Real Life Experiment: Is It Possible to Resist Temptation at Target?

published Jul 17, 2017
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
(Image credit: Julia Brenner)

The Experiment: Is it possible to stay on target, at Target?

I’m not an impulse shopper by habit, but when it comes to Target I always seem to lose my godblessed mind (I feel like this is a bad joke setup and I should add ‘amiright ladies?‘). But it’s true. I enter Target and turn into a nut job. So I got to thinking 1) what is it about stores like Target that cause many of us to go bananas and 2) if I really wanted, could I even get through Target without impulse spending? So I hiked up my off-brand yoga pants, bought an overpriced Starbucks latte from the adjoining kiosk and spent a morning investigating…

The Experiment

The challenge I gave myself was to make a list of some random things I needed, because it’s always that trip for a ‘few random things’ that draws me to Target in the first place. And once I’m there, it’s like, might as well try on some giant beach hats and pick up some tank tops and a paperweight shaped like a woodland creature and 25 sale yogurts. In other words, it gets real weird, real fast. The experiment (performance art?) went like this:

  • Research the psychology used by retailers to get shoppers to spend more time and money. I am not making any excuses for my crazy purchase patterns at Target, but I do feel like Target is a perfect storm of all my spending weaknesses (a love of deals, a love of treasure hunting, sensory overload, kids in tow, a penchant for emotional decision making) crammed into a brightly lit, windowless maze.
  • Make a list of the random items I needed—the goal was to stick to the list.
List of oddities for Target. Can I get out of the store with only these six items? Probably not! (Image credit: Julia Brenner)
  • I brought my five-year-old, Ellis a) because I almost always have one or both of my kids with me (my son was at his last day of school on this morning) and I think that kids definitely add to my distracted shopping and b) Ellis wanted to pick out a new beach towel and beach toy to take to an end-of-year beach party her friend’s family was hosting. Sidenote: my kindergarten friends never threw end-of-year beach parties…geez.
  • I used two carts. A “need” cart filled with only items on my list and a “want” cart filled with items I would probably buy and regret if not using a list.
  • At the end of the trip, I compared carts to see the difference between shopping with intention and impulse shopping.
  • I included data and research findings into my own experience to better understand why I go bonkers at Target.
  • I tried to leave the store with only the items on my list.
  • Hijinks ensued!

My Trip To Target in Realtime…A Journey of Teen Sundresses and Tiny Watermelons

1 / 24
According to social psychologist Kit Yarrow, “red is almost always the color associated with sales because it inspires people to take action and it’s a stimulating sort of color… If Target’s logo was blue, it wouldn’t be perceived as a place where things are reasonably priced.” (But wait, Wal-Mart and IKEA have blue logos…and we all know no one ever overspends in those stores! Kidding, kidding). I do know that I walk into Target more open minded to “deals” than I do other stores, so maybe the subliminal red works on me, a subliminal sucker…