When you and I walk into a Target department store chances are we will bump into someone we know. It might be a friend, a co-worker, a child's teacher or a distant acquaintance from another time and place. There is however one entity that knows us all to well when we shop under the bulls eye.  That someone is the store itself.


Target like every major retailer in the world wants to know what its customers want. To gain that knowledge they keep a "file" that is attached to your credit card number. It is all perfectly legal since customers are assigned an encrypted number and the charge account number is never revealed. Every time you shop Target and use your credit card, the list of items you've purchased goes into your file. By doing some simple sleuthing Target can make some very astounding presumptions about the kind of items you will be purchasing in the future.

Have you ever noticed how the sales circulars or emails you get seem to always have at least one or two items that really peak your shopping desire? How accurate is this data gathering? In one particular instance Target figured out a teen age girl was pregnant before her father knew. Here is how they did it.

Is there a way to opt out of Target or any other retailers data gathering profile? There certainly is but it will require some digging on your part. As I mentioned this is all perfectly legal and is done to aid you the customer in providing shopping choices that match your interest. How do you feel about stores utilizing your purchase information to create a profile of you as a consumer? Does it creep you out? Or are you comfortable that nobody is out to get you, they just want to sell you things you might want to buy?

Kashmir Hill, a reporter for Forbes magazine, has some interesting insights on Target and other retailers data gathering programs. You might want to peruse some of her other articles on related subjects here.