current events, gender, motherhood, parenting

On Target, stalkers, and pink sticky mats

While I love the local independents around me and have spent more money than is wise or decent on locally sold books, CDs, and lotions, I do still love me my Target. Target is my happy place where Colorado or California the people wear red, the lights hang fluorescent, and apparently, Big Brother is always watching. Creepy. So very creepy. Almost creepy enough to make me nix my planned excursion with the wee one. Except we’re out of wipes. And windex. And, as far as I know there are no locally owned wipes and windex retailers that I’ve come across. So, off we went feeling snooped every second of the way. E tu Target?

[L]inked to your Guest ID is . . . your age, whether you are married and have kids, which part of town you live in, how long it takes you to drive to the store, your estimated salary, whether you’ve moved recently, what credit cards you carry in your wallet and what Web sites you visit. Target can buy data about your ethnicity, job history, the magazines you read, if you’ve ever declared bankruptcy or got divorced, the year you bought (or lost) your house, where you went to college, what kinds of topics you talk about online, whether you prefer certain brands of coffee, paper towels, cereal or applesauce, your political leanings, reading habits, charitable giving and the number of cars you own

So freaky. So invasive. And yet, I went. The alternate options are slim.

I asked a friendly Target associate for help in locating disposable sticky mats for the kiddo, which if you haven’t tried them, are a complete life savor! We typically take his booster seat if eating out since he stays corralled in it easier than than the standard restaurant wooden high chairs, but for when we make an impromptu stop, sticky mats can’t be beat. Here they are, she said as we approached a sea of pink princesses:
Oh no, she exclaimed, as she rifled through them. It’s okay, I told her, reaching for one to plop in my cart. No, she shook her head as she got on her walkie talkie we’ll get you the right ones. Ten minutes later she triumphantly handed me a blue one with grinning cars and while I truly appreciate her efforts I felt a bit confused; pink princess or blue cars, they served the same function so was it really that big of a deal? Or have they snooped me long enough to know Waleed is an ultra boyish boy and I’m a gender-line-toting momma? [kidding. i hope]

Waleed has a pink stroller, a flower laden sippy cup, and a lavender tea set. I’m not a must have trucks baseballs lions type of mom but it made me think, were I to find some deeply discounted pink fairy PJs would I get them or opt for higher priced dinosaur ones instead when a) both would be used for sleeping b) I’m a sucker for sweet deals and c) Waleed couldn’t care less? I’m pretty sure if presented with that either or choice I’d go with the boyish dino PJs though I don’t have a logical reason why since like sticky mats the color has no bearing on the functionality and its not like I’m taking him to a wedding in a lacy tutu with a bedazzled bow. I don’t think it matters and yet I don’t think I’d trekk home with fairy sleepers either.

Of course, we already have all the PJs we need so we did our shopping and returned home with plaid baby tops befitting a lumberjack, blue car sticky mats and a strange unseasonal song stuck in my head: he knows when you are sleeping he knows when you’re awake he knows when you’ve been bad or good so be good for goodness sake! Hm, wonder why.

What would you do if confronted with a sea of pink sticky mats for your little boy blue or vice versa? Would gender identified designs deter you from getting them for your little one even if they were sleepers or undershirts and the like? And are there other equally cool alternatives to Target in which the bullseye is not directly on you?

23 thoughts on “On Target, stalkers, and pink sticky mats”

  1. i call target the mothership, it is a little creepy that they have so much info about you though. pink, blue, i don't care what color louise wears, for some reason, people always think she's a boy anyway, even if she has on pink everything and is being pushed in a pink stroller, go figure.


  2. I admit that their strategies have worked on me, they did in fact lure me in during pregnancy and I do like the report stated pick up a lot of stuff I in one stop there that I used to go to different places for [clothes, food, etc] I just resent how intrusive they are. 😦 As for being mistaken for a boy, Waleed as you know also gets mistaken for a girl, LOL go figure! Louise looks like a total girl so who knows whats up!


  3. I LOVE those mats. Last time I went to Target all they had were the Car ones. I bought them anyway lol. I have bought Rania gender-neutral items (duckies, froggies, etc), but I haven't bought her really boy-ish clothes. Obviously, like you said, it doesn't matter. I buy her small cars and other traditional “boy” items, but 90% of her clothes are pink lol.


  4. Anon, indeed :-/

    Jamila, they are GREAT and they come with a large quantity so no complaints! 🙂 I wonder if its easier to go 'boyish' with a girl than it is to go 'girlish' with a boy? Society-wise? Hm. And as for 90% pink, hopefully I'll get to meet her soon and add to the 90% part of the equation because I love me some pink for girls too :0)


  5. LOL, Katery, I have the same problem!!! Peanut will be in a pink dress, bow in hair and she has her ears pierced in a purple stroller and she still gets called a boy!:/ I really don't care much about the gender items. She has worn her boy cousins hand me downs:) I have a love/hate relationship with Target!! Pixie


  6. Pixie well that is just BIZARRE?! I mean, at this age all boys/girls look relatively similar exterior-wise but for the social indicators of gender so its strange that despite all thatt hey remain so purposefully clueless! lol


  7. Bobby and Maya share, so he's been in pink, she in blue, and everything in between! Funny enough, she prefers blue over red and he red over blue (but she's a pink and purple girl all the way!)


  8. How do they get the info? If you have a Target card or discount key fob they can gather that data on you. But if you don't have these things, how can they collect the data on you legally?

