Everything to Everyone

As I age, I’m more inspired to go for a “Target run”. The phrase “Target Run and Done” assumes that Target is just a short walk from home. Regrettably, getting to Target means a 30 minute drive on the expressway. Target Corporation is the second largest retailer in the United States. Such information seems lost on the few blacks I’ve surveyed who claim that “Tar-jay” is —-a “rich people’s Wal-Mart”. Who could blame those dissenters, given that Wal-Mart is 10 minutes away and Target’s allure costs a 30 minute drive?

Lately, Greg’s been taking me there to gawk at the bevy of books always just beyond the coffee shop and purchase lanes. I always get stuck among best sellers and club picks daydreaming about the special connection between reader and wordsmith. But there’s something else. Target doesn’t feel like a grocery store if though it has groceries in it. The groceries even seem like prizes to be won rather than nameless items that I can get anywhere.

A Target Run isn’t the same as Wal-Mart Whisk. Maybe, it’s a whisk because I never believe that Wal-Mart is welcoming enough to care that I’m there for a shopping journey, not a sea of merchandise that makes me forget why I came to the store for initially. I get that there are more books in Target because its consumer base makes more money. Maybe, I want to take the consumer power back. Maybe, I resent the idea that where I shop has to condescend to me and say: Our stores don’t need a Starbucks Coffee Shop because Subway and SmartStyle should be enough.

I was so despondent the last time I abandoned my neighborhood Target, that signing up for a Target Card seemed like an opulent idea. I was jazzed about the idea of getting a discount for Target purchases that an inexorable link to my bank account seemed like a no-brainer. Target offers a debit card to consumers who don’t want to apply for credit, and still need that “shopper’s fix” at their stores.

Being “everything to everyone” gets me a little jaded. There’s something more alive about Target that seems missing in action at Wal-Mart. Before the town I lived in became over-run with people who drive like bats out of hell and before the community schools there were enticing out-of-town-ers, I adored trips to Wal-Mart.

No matter what I needed Wal-Mart did not just have it, Wal-Mart seemed like that one unchangeable place where everyone in my city congregated. It was like our own little mall, friendly and personable.

When I go to Wal-Mart now, I’m ready to grab what I need and leave promptly. Before Wal-Mart began it’s popularity contest with Amazon, the store seemed more adept to balancing service and satisfaction with simplicity and sanity.

Now, it seems to be a zoo of screaming children, overweight geriatrics, worried parents, and underappreciated workers. I get that it’s the largest American retailer and maybe that’s the issue. Being so filled with everything makes it a daunting shadow of what it used to be. Something happened in between the brown and white signs, the grayish black shopping carts, and the sunny tempers. Wal-Mart got bigger. The demand got heavier. And maybe the pressure to be the best morphed into an ambiguous balancing act between benevolence and battle.

Last night, when I purchased printer paper from Target, I felt like I was buying a golden doubloon. Perhaps, the paper was just positioned better on the shelf. Or maybe, the same paper feels more mass produced in the other store. Either way, the perception of low prices at the Wal-Mart store seems to be associated with aggravation of Wal-Mart’s staff, whereas I might pay 0.30 cents more for the same product and more professional behavior. Wal-Mart has what I need, but maybe Target hitting a Target that is less easy for the average retail shopper to see.

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