Target: The “100 Dollar Store” Explained

“It’s a 100 dollar store,” my friend remarked while we were discussing Target over coffee last year.

I didn’t get it. I had been telling her how much I loved Target.

“I mean, you can’t walk out of there without spending at least 100 dollars. It’s impossible,” she explained.

Then I got it. It was true. I couldn’t remember ever leaving a Target without spending more than $100.

The weird thing is that I had never shopped at Target before I got pregnant. But once I became pregnant and had small children, I became obsessed with Target. I now shop at Target ALL THE TIME. And so do all of my friends. And we don’t just shop at Target. We love Target and everything about it.

Then I read last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine article, “How Companies Learn Your Secrets,” by Charles Duhigg.

It’s a great article and a must-read for many reasons (it even explains how habits are formed and tells you how to stop eating cookies). But the reason that the article has been in the news over the past few days is because it reveals that Target has a system to figure out if a woman is pregnant – before she even tells anyone.

Apparently, there are only a few times in life that you are open to changing your shopping habits and pregnancy and early parenthood are the peak times that women are open to changing their shopping habits – and once changed during this time, the new shopping habits tend to stay. Target wanted to figure out if a woman was pregnant so that they could reach her during this peak time.

So they hired a team of brilliant statisticians, mathematicians, and scientists and they came up with a way of being able to accurately predict if a woman was pregnant by early in her second trimester. According to the article, every shopper at Target has a secret identity number and their purchases are tracked. The secretly pregnant women were found to be buying lots of unscented soap and cotton balls. (I don’t personally remember doing this, but it’s entirely possible.)

And suddenly it all became clear. No wonder my budget had a giant slice of its pie labeled “Target.” No wonder it was “a 100 dollar store.” The greatest math and science minds in the country were working around the clock to make me love Target and buy everything at their store. And it worked!

I understand that Target is not the only store doing this. Information is being tracked by all major companies now and most of us have some acceptance of this fact. But this article was definitely a major wake-up call for me. It made me think and question some of the simple daily choices that I make. And I am going to be more mindful about where I shop and how I shop. And I think that I may take a break from shopping at Target for now.

Or I may go back to Target and buy vast quantities of unscented soap and cotton balls just to mess with them.

Sarah Knight is a mother of young children, a frequent Target shopper, and the co-founder of She is also on Twitter @sarahsknight



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