    As for the gender thing……….it doesn't matter. We didn't worry about the colors or girly versus boy things with our son and he never noticed. Once he got past 10 he enforced the boy stuff himself.


  9. Michele, aw ofcourse! It must make life easier when they can swap clothes once in a while how funny about their color preferences, so nice to hear from you btw 🙂

    Kate, I really think people are clueless sometimes, LOL

    Alan, from the article it seems they track regular customers by their credit cards. At Target for exampe I don't have to give a receipt to return anything, they just look me up on their system with my credit card. I think that's all they need to have your name and information and from there they can go fishing. Its truly creepy.


  10. When I signed up for the Target card, I knew I was selling my data rights in exchange for the discount. I honestly don't mind- google, Facebook, linked, amazon– any company with the resources is doing it. Any company that has offered a membership, club, frequent buyer program is doing it. It's the world we live in I guess.

    I have never been given anything pink or yellow! Unintentionally, we're all blue up here 🙂


  11. Leigh Ann, so its only for when you sign up with Target Card? I got the impression they were tracking everyone based on names and frequency of purchases linked to credit cards. Hm. It is the world we live in, but its so unsettling 😦

    Sarah, well in her defense we both paused at the sea of pink sticky mats when we saw them, so she might have thought I was disappointed and my 'dont worry about it' was just being polite. I did appreciate her help with 'rectifying' the situation, but it was very thought provoking! 🙂


  12. Hi Aisha. We haven't seen to you in a while. Please come visit us in Chicago sometime 🙂

    So I thought i'd give you my 2cents regarding Target's predictive analytics issue. I do business intelligence for living and big part of business intelligence is predictive analytics (PA) and data mining. I have read a few books on predictive analytics and each book has at-least one or two chapters discussing the “ethical” aspect of data mining. It is a big known issue with PA. A part of PA is “clustering” data points together to form an understanding based on certain patterns and then giving each cluster a score. How is this different from stereotyping a group of people? So the point I am trying to make is that, ethical aspect of predictive analytics is actually a big problem and all the thought leaders and experts in the field acknowledge the issue, although i don't see them doing anything significant to address it.


  13. I do all girly clothes for my daughter (though that doesn't have to be pink) but prefer gender-neutral toys (why does a girl have to play with pink legos or blocks?). But she does have more girly toys now that she's older because she's getting into princesses and that's what she's gotten as gifts over the years. My car seat/stroller set is gender neutral. Though to be fair, I did that thinking ahead about the possibility of having a boy as a second child, but I ended up having another girl! Not sure about the place mats though…



  14. Naveed, we miss you guys too, when is your next trip to Atlanta, please let us know even if its to rush over and say hello. If you're reading this, I had a question for you, can they only do all this clustering of data points etc if you sign up for a credit card linked to their database or is it any credit card you use will automatically put you in the pool of people they mine data on?

    Rasha, I did gender neutral gear with the same goal in mind 🙂 I think you're right, as they get older they self select gender specific things at times but when possible gender neutral is good at a young age, I've been shocked that legos came out with pink legos for girls. Really?! Anything to make a buck I guess.


  15. They can data mine even if you don't use credit card. It really depends on how they are using the statistical algorithms and how they are training their predictive model. My guess is, to get the most value out of predictive analytics, they are probably tracking people via their credit card to uniquely identify a person and track his/her purchases. The thing is, a lot of retail stores already track a lot of this granularity of data but they just don't put it to use in predictive modeling. So i think the problem is much bigger than just Target.


  16. It bothers me that everything is so extremely gender specific for little kids. Does my newborn even care about princesses or dinosaurs? I think it's healthy for my almost 2 year old daughter to be playing with cars and trains and other typical “boy” toys, along with dolls and play kitchens and typical “girl” toys. The only people this benefits are the toy makers–they can now sell twice as many, 1 pink version for girls and 1 blue version for boys. I wish there were more gender neutral options available. What is so wrong with bright primary colors and shapes?

    My girls have been thought to be boys on numerous occasions because of their gender-neutral brown and lime carseat/stroller, because I make an effort to not dress them in pink and purple from head to toe. (Not saying I don't dress them in pink and purple and ruffles and ribbon, just try to avoid it all the time.) It probably wouldn't matter so much to me to put them in the “opposite gender” colored clothing. However, like a previous commenter, I think that it is easier and more accepted to put girls in boys' clothes than the opposite.


  17. Naveed, that is so creepy- and that is wher eI'm stuck, like you said, its a bigger problem beyond Target. Hopefully now that there's attention on the issue maybe something can happen? One can hope. Thanks for sharing you expertise on this matter.

    Hausmilleradenture, thanks for your comment and welome to the blog. I completely agree with you, I think a lot of this is marketing and I do my best to support the gender neutral things. As with clothign like you said girls in a GI Joe shirt is cute, but a boy in a unicorn shirt raises eyebrows. It's strange but its the way it is.


  18. My husband is a one of those guy's guys, so he wouldn't tolerate a pink sticky mat or anything pink or flowery or “girly”. Neither my son or I care that much, but hubby always has to sneak in a remark. I personally find it sickening when the only choices are pink or blue, as if any other colour doesn't exist. It's ridiculous when you go in to buy an outfit for a girl and THE WHOLE SIDE OF THE STORE IS A SEA OF PINKS. Oddly, I've always disliked pink, even when I was a little girl.


  19. Yeah, it is bizarre. But people did the same thing to my nephews.:/ But it is South Florida, people can be strange down here!!! LOL:) Pixie


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