Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Target Experience

Entering through those automatic doors, catching our first glimpse of the red and white Segways, hearing the hollow hums of shoppers, employees and shopping carts, any warm blooded female is shot into the wonderfully euphoric state of shopper's delight. It doesn't matter what we came to get - a bulk package of paper towels, just a few new pairs of socks or windshield wiper fluid, there is no chance of a receipt detailing a set of purchases under $50.

It's a blackout. One minute we’re stocking up on face wash and the next we’re in the dressing room modeling a bikini/cover-up combo in the mirror. Another blackout and, bam, we’re tossing new throw pillows into our cart. Without realizing it, we’re picking out plastic tumblers and matching serving platters. One more episode and we’re looking down at a cart overflowing with Tupperware containers, Mossimo sweaters, Papyrus for Target note cards, clearance candlesticks and mini canvas-lined wicker baskets. Our register experience is going to be tense and cringing until “Approved” comes up on the screen and our receipt starts to print. 

However, our unexpectedly expanded shopping trip isn’t all fab finds and irresistible deals. While we’re quickly consuming layers upon layers of “things we need,” we’re being pushed, prodded and manhandled by hoards of competing shoppers. They’ve come to Target in droves. They’re crossing from department to department in large, slow moving groups of four or more. They’re yelling at each other without any apparent rhyme or reason. They’re stepping in front of us as we compare detergent prices. They’re using their non-English first language as an excuse not to abide by any common courtesies. They’re making our shopping trip agitated, uncomfortable and stressful. 

And, yet, we come back to Target at every open opportunity. We look at the plastic bags dotted with bull’s eyes and filled with goodies and forget about the Haitian couple that bullied us out of the laundry basket aisle. As we’re setting up our new table lamp, we’re blissfully past the memory of the woman who passed out standing up and dropped her large fountain fruit punch (and vodka) all over the jewelry section. It’s as if that family behind you in line never infringed upon your personal space and screamed at each other for ten minutes using words and phrases that don’t really work like “I’m doin’ me” and “you do you.” 

The Target experience is a bomb of mismatched emotions. At once it is both exhilarating and terrifying, thrilling and annoying, addictive and nauseating. It’s the classic case of the power of the reward (and genius marketing and branding). And, I can’t wait to go back.

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