An Arrow for the Bullseye

by Tom Swift

I have come to an important realization. This isn’t easy to say, certainly not publicly. And it’s no doubt going to be an unpopular view. One that in certain circles might, in fact, be seen as controversial. Yet there is no use pretending any longer. I might as well come out and admit it.

I don’t like Target.

I don’t like it — OK? I know everyone loves, loves, loves Target. They go on their Target “runs.” They make it their go-to place, whether they need a 48-roll pack of toilet paper, six kids worth of school supplies, plastic Halloween decorations, or produce.

In these parts Target is seen by the masses as affordable, palatable, convenient and, well, it has everything you need — and more than a few things that you don’t. But, hey, why not, we’re here!

Middle-classers can shop at Target without the tax-bracket shame they feel at Kmart.

Liberals can shop at Target without the political embarrassment they fear at Walmart.

But it’s time we acknowledged the elephant (sporting a red top and tan khakis) in the room.

First of all, the prices at Target are not all that stellar. I do have a Red Card, yep, which saves me 5 percent, and that’s not nothing, to be sure, but it’s not like I can’t get my laundry detergent any cheaper than at the drug store or grocery store.

More importantly, to have everything is to have too much. Unless you are looking for big items like a king-sized comforter or a two-seat couch, to enter Target is to prepare to go on a hunt — and, while on this white-light, sterile cheap-goods safari, if you see one of those red bat phones you might as well pick it right up. Get the 17-year-old kid to start scrolling his handheld inventory now before your mental fatigue sets in.

Let’s be frank: the fare is not of any higher quality at Target than at any other big-box retailer. I bought a lamp there that, I swear, stripped off its base 61 days after purchase and ever since hangs off kilter. The last three non-disposable items I bought there failed for various reasons and with little wear and tear.

Convenience? Puh-leeze. There is little about a store that size that is convenient. Even if you know what you want and you park within fifty yards of the front door, you must wade through the bargain bins and clearance end-caps. That is, after all, the point. I have heard it said you can’t go to Target and not spend a hundred bucks. The person who told me that was smiling. I am not. I don’t know how they do it but I feel certain they must have armies of capitalist masterminds making sure that it is so: you are hypnotized to buy more than you need. Go there now and come back and tell me I am wrong. (By the way, I see those bullseye bags behind your back.)

Of course, you may still bump your red cart into mine at a Target sometime. I still go. But I have been going far less in last couple of years and my last visit cinched it for me that I will only go when I feel I must. I had walked in to make a return. After finishing the return, I checked my home shopping list and thought I might as well finally get that pumice stone. As I was going to the Personal Care area, I stopped to regard the Q-tips. After all, I don’t have any at present. Then there was the hand soap. Only $1.29, you say? Might as well grab some. Meanwhile, I couldn’t find a pumice stone to save my life. I circle. Shampoo, Row 1. Shampoo, Row 2. Pumice stones not in Personal Care, apparently. I looked for a bat phone. A red shirt. A sign. Something. Hell-o!

Finally, I said to myself “I shall not do this any more.” (Perhaps not a verbatim transcript. Point is this: I came to clarity. See, I prefer to shop bricks-mortar than online. I like to see what I am going to buy before I buy it — hold it in my hand if I can. And I like to be loyal to local places — but seems clear I should concern myself here only with places that add value. Last week, I shopped at Dey Distributing, an appliance parts shop in St. Paul, where I bought an air conditioning capacitor. I could easily have saved $10 elsewhere or online. In my view, the extra ten spot was money well spent. For there are adults at Dey — and those adults are available and able to help you. I shop regularly at Ace for the same reason. The men and women who work there know the products and they will help even an idiot like me use them. The store is also smaller than a soccer field. I am, for example, in the market for a weed whacker. When I stop being cheap and I decide to buy one, I will likely get it there. I might spend a little more but I know they will service it and answer any questions I may have.) the bottomline: Skewer me if you, as a Target loyalist, must. But I am not going to hide it any longer. At this point, I’m able to find a pumice store or a guy with a handheld, I did what any responsible adult would do in the same situation: I set my basket down and walked away.