Target’s CSI Labs and Other Insider Secrets Target Employees Want You to Know About

We’re far from gambling pros here at The Cheat Sheet, but if we were, we’d probably place a buck or two down and guess that you spend a lot of time at Target. Who doesn’t? With everything from housewares to electronics to produce, it’s hard not to waste a Saturday morning lost in the aisles.
Target has more than 1,800 stores. This means there are countless current and former employees ready to spill the beans on the juiciest Target secrets shoppers must know to save time and money. For instance, are you aware there are eyes on you from the moment you walk in the store? Read on for more information about that insider secret, as well as a few others to help you snag the best deals possible on your next Target run.

1. Clearance items follow a weekly schedule

Small Target aisles
Target shoppers can count on certain items going on clearance. | Target

Target loyalists need to know when there’s a bargain on the way. According to All Things Target, different categories of items go on clearance by schedule. Clearly, there’s a method to the madness. Just know that individual stores may follow a different markdown schedule.

  • Monday: Electronics, accessories, kids & baby clothing, books, stationary
  • Tuesday: Domestics, women’s clothing, pets and food items
  • Wednesday: Men’s clothing, health and beauty products, diapers, lawn & garden items, furniture
  • Thursday: Housewares, lingerie, shoes, toys, sporting goods, decor & luggage
  • Friday: Auto, cosmetics, hardware, jewelry

Other shoppers think the item’s price tag — such as those including “15” or “30” — divulges a few Target secrets regarding sales. Is it true?
Next: Clearance true or false

2. Buy now, don’t wait.

Small Target CVS
If you find something at a good price, don’t wait for it to go on clearance. | Target

Some believe that prices ending in certain numbers indicate future clearance items at Target. But the Truth or Fiction website debunks the idea that shoppers can predict a price change, meaning it may not be in your best interest to gamble if you find a good buy in store.
Former Target PR man Evan Lapiska says there are “a number of different factors to determine the price for an item. The ending digit of a clearance price is determined by several factors including the original retail price and the applied percentage discount. It is not possible to determine the final markdown or timing of the price change from the item’s current price.”
Next: Why you’re always feeling rushed in line

3. Speedy checkouts are required — or else

Small Target checkout
Cashiers are ranked based on their checkout speed. | Target

If you felt rushed through the check-out line during your last Target run, it was probably not just your imagination. “Target has a system where they time you on how fast you get a customer through checkout,” a former Target cashier wrote on Quora. Some stores put insane pressure on cashiers to move through the line as quickly as possible, giving them a red, green, or yellow designation for performance.
Too many red or yellow scores in a row can be grounds for termination or prompt a downgrade from cashier to stocker.
Next: An easy way to save more money

4. You should definitely shop with reusable bags

target shopping cart
Bring your own bags and save a few cents. | Spencer Platt/Getty Images

There’s more than just one incentive to going green at Target. For every reusable bag you use, the store will knock five cents off your purchase. It’s an initiative the store hopes will encourage shoppers to reduce waste while simultaneously saving money at Target. Keep an eye out for new designs, too, as the store plans to debut other variations that fit different lifestyles and needs.
Next: This is the absolute best time to shop for toys

5. Shop for toys in January and July for extra savings

target cart
Off-season toys can be as much as 70% cheaper. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Target is always discounting older items to make room for new ones, but the store really hacks toy prices in mid-January and again at the end of July. In fact, shoppers can score a 70% discount on last season’s toys if they just remember to stay patient. Another one of Target’s secrets? For most shoppers, that price-slashing day will be a Thursday.
Next: Target dabbles in a bit of forensics

6. Target employs its own forensic investigators

Scientist with microscope
Target has forensics labs to aid in fighting crime. | Getty Images

Did you know Target invests heavily in shoplifter forensics? That’s right, it seems CSI: Target is a real thing. The chain runs two forensics service laboratories where top-rated investigators solve cases through “video and image analysis, latent fingerprint, and computer forensics.”
Not only do the secret labs in Minneapolis and Las Vegas investigate in-store fraud and theft, but they’ve also been known to lend technology to law enforcement agencies for high-profile cases. The labs have historically assisted with kidnapping, armed robbery, and homicide cases for nothing in return according to Minnesota Public Radio.
Next: They have eyes in the sky

7. They take camera surveillance seriously

Make no mistake: You’re being watched at Target. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

