An Open Letter to Target: How to ‘Get’ Canada

Dear Target,

Wow. Wowza. Woomph. We did not see that coming. And… and how many layoffs? Damn. That’s, well… Just wow. Okay.

So, here’s the thing, Target. I get that a billion dollars in losses is pretty substantial (also an oddly round number), but you’ve only been in Canada 22 months. All the experts are saying companies generally need to be open at least two years to see any sort of profit. And, of course I’m not a numbers person, but I think, I think 22 months is actually not two years. So, you know, there is that.

No, no, I understand. Your CEO or BFA or Unga Bunga stated in a press released that with the way things were going it would be at least ten years before Target Canada was no longer in the black or the red or whatever colour of spine-tingling fear represents a loss in profits. Ten years is a long time, why, according to your math, ten years is 110 months or something else that is completely not right. Of course, these things take time, and you have to be really dedicated to the market, you know? You have to show the new market that you are here, ready and willing to be part of the true north strong and free.

That’s part of our national anthem, by the way.

Since Target announced that it was leaving Canada many experts have come out of the woodwork to explain what went wrong. Everything from poorly stocked shelves (in that there was no stock on the shelves, which looked really poor), to bad communication with distribution centers (there was no communication with distribution centers), to prices that were higher than both Wal-Mart and the US Target stores when the product was essentially the same. All of these factors and more seem to have contributed to Target’s downfall in Canada.

But CEO Unga Bunga also stated, according to some radio interview I was listening to (I don’t know, I was drunk, don’t you judge me), that Canadians didn’t get Target.

Excuse me? What’s there to get? You are a chain of box stores that provide certain products that I exchange for money. That is all there is to get. I mean, literally, that is what Target is. Even your colour scheme was the same as Zellers, so don’t pretend you can use that as part of the getting process. Trust me, Target. Canadians got you. I think, perhaps, it was you who failed to get us.

With that in mind, I have put together a handy guide for Target, and indeed any big American boxstores that might want to enter the Canadian market. It should help you navigate the murky waters of getting Canada and understanding how the Canadian mind works.

Enjoy.

