Target is cool with rock 'n' roll, but not sex and drugs

Retailer's Web deal with Amazon leads to embarrassing search results for items that Target wouldn't want to sell.

When Target struck a deal for Amazon.com to help run its Internet store, search results that turned up listings for books and videos about sex and drugs weren't exactly what the retailing giant had in mind.

In recent weeks, the Internet has been abuzz about an alleged hack into Target's Web operations, where its online store site appeared to offer items for sale that one wouldn't normally expect to find at the mainstream retailer. When customers typed "marijuana" into the search feature of Target's Web site, books and CDs about marijuana appeared that Target wouldn't want to sell. Worse--at least for Target--books, CDs and DVDs related to sex and drugs appeared when other words were entered.

"When a guest logs on to Target.com and searches for a particular word, that search includes Amazon.com's millions of books, music and (movie) titles," Target said in its statement. "Target.com is currently working with Amazon.com to suppress certain titles from the Amazon.com catalog from appearing on the Target.com web site."

Amazon confirmed that the search results were retrieved from products it sells on its own site or through affiliates that run small businesses on the Web.

Target blamed the gaffe on a process the two companies use to coordinate their e-commerce networks, not a computer hack. An Amazon spokeswoman said the problem wasn't due to a mistake on Amazon's part and referred further questions to Target.

Under the companies' agreement , established in 2001 and extended through 2008, Amazon manages e-commerce for the retail chain. Amazon handles order fulfillment and customer service for Target.com, as well as the retailer's other online properties, MarshallFields.com and Mervyns.com.

Target said that while it will continue to use Amazon's technology to power its Web site and provide entertainment items partly supplied from Amazon's own product listings, it will work to disable consumers' ability to access the controversial search results.

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