How to Survive Shopping at Target

When I was little and the first Target store was built in my area, no one had heard of the company. Construction was going on and given the placement of the actual target in the logo—a target I’m now convinced is actually a hypnotic symbol that draws you in—I thought the name was “O Target.”

Listening to people talk today, Target seems to be the suburban equivalent of Las Vegas. There are no clocks on the wall, no windows to let you gaze outside and I wouldn’t be surprised if they pump oxygen throughout the store to keep you alert.

I’ve heard it suggested they might as well implement at $25 cover charge, as it seems to be impossible to walk out of the store without spending at least that amount.

I’m not a big shopper, but I swear to avocados that once I start roaming the aisles I find bright colored melamine plates that would look great stuck in my cupboard for months—only $2!—and at the very least, a 3-pack of gel fresheners in a variety of seasonal scents—only $2.79!

But being the frugal female that I am, I have also devised a few tips and tricks to outsmart the hypnotic trance and underhand Target tactics.


The first is obvious in that you should never venture to the superstore wearing khakis and a red polo—the Target uniform—unless you’re prepared to answer questions from shoppers about where to find moisturizer or Archer Farms cereal.

If you’re at Target a lot, this might not be a problem because you’ll know the store layout by heart. But if you’re not looking for an interruption during your retail rendezvous, ditch the khakis and polo.

With your outfit selected, be sure to drink at least 24 ounces of a beverage of your choice—not Starbucks from the Target location, as that will simply caffeinate your craziness—and “forget” to use the bathroom before leaving.

If you’re anything like me and don’t enjoy hovering over public toilet seats, the pressing needs of your bladder might just serve as a gentle reminder to get in and out of the store ASAP.

The day you choose to shop there can have a significant impact on both TSIS (time spent in store) and MDD (monetary damage done).

If you’re confident in your ability to shave time off your TSIS with no issues, go whenever you would like. But if you’re feeling weak and fear the possible MDD, choose a time in which the store is most likely to be full of screaming children who feel they need ALL THE THINGS when in fact they just need a nap.

This constant soundtrack of shrieks can serve as the soundtrack and not-so-subliminal reminder that although the appeal of a discounted chevron towel in the SAME EXACT COLORS as your kitchen—only $4!—your greater desire is to escape from the ear-splitting screams.

Finally, when you do enter the store, do not grab a cart—or as I prefer to call them, “enablers.” Unless the one item you need is too large to lug through the store, carts are simply vehicles for maximum MDD. Better to carry what you “need” by hand so that you have a palpable feel as to your prospective purchases.

If everything goes according to plan, your tired arms, full bladder and desire to escape the screams of Satan spawn should aid in your valiant effort to maximize the foolproof formula:

Less TSIS = Less MDD

Good luck staying on target.

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37 responses to “How to Survive Shopping at Target

  1. all good points! I’ve tried the no buggy/enabler thing and I just end up with arms full and stuff balanced on my head. I do often sort through my stuff and change my mind at the register, I’m sure they just love seeing me coming 🙂

  2. Once. One time I was able to get out of there with just the things in my hand. I was convinced that I needed 2 small things, and I would NOT be swayed by the dollar bins (but I NEED it!), or the shiny, pretty, reasonablly priced bowls and cups. So, no cart and just my hands. I did it, but barely. I was overloaded with stuff in my arms because I JUST CAN’T HELP IT. Where is that support group for Target shoppers again?

    • I’m really getting much better, mostly because I hate spending money. But that damn Dollar Bin and my love of air fresheners–and sales–is like a siren song at times…

  3. “The enablers” = me snorting at my desk over and over again. I’ll never call them anything else.

  4. Enablers – why is it all theirs have smooth running wheels – nothing to annoy you into leaving or to distract you from that list – oh, look! Halloween costumes for birds – and tiny little winter coats for frogs – I do hate seeing them shiver outside all winter…Target is so compassionate and somehow knows just what we must have
    Oh, what was I saying?

  5. Baskets ARE enablers. And the big Target closest to me has these new AWESOME carts that are chunky and ride as smooth as a Mercedes. It’s not good, Abby … not good at all.

  6. I love this post. But just so you know, MORE frequent visits to Target will actually desensitize you to all those temptations. I have a Target on my way home from work and stop there frequently. I no longer have any problem with running in, grabbing what I need, and getting out (well, except sometimes for those incredible end-of-aisle sales). And as for the shopping cart, some of us older people NEED the cart to use kinda like a walker in order to get from the front of the store to the area where our desired purchases are (usually in the very back, farthest corner of the store).

    • True. But I think you prove that with age comes experience 😉 Sometimes carts are necessary to plow through people blocking aisles as well, so I suppose that they do serve a purpose!

  7. I would like to know where said Enablers are that don’t have “flat tires” on them… There are 4 Targets between where I work and where I live, and I’ll tell ya… there isn’t an enabler that doesn’t have a flat tire or something wrong with a wheel where it either squeeks or goes “clunk clunk, clunk clunk”.

    I try so hard not to use a cart at Target… and your right… I don’t think you can leave Target for less than $20 bucks

  8. Haha I love this, so incredibly true. Can’t walk in there without buying way more than planned, maybe I just have crappy self control. I almost NEVER get a cart when there because it definitely increases what I get. I try and go without a basket if I can even. I’m still laughing at the analogy of target to Vegas!

