practices. If anything, I have too many coupons in my life, all of them given too freely and without my consent.

The Coupon Print Activator is a small browser plug-in software that provides security controls for printing coupons.

Right. Like the ability to stop me from printing the same coupons over and over again? No, wait, it still lets me do that… Maybe they’re trying to protect me from a man-in-the-middle attack, whereby those vagabonds from 4chan intercept my precious coupons and substitute a false barcode in the process, thus preventing me from achieving discount nirvana.

Additionally, it enables high-quality coupon prints that will scan easily at checkout.

No it doesn’t. My printer does that. The image resolution does that. I’ve never had a problem with an airline being unable to scan the boarding pass I printed at home, nor do the cashiers at other stores have problems scanning the coupons we print from their websites and emails. In fact, my phone can scan a barcode directly from the computer’s monitor. Are they implying that my phone works better than their store’s scanners?

The real story here is that Target is the victim. Whoever built that stupid plugin for them swindled them. They have a piece of software which is useless at best, and hurts their business at worst.

Imagine if someone was giving away free candy 4 in an effort to get you to buy more candy from you. Upon looking at you they announce that their candy is incompatible with the length of your fingers and you can’t have any.

Are you going to buy their candy?

Notes:

  1. Her HP laptop (with Windows) has decided to take 15 minutes to turn on and a subsequent 5 minutes to process any input and 5 minutes to render all output
  2. Previously, I had to download the drivers from Canon’s Chinese support site, since apparently enough people in China use their printers on Debian-based distributions to warrant having an installer script that’s written in English and works worldwide, but publishing this widely is just a terrible idea.
  3. EXTREMELY BEGRUDGINGLY
  4. In a completely non-creepy way.

Kansas boy transplanted to DC. English major transplanted to web development. Lover of things.