The Target app price switch: What you need to know
GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. — When you use store apps like Target’s, you expect that’s where you will find the best deals. After all, you're giving them access to your shopping habits and history, even your location.
But what if you weren't actually getting the lowest prices on those apps?
In a two-month investigation, that began with a concern from a viewer, KARE 11 found Target’s app changes its prices on certain items depending on if you are inside or outside of the store.
For instance, Target’s app price for a particular Samsung 55-inch Smart TV was $499.99, but when we pulled into the parking lot of the Minnetonka store that price suddenly increased to $599.99 on the app.
To test this further, we selected 10 products on the Target app at random, ranging from toys to bottled water to vacuum cleaners. We found that when we entered the store, four of the 10 products jumped up in price on the app.
An Apple Watch band went up $2, a Shark vacuum went up $40, a Graco child car seat jumped $72 and a Dyson vacuum shot up $148 on the app while inside the store.
Our list of 10 items was a total of $262 cheaper in the back of the parking lot on the app with no indication that the prices had changed.
Even if you scan the barcodes of the products on the shelves, which Target suggests customers do to see Cartwheel coupon offers on the app, the app gives no indication that certain prices were far cheaper at Target.com.
In an emailed statement from Target, the company said "The Target app shows in-store pricing while in store, and online pricing while on the go. If a guest finds any item for a lower price across any of the ways they can shop Target, we'll price match it."
University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management Marketing Professor George John believes there's a little more going on than that.
“That particular experiment reveals so many interesting facts about our retail environment,” said John. “Somebody at Target programmed in an algorithm which says someone who is 50 feet within the store is willing to pay more. The most reasonable explanation is that you just revealed your commitment to buying the product, you're in the store, or in the parking lot. If you are further away, you haven't quite committed, so I'm going to give you a juicier deal. That's why the price went up when you got closer to the store.”
Read more from KARE's website.