Quite a spirited discussion! Since we're all sharing, please allow me to add a novel of my own...
I certainly see both sides to this "argument", but I think I look at the chasing down of Target exclusives slightly differently than most folks do (or just more realistically, perhaps). I look at it as more of a "game" - me against Target, and me against my competition (scalpers and other collectors). Obviously, we all know how the Target system works and how to use it to our advantage, how Target employees view us, how our competition for the figures operates, etc. To me, it's "May the best man win", or perhaps the most clever, diligent, lucky, and/or persistent man. It often takes a combination of all of those things to continuously have success with these tricky and very popular exclusives.
Of course, one thing to keep in mind here on the boards is that the factors can really vary by geographic locations. I know that here in SoCal we have far more "scalpers" and toy dealers than in most other areas of the country because we often get the newest stuff first here on the West Coast (so on to eBay it often goes). However, that's offset by the fact that we also probably have more Target stores per square mile than anywhere else in the country as well (9 w/in 20 minutes of me). With all those stores also comes a wide variety of employees and managers, some who pay us no mind, and others who loathe our every breath. Lots of collectors 'round these parts too, so the combination of all of these elements can often lead to some less than desirable shopping environments for us at our local Targets.
While it certainly annoys the **** out of me that Target employees often lump the collectors and "scalpers" into the same despicable group, I can understand how our "high maintenance" toy demands might not look all that different from eachother to the average Target employee, so I just have to take the occasional gripes and attitude in stride. They don't always understand that we're actually competing against eachother (good vs. evil, for all intents and purposes), so if I ever get the sense they think I'm a scalper, depending on my mood at the time, I'll probably point out how off base they are (and that I don't appreciate the insult). Along those lines, I know I've had a few moments over the years where I've gotten rather pissy with a Target manager or employee, which doesn't really help matters, but I usually reserve that type of behavior for when they're seriously trying to screw with me thinking that I don't know any better.
Now back to "the game" of trying to nab these exclusives... Yeah, we all know the DPCI trick. But with enough experience in our local stores, we should also know who to NOT try to use it on, and who looks like a good candidate for offering some help (a new employee, or a younger employee who doesn't care what the "rules" might be, etc.) I'll "profile" someone to try my luck on as far as pulling something out of the back if it's listed as "In Stock", but not on the shelves. Do I think they "owe it" to me to go and retrieve said item(s)? No, not really. It might not seem like the best business practice to not sell something to a customer if they want it, but I understand that they might have their reasons (as Chuck alluded to above). If I get rejected with my request, I'll simply meander on over to another part of the store and take another stab at it with someone else, or move on to one of the many other nearby stores to give it another go. Obviously, the more you try, the better your chances are that you'll eventually succeed, and in that respect, I always do. Of course, I know I'm more fortunate than most to have a seemingly endless supply of resources (Target stores) available to me to aid in my quest.
It can just take a little patience and perseverance to finally score the desired loot, but if you just alter your mindset into treating it like a "game" (or a challenging scavenger hunt), it can actually be sort of fun, in a masochistic kind of way.
I believe some of us old-timers still refer to this as "the thrill of the hunt", which is usually magnified with these Target exclusives. But I know that many of you have "wussed out" over the years and resorted to the dark side, and now shop online for your wares. Cheaters!!
(back to the topic at hand) Target managers and employees will occasionally try to play their "games" in an effort to deter me, and I'll counter 'em with every trick in the collecting book that I have to offer. They may win a few battles here and there, but I ultimately win the war and get my goodies (and may make myself, and/or some of them, look like an ass in the process, but who cares). However, considering the fact that I spend thousands of dollars each year on Star Wars crap at Target (I prefer to buy all
my SW stuff there), I can understand Pete's point about wishing we could have some level of respect for our customer loyalty, but unfortunately it's something I've grown never to expect since regardless of everything, at the end of the day we're often viewed with a bad rap. But it's on a store-by-store and employee-by-employee basis, so it's just something you have to live with as a collector, I guess.
Not sure what the hell my point was with all that rambling, other than to say that I get both sides of the issue, but looking out for #1 will always compel me to try to beat them at their own games (when they choose to implement them). That's my game, anyway...