One of the biggest retailers in the world is not immune to data hacking and theft. That we know. So, it should come as no surprise that many Target stores are equipped with state-of-the-art camera surveillance to watch your every move. They operate one of the largest and most advanced camera networks — including a system that automatically sends alerts when shoppers dilly dally in front of merchandise for too long or loiter outside stores after closing time.
Former employees on Reddit claim “the resolution on those things was insane.” Another said Target was so serious about surveillance, “I wouldn’t be surprised if they weigh me as I enter and as I leave to determine if I’m shoplifting.”
Next: Check here for heavily discounted items

8. The best deals are near the aisle’s end and after holidays

target checkout
Know where — and when — to look for bargains. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

Deeply discounted items go well beyond the Dollar Spot located inside the front doors. But locating them will require a bit of searching. The displays at the end of an aisle — otherwise known as the endcap — are a good place to deal hunt for products 15 to 70% off. Seasonal items are marked even cheaper depending on when you buy. These items are:

  • 50% off the day after a holiday
  • 75% off three days later
  • 90% off a week later

Next: One reason why you should always be kind to your cashier

9. Say something nice for a deal

Small Target USC
Treat employees with respect, and you might get a deal. | Target

When it comes to Target secrets employees wish you knew, treating cashiers with respect is up toward the top of their list. Hilarious employee accounts document the insider thoughts these people have while dealing with the public, including one posts that confessed only the kindest shoppers got the good deals.
Tom Grennell writes, “I have a coupon to scan if anyone asks for it. I scan it if people don’t ask for it if they’re nice to me. I don’t scan it if they’re rude. Power is a new sensation. Power is a good sensation.”
Let’s all treat our cashiers with respect from now on, OK?
Next: A return policy loophole

10. Target brand items can be returned at a much later date

Target paper towels
Problem with Target brand products? You have time to return them. | Target

Target already has one of the most forgiving return policies in the industry, but a lesser-known secret is that Target brand items score you a bit more leeway in their return policy. You can exchange or return brands like Archer Farms, up & up, and Mossimo, for up to a year after purchase. The general policy only gives you 90 days to get your money back.
Next: The scoop on shoplifting

11. Employees can’t chase you if you steal something

Target storefront
Target may not chase shoplifters, but they will humiliate you if you’re caught. | Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Sure, Target’s security policy may be one that rivals The Pentagon, but that doesn’t mean employees have a lot of power when it comes to thwarting theft. According to a Reddit thread, Target workers are not allowed to chase you if they catch you stealing from the store. Could this be why the U.S. has one of the highest rates of shoplifting in the world? Possibly.
On the flip side, should you get caught stealing from Target, know that it is not uncommon to be handcuffed then paraded through the store during a shoplifting “walk of shame.”
Next: REDCard advantages

12. Signing up for the REDCard really is worth it

target store
Target’s REDCard really is worth it. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

No doubt, employees are pressured to sign shoppers up at an alarming rate, but employees swear the REDCard actually offers some key incentives for deal-hunting shoppers. With the card, you’ll get:

  • Free online shipping on most orders
  • An extra 30 days to return unwanted items
  • 5% off every target purchase
  • Debit or credit options

Next: Target employees wish you’d stop asking this one thing

13. No, that improperly scanned item is not free

Target storefront
No, Target isn’t giving anything away. | Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

The notion of “if it doesn’t scan the first time, it’s free” is totally false. At least at Target. Workers say that the scanners sometimes break down and cause glitches. But target employees don’t get paid enough to care. So no, shoppers can get that troublesome item for free when this happens.
Next: A hiring secret no one wants to talk about

14. Getting a job at Target might be tough

Getting a job at Target may be harder than you think. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

There are countless reports of employees detailing just how arduous the hiring process is at Target. Phone interviews, in-person interviews, background checks, and trial periods are all mentioned with disdain.
What’s worse, is the retailer recently settled a $3.7 million lawsuit alleging a hiring discrimination against blacks and Latinos. A settlement was offered by Target once accounts of faulty background check policies surfaced that prevented workers from obtaining employment entirely unrelated to any past criminal offenses on their records.
Next: Who gets Target’s leftovers?

15. Goodwill sells Target merch for cheap

New Target products sometimes wind up at Goodwill. | Goodwill Industries of San Diego County via Facebook

If you missed a killer Target sale, maybe try browsing the racks at Goodwill instead. Clearance items that don’t sell at Target sometimes wind up at Goodwill. Some stores sell new (ish) Target items regularly. Just ask.
A Target spokesperson confirmed this to Racked in 2014 saying, “There are a variety of ways we address unsold product, including donations, liquidating to third parties, recycling and, when necessary, disposal. Goodwill is one of many partners that acquire Target merchandise as part of this process.”
Follow Lauren on Twitter @la_hamer.
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