My daughter turned 14 years old on August 27, and on that day I made a trip to Target. I wanted to get her a card, a new book, and the supplies to make a birthday cake. I also bought a Lavender Relaxation Tiesta Tea, birthday candles we didn’t really need (but they were numbers and I can definitely use them over and over again), paper plates, a one-person meat and cheese snack tray, cauliflower risotto, and possibly a few other things. A couple of days prior, I bought a cloche because it was in the clearance section of the Chip and Joanna Gaines/Target collaboration aisle.
I had to Google what a cloche was when I got home, but it was only $3! I feel like I still won. Especially since I also got a phone charging bank from Bullseye’s Playground (the inexpensive section set up next to the registers), two bottles of Dr. Teal’s bubble bath, a Cards Against Humanity expansion pack, and who the hell remembers what else. What did I go to Target to get? I don’t even know anymore.
I know that a lot of people experience the same thing when they enter Target, slipping into a shopping and saving fugue before emerging with a cart filled with unplanned purchases. You would think that people would be annoyed with this sort of thing, but most people who do this at Target are repeat offenders. I mean customers. We go back on purpose, again and again. I shop there nearly once a week and the only time I leave empty-handed is if I’m with someone else or having an off day. So why does Target seem like a magical house of spontaneous spending and why do we love it?
Refinery29 recently shared the secret behind the common phenomena. Target places related things near each other like most places, but instead of something like antiseptic ointment next to bandages they place bottled water near the salty snacks. It makes sense to get water to go with your snacks, but no one goes into the store thinking, “I’m buying trail mix, so I should get something to wash it down.”
Another facet of the Target Effect is the way the stores are painted, laid out, and how different sections are lit. The Target near me has changed out the lights in the makeup aisles to make the area feel more like a specialty store rather than three aisles in a chain location. The end caps of the home sections sometimes have arrangements meant to mimic the in-home setting or a collection of items that some shoppers might not pair together on their own. Add in a Starbucks at the front of the store and you have the reason that I’ll happily stroll Target alone for an hour or more, sipping my drink and thinking of reasons I should 100% buy this slime-making kit for myself.
So the next time your friends or partner give you crap for buying a Deadpool action figure that was only $20 or yet another clearance tablecloth you were sure would fit your table but it didn’t — tell them that it isn’t your fault. The Target Effect is real and it has you in its affordably priced, Starbucks-adjacent clutches. And it feels pretty good in its grip, to be honest.
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