Canada: A Beginners Guide to Getting the Second Largest Country in the World

  1. Yes, we are the second largest country in the world. You don’t need to fact check it. We won’t bring it up unless you insist that you have land superiority over us (Russia excluded).
  2. Because of our weather, Canadians have evolved the ability to produce excessive body heat during cold snaps. This becomes useful when staying warm at the outdoor hockey game, and when attempting to shovel our elderly neighbour’s sidewalk.
  3. We have roughly 35.7 million people. While that doesn’t seem like a lot it is important to remember that we are a vicious and violent people, so don’t get any ideas, USA.
  4. There are .98 Tim Hortons for every baby born in a 24 hour period in Canada. We believe it is important getting them off on the right foot in life, so all drugs administered during labor include 10 cc’s of double double.
  5. Our Monarch is Queen Elizabeth II. Little known fact: Her majesty is responsible for the start of our National Knife Fighting team. Up until 1978 she travelled the country on a yearly basis, challenging children between the ages of 11-16 to knife fights in order to build the team.
  6. We have a Prime Minister, not a president. Our current Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, is best enjoyed rare with whipped horseradish on the side and au jus.
  7. 8.92% of our country’s landmass is water, according to Wikipedia. What you might not realize is that we have the largest percentage of narwhals occupying those waters at roughly 1.45 narwhals per Canadian household.
  8. We became a country in 1867. In Country Terms that means we are just out of our angsty teenager phase. It was awkward for everyone involved.
  9. Things Canadians have invented: Canola oil, Poutine, walkie-talkie, pager, snow blower, insulin, and the Caesar cocktail.
  10. Our head of state is our Governor General. This is different from the Queen and the Prime Minister. No, we don’t know why we decided to complicate matters. Yes, we are aware it is confusing to non-residents. Fun fact: I once told the ex-Governor General to ‘gag me with a spoon’. True story.
  11. Canadians love the smell of pine. Stock your home air freshener with pine sprays, pine gels, and pine candles and you will have us wrapped around your little finger
  12. We have two official languages: English and, uh… something else.
  13. We have ten provinces and three territories, which are like American States only much larger and filled with more loveable woodland creatures.
  14. Canadians love a good deal, especially on things like beer. If your business doesn’t sell beer, try offering deals in the beer-cozy department. If there is one thing a Canadian hates it is lukewarm beer.
  15. When unsure how to properly address a Canadian, follow South Park’s example and use the terms “Guy”, “Buddy”, and “Friend”.
  16. Our currency is the Canadian dollar which is often cited as smelling like maple syrup. This is a common misconception. Dousing our currency in syrup would be sticky and frustrate tellers (those still employed at least.) The truth is that our money is made entirely out of crushed up maple leaves, which also accounts for the colour.
  17. If you want to attract the attention of a Canadian in a large crowd try yelling this phrase: “Is that poutine free?”
  18. Canadians are well known for being nice people who say please and thank you and sorry. What we don’t want you to know is that we secretly detest all of you so very much. Sorry to break it to you.
  19. Canadians love kitschy mascots. Zellers had Zeddy and was around for years. Next time you try to open a store, try using some sort of mascot, such as: Bobby, the Steroid-Injecting Dumbell, or Louise, the Excessively Friendly Sock Puppet.
  20. We have a multi-party system, allowing us to place smaller amounts of power on a larger group. Such political parties include: Conservatives, Liberals, New Democratic Party, Pirate Party, Green Party, and the Frat Boy Party. Our current Government is the Icy Death Stare Party
  21. Canadian winters are notoriously cold. How cold is it? Cold enough that kids are happy when they get coal in their stocking.
  22. If you want to increase the amount of Canadians coming to your store, try rearranging the shelves in a feng-shui like manner. It will soothe our chi. As an added bonus, the dragon will be able to enter the front door and leave through the emergency exit.
  23. Canadians love giving to charities. If you want Canadians to view your business as anything other than evil incarnate, offer to give proceeds to specific local charities or groups in needs. Pay special attention to homeless shelters, as these are usually overwhelmed during the winter months.
  24. If you want to get Canada to buy your product you should keep the hippy-dippy advertising to a minimum. We don’t care about whether or not something is good for the environment. Just look at us. We are the environment.
  25. Canadians are a vengeful people. If you get on our bad side we will hold it against you for a very long time.
  26. Because we are usually surrounded by literal walls of snow, we Canadians enjoy feeling as if we are safe and secure. If you aren’t having much success with Canadians in your store, try wrapping them in blankets and rubbing their arms lovingly.
  27. Alternately, ensure shelves are well-stocked to give the illusion of caring about your local market.
  28. We have a well-deserved sense of superiority when it comes to wine. While your Napa Valley is lovely, we have the Okanagan and Ontario. If you were to plant a Napa Valley grape vine in between an Okanagan and an Ontario grape vine, the Napa Valley vine would be choked to death in a matter of days.
  29. Sometimes it can be hard to get your Canadian to take his pills. If your Canadian keeps spitting out his pills, try crushing them up and delivering them in a teaspoon of maple syrup.
  30. Canadians know that you expect them to say ‘eh’, therefore whenever you hear it, you are only hearing it because your Canadian speaking partner has deemed you worthy to hear it.
  31. Follow up, your determination to focus on our verbal ‘quirk’ has led us to take a great interest in your verbal ‘quirks’. Tell us, America, when are you going to stop saying “cahn naht” and “gaht” instead of “can not” and “got”? That’s right, we can be nasty too.
  32. We love coupons. Like, a lot. I paid for my entire post-secondary education using coupons and collecting empty cans. I had to wrestle a few Scouts to get the last hundred bucks, but it was well worth it. So, if you want us to shop at your store, try having some useful coupons for us to use. Something like: Buy 1 Get 1 Free Lays Potato Chips or 10% off your first beaver.
  33. Tim Hortons is a cult. Your first mistake, Target, was putting a Starbucks in your stores. A Tim Hortons would have guaranteed your success.
  34. In Canada we take hockey very seriously. When you remind us that it is usually an American team that wins the Stanley Cup, we like to remind you that your American teams are composed of mostly Canadians. That is why we always win in the Olympics.
  35. And also the Junior World Championships.
  36. And street hockey.
  37. If you took all the coffee that Canadians drink in one year and used it to power a hydroelectric dam, you would have polluted a large amount of water, and Canada would be very disappointed in you.
  38. Because winter tends to last 9 months out of the year, most Canadians are on a very precise combination of anti-depressants, vitamin D pills, and television repeats of The Red Green Show.
  39. We use British spelling for many words, including colour, neighbourhood , arbour, and behaviour. Our National Word Treasury has a surplus of u’s and we would appreciate it if you spelling dictators out there started to recognize our ability to use extra vowels whenever we darn well feel like it.
  40. Canada is not America’s hat (sorry, Stephen Colbert.) America is Canada’s fresh-pressed pinstripe suit pants. You’re welcome.
  41. Canadians are notoriously distracted by shiny objects, so when stocking your store ensure that a solid layer of dust prevents any of the objects from shimmering. Alternately, a low, non-halogen light will also help keep us focused.
  42. In order of favorite fake flavors, Canadians tend to go for lime, cherry, and finally Saskatoon berry.
  43. Canadians are all completely colourblind, so feel free to paint your stores in whatever nauseating colours (we imagine) you’d like.
  44. Canada has its own version of the internet called the int’eh’net. All websites on the intehnet, by law, must had a picture of a moose somewhere on the homepage.
  45. All Canadian radio stations subliminally play Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On. Contrary to popular belief, it is not because we enjoy the song, but because it enrages us to the point of blind violence.
  46. Contrary to popular belief our medical system is not free, it’s just paid for by our taxes to ensure that while we are bleeding to death on the emergency room stretcher we are not worrying ourselves with how we will pay for that extra piece of gauze.
  47. We aren’t sorry for Justin Bieber. You folks brought it on yourselves.
  48. The CRTC manages how much Canadian content we are exposed to, so no matter how much trash you throw at us through our radios, televisions, films, and intehnet, we will still maintain at least a semblance of our Nationalistic identity.
  49. The CRTC ensures we are exposed to good Canadian content, which is why we get Hawksley Workman, Our Lady Peace, and Emma-Lee while you get the Biebs, Celine Dion, and such.
  50. Each Canadian is sent out into the wild at the age of ten with only a pocket knife and three garbage bags and forced to survive for two weeks. Those who succeed are revered. Those who fail move to the States.
  51. Our sense of humor is a cross between self-deprivation and British comedy. It is very subtle, like a hammer to the side of the skull.
  52. We are multicultural. Not like you, the United States are. We are a melting pots, or even a kaleidoscope. We try to celebrate all cultures, people, beliefs, genders, eye colours, and even shoe sizes. If you can’t grasp even this most basic concept, that we are always looking to improve our celebrations of each other as well as ourselves then you’re right, yes, we don’t ‘get you’. But then again, I think maybe we don’t really want to.

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