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.
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...