  9. hahaha my first job was target and never again will i wear tan and red together! my only way to survive target is to steer clear.

  10. tomuseornottomuse

    Someone can get out of Target for $25 or less???? I’ve never managed anything under $100…all of a sudden I want to catch up on movies I now own while laying on the new pillows on my couch decked out in my new flannel pjs with the scarf and earings I also had to have, eating yummy snacks and sipping wine from Aisle 3 out of my cool new plastic wine glasses =)

  11. I love Target! Since I’m a native of the state that birthed Target, I haven’t ever known life without a Target. Yes, I even worked at Target in high school and still know the various layouts of their stores and would probably be just fine wearing khaki and red and helping people out.

    All of your points make me giggle because they are so true. However, I tend to just use the restroom at Target before starting my shopping…I guess that’s a fail on my part!

    But, as for the not using the “enablers,” that’s a point I completely agree on. Then it just becomes a game to see how much stuff I can carry in my arms to hit the MDD.

    I am happy to report that this week, I put back a CLEARANCE item I wanted and opted for being responsible and only bought the things I was actually seeking. I’ll be honest and say that I’m considering going back to see if said item is still there waiting for me, though.

    • You passed on a clearance item?!? I hate to say it, but don’t it expect it to still be there unless you hid it so no one else could buy it…hypothetically speaking.

  12. Great advice, here.

    I never wear blue at the wal mart, orange at the Home Depot, or Red at the Target. Apparently I have “sad retail employee” look syndrome. That combined with my nasty smart ass nature, I’ll end up sending someone on a wild goose chase while cackling.

  13. Abby, you never disappoint – another funny post!:)

  14. today I took Jason to World Market for his first time. I paused at the door and said “we will need one of these” and grabbed a cart, but it was one of the hand baskets with wheels and a pull handle, so still small.

    we filled that baby up with ALL KINDS of unnecessary needs.

    we always do the same thing at Target, too. my downfall being the book section and the supplement / protein aisles.

    • You JUST went to World Market for the first time?!? That’s another fun time suck, especially because they have so much fun specialty food and cute kitchen things shaped like animals 😉

  15. Good advice! I love Target! Here is a big mistake you should never makem, that I ALWAYS make! I have my prescriptions refilled at Target, but instead of ordering them ahead of time, I am never organized enough to do that so I just go to Target and ask them to refill my meds. They tell me to come back to the prescription window in 15-20 minutes. And I generally return about an hour later with a shopping cart full of impulse buys!

  16. Hilarious!! The title of your post basically sums up my life for the past decade. (sigh) And I have to tell you that I have totally worn khakis and a red shirt to Target before! Nobody asked me to help them but I felt super awkward the whole time, like I was waiting for the manager to tell me to get off break already haha. Love all your tips!

  17. This is great! I laughed out loud at the memory of my stocking up on the summery melamine plates, plus the cute coordinating wine glasses and water goblets. Next time I’m loading up on iced tea and I’ll be ready!

  18. I love this! A Target just opened in my area but I still have not gone. I have never shopped at Target…#Truth. Oh, we’re not on twitter…you’re right about the logo, it’s designed to suck you in visually then you get in there and you get sucked in by the bright and beautiful, cheap merchandise.

  19. I’m glad Target’s not just hypnotizing me… Last week I went in intending to buy Diet Coke and Liquid Plumr, and I came out with a box of granola, lightbulbs, sunglasses, and a new Pyrex dish. WHY. I don’t even need lightbulbs.

  20. I wish there was a Target in Antwerp 😦

  21. “the pressing needs of your bladder might just serve as a gentle reminder to get in and out of the store ASAP”

    This. It feels terrible but what a lifesaver.

  22. Refreshing and insightful tips. Now where were you last week with these bad boys?! Just kidding. I actually avoid target at all cost for fear of the MDD, which has happened on a rare occasion. If I should go again, I will make sure to down a jug of water prior to entering and completely bypass the cart once in the actual store. You have just saved me money in the future so I thank you.

  23. Just a few days ago, I bragged to you about how I could go into Target, get my few planned items, and get out. Well, wouldn’t you know – today I stopped at Target after work, and made a liar out of myself. You may never hear me say this again – you were right, and I was wrong!

  24. We don’t have ‘Target’ shops in the UK to my knowledge, but from your description, I wouldn’t go in even if we did

  25. It’s so true! I can never get out of there under $25. I try to go as infrequently as possible. Although, then I’ve got so much I need to get that I’ll wander around, get sidetracked and find myself in the home decor aisle looking at candle holders that absolutely don’t need. No matter the strategy plan, it’s too easy to lose the plot in a Target.

  26. kelleysbreakroom

    There is so much I love about this post! I LOVE the fact that you thought it was O’Target. Pretty sure green polos would be the uniform of choice if that were the case. I definitely have a very TSIS number! Thanks for helping me see the light!

  27. I actually worship a The Church of the Bullseye. I tithe at the cash resgister weekly.

  28. karenlynnbrownrinella

    I loved your rules…but I’m seriously still laughing about {“Oh” Target} Hilarious.

  29. carts are enablers!!!
    awesome. xo DG

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