26 Feb 2008 8:00 am   //   Filed under: Brooklyn, New York is different

America’s most dysfunctional Target

The Target store in Brooklyn’s Atlantic Terminal mall stocks at least five kinds of plain white mailing envelopes — in theory. I know this because it has a dozen feet or so of shelf space devoted to envelopes, meticulously labeled with product names, SKUs and price tags.

Unfortunately, yesterday night the Target was out of all plain envelopes. Every single kind. It was a bare shelf, beneath a fully stocked display of scissors and sticky labels. Out of mailing envelopes! How?!

The Brooklyn Target seems like it was lifted from a desperate Soviet state, where they’re always sold out of exactly the thing you want – clear plastic recycling bags, four-packs of the good kind of toilet paper, brown T-shirts. The big-box model of shopping just doesn’t work in Brooklyn. People are used to buying a few things at a time in tiny, tightly-jammed street-side stores. The suburban-style retail system collapses under massive foot traffic, picky customers and disastrous staffing.

Trying to get a salesperson to help you in the downtown Brooklyn Circuit City is a lost cause. I’ve seen the Gowanus Home Depot descend into a state of near-anarchy. Years ago, Wal-Mart gave up on the dream of opening even a single store in Brooklyn.

Now Ikea is building a massive store in Red Hook. I haven’t biked out to see it, but I’m skeptical that the biggest of the big boxes will manage to succeed where so many others have failed. You’re in Brooklyn. The rules are different here.