The discount chain Target is very good at many things, which include designer partnerships and building tiny stores. It’s very bad at some other things, which include selling groceries and putting prices on products that make any sense. “Target Math” is the name we give to these bizarre bulk markups, “sale” items that aren’t actually discounted, and pricing discrepancies within the same store — but this dubious art isn’t just practiced in the halls of Target.
Here are three submitted by our readers recently: they found examples at Target, Lowe’s, and Walmart.
Turkey: $.99/lb, or maybe $1.19, or… whatever
Jason found this turkey display last week at Target. That’s a few days after Thanksgiving, but several weeks before Christmas, if you’re keeping track. The sign above the freezer bin makes sense, but then Jason looked at the tag attached to the turkey, which showed an even further discount.
Jason didn’t buy the turkey, but our readers have found in the past that in a case like this where there are two prices posted, Target will honor the lower one.
Clearance: less than $1 off
Meanwhile, across the strip mall at Lowe’s, some furniture is on clearance, but without its price marked down by very much. There’s a good reason for that, it turns out.
Retailers use the last two digits of prices to communicate information about the product and its pricing. You can often tell whether something is on sale, on clearance, or on final clearance based on the last two digits of its price.
In this case, marking the item down from $189.98 to $189.00 communicates that the table is on clearance, but Lowe’s didn’t actually lower the price. That’s kind of silly, but makes sense when you understand the purpose of price tag codes.
Clearance = $2 Markup
Finally, in Walmart’s clearance aisle, Conrad noticed this hair product that had somehow become two dollars more expensive when it hit the sale rack.
Confusing sales and fuzzy math are everywhere once you start looking. If you find your own examples out in the wild, send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and you might see them here on the site!