Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The generosity of the Target Corporation




     Don't get me wrong. I like Target. The stores are clean. They're big and bright. The red bull's eye design element really holds the place together. They have stuff I want. On weekends, when my wife goes to do an errand, to pick up enormous blocks of paper towels and slabs of toilet paper, weighty jugs of cat litter, I tend to go along, to lug the litter and look around. 
     There's always something interesting, a heretofore unimagined product, like a cleaner to clean the inside of your washing machine, which I always imagined was clean enough already. I wrote about that previously.
    Or this display, noticed last weekend. Before I say a word about it, I want you to take a look. I'm curious as to whether what popped out at me, immediately, also pops out at you. See the picture to the right? The little display next to the paper towels, pushing gift cards? Look at it closely.
     Anything leap out at you? Anything odd?   
    Yes, it could be that the "holiday" display is still up in March—I suppose the holiday could be Easter, but do you give Target gift cards at Easter? It's possible, though I just suspect somebody's falling down on the job at this particular Target. Anyway, that wasn't what I noticed.
    Anything else?
     How about "free sleeve with all holiday gift cards."    
     Free sleeve? These cards are a great money-maker for these stores, since you pay them for a plastic card that costs almost nothing, they have your money for a period of days and weeks until the recipient redeems the value of the card, which sometimes never happens because the cards are lost or forgotten. Sweet. Consumers spent $150 billion on gift cards in 2015 and $1 billion worth were never used. 
     So it is natural that Target would want to give you something in return, like this ultra-chic paper sleeve to put your gift card in. 
     A tremendously chintzy drop of generosity for a story to be ballyhooing, am I correct? That's like a hotel crowing that they give you clean sheets. 
    Is there a word for a gift so paltry it's worse than nothing at all? I can't think of it. Our language of gift-giving is surprisingly sparse. We have to borrow a Cajun term for "lagniappe,"  one of my favorite words, meaning a small present meant to seal the deal, that free cookie the baker gives you as you browse. The "free sleeve" is an anti-lagniappe, a present so expected—"We put a fresh paper examination table strip with every check-up"–that it makes you question the entire transaction. 
    "Free sleeve..." Is there a chance they were joking? A bit of whimsy cooked up by some harried copywriter, deep within the Target organization? Nah...



      

11 comments:

  1. I believe the operative word is "free."

    Tom Evans

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    1. I agree. We expect to see that word even though we don't believe it. If it weren't "free sleeve," it would have been "free delivery" or "free email service."

      john

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  2. Not to quibble, but lagniappe is a French word of Spanish origin. Mostly used in New Orleans, in my experience. (After all, the Scotch aren't known for giving things away.)

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    1. No, good point. I just always thought of it as Scottish -- no idea why. I fixed it.

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  3. It is a pretty ridiculous thing to tout, you don't see Hallmark advertising free envelopes with each greeting card purchased. I like the ones at Barnes & Noble that are also bookmarks. Useful instead of trash after the money is spent. Yes, I know the others can be used like that, but B&N's are thin and don't bow the book out at all.

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  4. I was excited just viewing the photo of the red Target carts; I love them -- the large size, the light-weight plastic, the color -- and the wheels always work perfectly. I like Target because I know I can find stuff at a good price while having a little social interaction. It puts me in a better mood, usually.

    SandyK

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  5. Oh dear! Scotch is whiskey -- or sometimes shortbread. The people are called Scots or Scottish.

    And the myth of Scottish frugality is one largely born in English music halls, although, like the Jews, the Scots often help spread it themselves. The reality is that when visiting one always bears gifts, particularly for the "wee bairns."

    TE

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    1. Reminds me of the directions given to a visitor to an Irish home, ending in, "Then you reach over and push the door bell with your elbow." The response to, "Why my elbow?" being, "Now, sure, you wouldn't be coming empty-handed, would you?"

      john

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    2. I actually checked the dictionary before using "Scotch," Tom, and was assured of its proper usage in referring to the people. But if its use in that context is considered offensive, I apologize for my ignorance. I'm part Scottish myself, but just a little.

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  6. No need to apologize. My own antecedents came from Wales, but when I first visited my very Scottish in-laws I was gently informed of the distinction. Actually your usage was only unhistorical, not wrong. It seems to be fairly modern affectation. Dr. Johnson, who had strong views on his good friend's national heritage famously remarked, "The noblest prospect that a Scotchman ever sees is the high road that leads him to England."

    I like the Irish directions.

    Tom

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  7. I think what they meant was that holiday gift cards come with a sleeve. Doesn't seem like anything until you realize that there are no longer sleeves available ( free or not) for the non- holiday cards. So really what they mean is " our holiday gift cards come with what you'd expect, for the others good luck"

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