Viral firing | Target employees terminated for buying TikTok-trending Stanley cups

Target employees terminated for buying TikTok-trending Stanley cups

Target has fired several employees for purchasing the viral Stanley Quencher cup from its store, citing the workers gained ‘an unfair advantage’ over customers.

According to Business Insider, the retailer found several employees had violated company policy on buying high-profile items after they scored Stanely’s limited-edition Starbucks cups.

Employee Catherine Carter is one such worker who has been terminated. Carter worked at Target for 19 years, working night and early-morning shifts for the past five years. Carter tells Business Insider that earlier this month, she visited the Starbucks café built in her store. A barista offered her a limited-edition ‘Stanley x Starbucks’ mug, which she subsequently purchased.

Before this incident, Carter says she has “never been written up, never called out, never been late." She also says her managers were with her when she bought the cup and raised no objection.

And yet, Carter, like several other employees, was found by Target to have broken the store’s rule that bans workers from purchasing high-profile or limited-stock items.

Carter believes Target’s approach to the supposed handbook violation, and decision from HR and the business to fire employees, isn’t appropriate. "I just don't think they're doing right," Carter reflects. "I mean, for a cup. Come on, a cup."

None of the workers who spoke to Business Insider could recall any prior case of colleagues being fired for breaching these guidelines.

Another terminated employee, Araceli Bernal, also purchased her viral Stanley cup from a barista. "I honestly didn't think I was going to get fired because I didn't think it was that big of a deal," she tells Business Insider.

Bernal purchased the cup on a Friday morning. She was informed an investigation would begin on the following Monday and was terminated two days later, on Wednesday.

Many of the employees who have been terminated say they were unaware of the rule, or unaware that the rule applied to this case. Some employees took to X – formerly Twitter – to complain. “Love working double my schedule constantly, not calling out, to be terminated over a cup bc I was unaware of the policy,” writes one user.

The same user goes on to suggest Target did not make employees aware of the fact it was a high-profile item that would fall under the policy.

Target only confirmed it would not restock the cup on January 5th, per a report from People, two days after employees such as Carter purchased her cup, suggesting workers may not have been aware this was a limited stock item.

But the soaring popularity of the Stanley mugs, thanks to viral reviews on TikTok, has certainly caused a national frenzy. There have been several cases of stampedes and a spate of online resales where cups fetch hundreds of dollars.

Each of the workers who spoke to Business Insider reported several other cases within their store, or other stores within their district.

Starbucks employees have also been in the firing line. A team lead in Maryland told Business Insider she was terminated for selling a Stanley cup before the release date, despite not having purchased it herself.

The employee, like Carter, says that management gave her the green light. Her manager told her to set out the Stanley x Starbucks mugs when prior holiday merchandise had sold out, in line with standard store practice to avoid empty shelving.

“I don't need another Starbucks cup. I don't need a Stanley. I don't need any of this," she said.”

And yet, she is one of numerous victims of a strict crackdown on store policy, and of the Stanley Cup’s meteoric rise to viral status.

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