Raise your hand if you’ve ever been a guilty of entering Target with one goal in mind and ended up leaving with a whole new apartment? *raises hand*
According to Urban Dictionary, the “Target Effect” is “the result of going into a store, intending to buy a few things, and leaving with much more. Frequently happens while shopping at Target.” Refinery29 reports that this isn’t just limited to a slang term or Instagram memes, and that there’s an actual scientific reason behind impulsive shopping sprees at chain stores.
“Stores have an idea about the path [shoppers take],” he said. “Walmart was once famous for doing things like putting like Band-Aids next to fishing hooks and things like that. Something you don’t naturally associate, but once you see them there, it makes sense,” says Tom Meyvis, a professor of marketing at New York University. These chains are strategically to tricking your brain into make cross-category associations, so you just throw it in the bag.
Another trick Target uses to get you to rack up? Their stores' happy aesthetic and design style, added Kentucky-based psychologist Dr. Kevin Chapman. Yes, issa vibe. Target’s “Bullseye's Playground,” which offers discounted products usually near checkout, is another danger zone for spending because it’s on sale, duh. Dr. Chapman calls this strategy “psychological pricing” and says it’s used in most stores nationwide when the retailer marks their price at $9.99 instead of rounding up to $10.
However these “tricks” aren’t necessarily negatives (if you’re not on a strict budget). Often these types of unplanned purchases are things that make us happy that we just didn’t think of. And like Joe Perdew, Target’s vice president of store design, told Refinery29 that they understand their customers go to Target for an experience as they scour the aisles.
“That whole ‘I came in for shampoo and left with two carts full of other things’ phenomenon is real!” says the VP.