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8 Secret Money Traps at Target

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Sundry Photography / Getty Images

A running joke among people who shop at Target is that you go to purchase one specific item and before you know it, you’ve spent over $200 and you don’t quite know how. Business Insider called this phenomenon “the Target effect,” or as author Awesomely Luvvie puts it — Target has a special “voodoo” that “traps the most innocent people into these marathon shopping excursions that result in overdrawn bank accounts and hurting feet.”

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To help you avoid falling prey to this effect, we’ve pulled back the curtain on the secret money traps at Target that it uses to get you to fork over way more money than you planned to. Keep your eyes peeled.

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Its Seductive Layout

The truth is, Target has your number before you even step foot in the store — by its very layout. According to Business Insider, the store is laid out in a way that naturally encourages you to shop for more items by putting things beside one another that people tend to buy.

Whether that is household goods next to toiletries, or seasonal goods next to bright new clothing, it can be hard to stick to your list when all these other products are calling your name. It’s also clean, brightly lit, with good signage and colorful product arrangements.

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Specially Designed Shelves

We aren’t kidding about the layout. Target even uses specially shaped shelves in key shopping areas, according to Carlos Castelán, managing director of the Navio Group.

He told Reader’s Digest, “Target has recently begun to merchandise products with angled shelves in areas such as home and health and beauty because it allows customers to more easily spot product from the drive aisle, rather than traditional shelves that force customers to go down a long aisle of shelving to find a new product.”

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Private Label Goods

Another way that Target hooks you and keeps you coming back for more is with their private label goods, which happen to be cheaper than other similar brand name products. Try to remember that just because something is affordable doesn’t mean you need it right now.

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Manipulative Pricing

Dr. Kevin Chapman, a psychologist, explained to Rare.us that Target engages in manipulative pricing, among other tactics. That is to say, they know that simply setting the price at $19.99 rather than $20 is more likely to make a customer purchase it.

Target is obviously not alone with this tactic, but its sly but effective tricks like this subtly work on you to buy things you might otherwise not.

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Loyalty Deals, Discounts and Sales

If you’re using the Target App, getting that extra 5% with your Target RedCard, hopping on frequent sales, and taking advantage of price matching and Target coupons, you’re likely to keep going to the store that rewards you.

It’s not just the deals themselves, but the way Target makes its customers feel that these deals are a special reward for your loyalty to them; as though you benefit just for shopping there. In truth, the masterminds behind Target’s success probably know that all it takes is getting you into the store, and the other tricks will do the rest of the work to get you to part with your money.

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Strategically Placed Clearance Items

According to Reader’s Digest, Target sticks its clearance items where you’ll have no choice but to notice them — at the check out end-caps. Then, if you’re stuck in line, you might also decide you need that one last thing, because, hey, it’s on clearance!

Additionally, Target rotates clearance items constantly so you’ll rarely find the same item there each time you shop.

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Target Sells ‘Cheap Chic’

Target doesn’t feel like a high-end department store, but it doesn’t really feel like a bargain basement warehouse either. It’s this mindset that makes many people feel good about shopping at Target, and is what what Castelán calls “cheap chic.”

“Design-driven thinking in its products has created the ‘cheap chic’ mantra that helps nudge customers into adding extra items to their shopping cart as well as create a sense of pride in finding something cool at Target,” he told Reader’s Digest.

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Its Starbucks Connection

If you have to run errands and you know you’re going to spend a while checking all the items off your list, and you can get a nice cup of coffee while doing it, aren’t you more likely to go?

Target is among the retailers that have figured out that pairing Starbucks with its stores can lure customers in, and keep them coming back, especially if the in-store Starbucks has a smaller line than your regular coffee shop. The combo is just too good to avoid. Plus, then you have to continue shopping long enough to finish your drink or snack.

That said, knowing some of Target’s sneaky little tricks doesn’t mean you’ll be able to resist the temptation of spending too much. But at least next time — you’ll be a bit more aware.

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