Stanley water bottles continue to garner headlines for their skyrocketing popularity, but all that clout seems to be followed by controversy.
Earlier this week, a 23-year-old woman was arrested for allegedly stealing 65 Stanley cups, worth around $3,300. Now, some Target workers are claiming online that they’ve been fired for purchasing limited-edition Stanley cups after managers accused them of hiding the high-profile merchandise before customers could buy them.
For those not in the know about the Stanley cup craze, these trendy water bottles starting gaining traction online through blogs and influencers in recent years. In 2023, the Stanley Quencher, a 40 oz. water tumbler with a straw, became the internet’s new “it” water bottle.
In late December, Stanley partnered with Starbucks to create a limited-edition Quencher for Valentine’s Day, to be sold exclusively at Target for US$45. Fans of the cup lined up for hours outside some Target locations to be first in line to snag the pink-and-red water bottles.
Videos posted online showed customers racing through Targets and mobbing the shelves where the limited edition Stanleys were displayed. The cups sold out almost immediately. Valentine’s Day Quenchers have popped up on reselling sites like eBay listed for between $100 to $200.
A former full-time Target employee, Araceli Bernal, told Business Insider that she and other coworkers were fired for purchasing one of the limited-edition cups, apparently in violation of Target policies.
Bernal said she bought the cup from a barista working at the Starbucks inside the Target location Bernal worked at in Delaware.
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She said she purchased the cup before the start of her Friday morning shift. On Monday, managers announced there would be an in investigation into employee cup purchases. By Wednesday, Bernal was fired.
The former employee told Business Insider that she later realized the Starbucks barista may have set some of the Quenchers aside as a favour to other coworkers who wanted to purchase them.
“I honestly didn’t think I was going to get fired because I didn’t think it was that big of a deal,” she said.
Bernal’s experience is similar to that of numerous people who identified themselves online as former Target workers. One Twitter user said they were fired for buying a Stanley cup while on the job, and was unaware of the policy prohibiting this.
A Reddit user who posted in the r/Target subreddit wrote that they were terminated for buying the Stanley x Starbucks cup.
“I had been hearing that most targets were putting the Stanley cups behind the desk because people were stealing and were becoming violent so I assumed that I had to ask the Starbucks employees to see if they had any more left. (A)pparently one of the Starbucks employees were hiding them in the back for other team members to purchase them but I was never asked if I wanted one to be put on hold. I was able to purchase the cup,” the user who claims to work at Target wrote.
“I went about my business and clocked in after I had completed my purchase, my (Executive Team Leader) made me out to be a criminal and told me that I was being investigated because I bought the Stanley cup, and was presumably accused of telling someone to hold the cup for me in a hiding place, which is not the truth.”
Another user who also claimed to work at Target said their team leader was fired for “hiding Stanleys in the backroom, buying them with the discount, and then reselling them like the other rabid cup fanatics.”
“We thought we didn’t get any Stanleys for this last drop, but apparently we did. When will this madness end?”
Business Insider obtained a copy of the Target employee handbook which states: “Team members cannot use their status to gain an unfair advantage over guests when it comes to purchasing merchandise.”
It adds that employees must be off the clock when making purchases and the “unacceptable purchase of promotional and/or high demand merchandise,” is prohibited.
This rule is generally understood to mean that the in-demand items must be on the sales floor for at least 15 minutes before employees are allowed to buy them.
The Twitter user who was allegedly fired from Target said employees were not made aware of the fact that the Stanley cups were “high profile.”
The Reddit user who was allegedly fired also stated there were no meetings about the Stanley cups “or any of the rules that they might’ve made in regards to team members purchasing them.”
Target has yet to make a public statement on the alleged firings.
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