The following may disturb some of you, but as a loyal Target shopper since before I was born (I'll address this in a moment), I find it sort of awesome: Target has a unique Guest ID for me with a record of everything I've ever purchased. Of course this record is based on the times Target was sure I was the person purchasing items, via credit card for example, and if a coupon was sent to my home and someone used it, they assume it was me and this is recorded as well. With this method, Target has become a superpower in the retail world and keeps us all in the fold with a perfect suggestion: "just buy everything here, why not?"
According to an interview with a statistician working with Target since 2002, Target not only has their specialists working on deciding when its the right time to send you coupons for cleaning supplies, they're going for the holy grail: the birth of your children. The use of Guest IDs has been going on in Target for "decades" and whenever possible collects data on every single person who "regularly" walks into their stores. The specialist mentioned here, Andrew Pole, noted the following on the baby situation:
"We knew that if we could identify them in their second trimester, there’s a good chance we could capture them for years. As soon as we get them buying diapers from us, they’re going to start buying everything else too. If you’re rushing through the store, looking for bottles, and you pass orange juice, you’ll grab a carton. Oh, and there’s that new DVD I want. Soon, you’ll be buying cereal and paper towels from us, and keep coming back.” - Pole
This all works with the Guest ID, a system which is not accessible to customers but is used currently by Target stores to keep records of all types of customers. Again, according to Pole:
"If you use a credit card or a coupon, or ﬁll out a survey, or mail in a refund, or call the customer help line, or open an e-mail we’ve sent you or visit our Web site, we’ll record it and link it to your Guest ID. We want to know everything we can.” - Pole
Sound creepy to you? The New York Times is running a piece with additional quotes from Pole, this leading us to believe that Target may have one whole heck of a lot more advanced system behind its Big Red Living Room than they let on. What do you think of this, citizens? Are you happy that Target knows when you're going to have a child even before you do?
I know it's not keeping with the independence and resistance against big brother theme we've had going on since the dawn of humanity here, but I really don't mind Target tracking my purchases. If I want to pick up a strange combination of items that I don't want anyone to know about, I'll do it with cash. If I really want to mess with Target, I'll buy bleach, knives, and duct tape for the next few weeks exclusively with my credit card - see what kind of coupons they send me then!