Stirring the pot, raising hell and rearing children in the Bay Area

Mowing in the Target Trough

Posted on Jan 2, 2011 in Featured, Seasons |

Mowing in the Target Trough

“Valentine’s Day is coming!,” La Gringa said yesterday. “Shut the hell up”, I thought, as we were herded toward the Christmas blowout sale aisle with another three dozen bargain shoppers. If the post-holiday season wasn’t depressing enough, try perusing through the 75% off racks at Target with once-carefully thought-out gift options, now chucked on the ground, grinding under my shopping cart. The Target message was clear: the holidays are over sucker, move on the Valentine’s Day! MLK Day Commemorative Plates! SuperBowl Sunday Chip’n’Dip Bowls!

It suddenly hit me: Target is ruling my spending, my holidays and my calendar.

Now, like all good neighborhood residents, I try hard to shop locally, but Target is Target and we all eat from the same trough of discount deals, readily available everythings and decent selections. If you’ve got a lunch break, you go to Target, if you’ve got a bunch of errands, you go to Target, if you need uniforms, kids underwear, bananas, a birthday card and a new scale all at once, you go to Target (For the record, you don’t ever buy your wife a new wardrobe at Target for her birthday, trust me.). The problem is, Target is leading loyal customers into truly believing that it’s the benchmark for all things commerce. That’s where I draw the line.

There things to be mindful of when shopping at Target as a regular source of purchasing:

1. Emotion Marketing. Because Target says it’s time to start buying Easter baskets in February, doesn’t mean you should. Or that it should be on your mind, or in your current budget. It’s hard to resist, right? This year I saw Back to School clothes for sale at Target in June. By August when I went to buy the uniforms, they were sold out. You’re kidding me, right? I used to get my school uniforms the weekend before school started and supplies, the day after school started. Target has me thinking about — and buying — items on their marketing schedule, not mine.

2. Selection and Variety. We need a new scale. Target has four kinds of scales. Good variety, right? If Target doesn’t have it, then it doesn’t exist, or costs too much or is too much of a pain to get in the car and go across town to the shop that specializes in such things. There are four types to choose from, just pick one, right? The same goes for toys, kids clothes and seasonal tsotchke. I couldn’t find a silver cardigan for my daughter at Target, so I just didn’t buy it. The developmental kids toys are the same everywhere and I should just pick one of them in the “developmental” toys aisle at Target — well, at least that’s my thinking. Yesterday I staged a rebellion: I’m going to (a) research scales  (b) determine what kinds of features I want (c) read the reviews. Then, I’ll go to Target and if they have it, great, I’ll stick it in my cart next to the deodorant and Intro to Yoga DVD, but if they don’t, I won’t be a slave to the Target machine, I will buy the scale I want to buy. Maybe. That is, er, f I have time and I don’t have to stop by Target anyway on my way to pick up my kid from ballet.

3. Setting the bar. I am often reminded when I question authority, process and procedures that most things are geared toward marketing toward, or communicating with, the lowest common denominator. Everything from public school to airport security screenings are designed for Bozo the Clown, so it’s no surprise that even my son calls out the low bar of marketing messaging. “What does ‘MORE SWEAT FOR LESS’ mean, Mommy?,” my 7-year-old asks. “It means you can pay less money for sweat pants,” I replied. “Why do I want to sweat more for less?”  he answered. Indeed son, why? For the love of all that is good: My kid is calling out the low level communication strategies. But you know what I did, huh? Huh? I turned around to see if they had the same sale for women’s sweat pants.

And so it goes. I love me my “Tar-jay”  I know that I’m part of a marketing machine and I expect the bar to be set low. I’m never disappointed nor impressed. I won’t be deterred from the big red circle and cheap popcorn at the front door. I won’t either be impressed by quality, selection or price. But here’s the kicker, see… I don’t have to like it, but it’s hard not to.