Target continues to suffer blowback from the breach of as many as 40 million customer credit and debit card accounts it disclosed last week, as consumer perception of the chain plunges and calls for an investigation intensify.
Consumers' perception of Target dropped to the lowest point — a minus 19 — since at least June 2007, according to a survey Monday by sentiment tracking service YouGov BrandIndex.
It's also the first time in more than six years that negative perception of Target has outweighed positive feelings about the brand.
During the week leading up to Thursday's data breach announcement, YouGov's survey of 15,000 people found consumer perception favorable with a plus 26, in a range of plus 100 to minus 100. A day later, it had dropped 35 points to minus 9. On Monday, perception of the chain registered minus 19.
A score of zero indicates equally positive and negative feedback.
The lower perception also indicated that Target Chief Executive Gregg Steinhafel may have failed in his effort to soothe patrons with a 10% discount on most Target products purchased over the weekend, as well as the promise of free credit monitoring for shoppers affected by the breach.
Several state attorneys general have said they have asked Target for information about the hack. And several lawsuits have been filed by customers seeking class-action status.
On Monday, Target said it held a conference call with its general counsel and the attorneys general. The company also confirmed that it is working with the U.S. Secret Service and the Department of Justice in its own investigation into the malware that affected point-of-sale systems in U.S. stores.
Customers on Friday had flocked to Target's Facebook profile to complain of being unable to reach the retailer for answers. On Monday, Target said it was still dealing with "a high volume of calls" and said it had more than doubled the number of employees manning phones around the clock.
The company said it has communicated with 17 million customers via email.
In a Sunday letter to the Federal Trade Commission, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said the agency should look into Target's responsibility in the massive hack.
He said that the scope and duration of the intrusion, which Target said Thursday occurred between Nov. 26 and Dec. 15, suggests that the retailer may have relied on a lax security program that "does not live up to a reasonable standard."
"Its conduct would be unfair and deceptive," Blumenthal wrote.
He said affected customers could watch their credit suffer or, at the least, "live with the fear and uncertainty" of potential victimization.
"If Target failed to adequately and appropriately protect its customers' data, then the breach we saw … was not just a breach of security, it was a breach of trust," Blumenthal wrote.
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