Bad buys at Target

worst buys at TargetIt's not always true that the best prices are found at the local discount store. We here at WalletPop always advise doing your research, checking online for prices and coupons (or coupon codes), and boning up on which retailers offer the best, and worst, prices on just about everything.

Sometimes a single store has both high and low prices, depending on the product, brand, or even category.

A recent piece on MSN's SmartSpending outlined some things that are better buys at Target, and some that should send you looking someplace else. And since the blog mentions WalletPop, we thought it best to take another look at the list.

Turns out, there are a few items you'd be better off not buying at Target.

The list mentions a few things worth buying at Target, like green cleaning products and cosmetics. These are, indeed, a good buy at Target compared to other retailers. In the green cleaning category, there's a nice selection of cleaners often found at places like Whole Foods and smaller specialty stores: brands like Mrs. Meyers, Method and Seventh Generation and Target's price on Method laundry detergent regularly beats its price on products with similar attributes from big national brands like Tide.

And Target's selection of health and beauty products typically beats its closest competition, as well, in terms of both choice and price. Some items are more than 50% less than a drug store chain like Walgreen's and CVS.

Produce is also a good buy at Target. The chain has begun rolling out "fresh" sections in its traditional discount stores, so even if you don't have a Target supercenter with a supermarket sized grocery department, you can take advantage of the savings. Everyday items like milk, eggs, cheese and even fruits and vegetables are often much less than other retailers. Not always, since grocery stores tend to run promotions on popular items, but often. And there's no worry about food product coming from unidentified or "gray markets," Target using the same food distribution network as the local grocer.

But when it comes to bad buys, here are few to add to the list.

Bad Buys:
Salon hair care
It's a nice surprise to see pricey salon quality hair care products at the local Target, but since Target is not a salon or an approved vendor, these products are being sourced from secondary markets. Salons that are closing or looking to unload excess inventory sell the product to liquidators that in turn, sell it to retailers like Target. These "gray market" goods aren't exactly illegal, but neither do you know the authenticity or condition. Conditioner or styling gel could sit on an un-air conditioned loading dock in Arizona all summer before ending up at the local Target. And, more often than not, it costs more than at the fancy salon, as was the case with the Bumble and Bumble styling lotion I recently priced. Stick to the salon and you can be sure of the quality, authenticity, pay less and take advantage of the rare opportunity to support an independently-owned business.

Styling tools
Actually, Target's pricing on items like blow dryers and other hot tools is very competitive with other retailers, but for trendy hot tools like the Chi straightening iron, be sure to shop around. Deals abound online and with the free shipping and no sales tax, you can save between $20 and $40 on this product.

Target isn't the first place you think of when it comes to buying consumer electronics, and for good reason. The selection is limited, assistance even more so and prices mostly on par with other retailers. There are exceptions, back to school deals being the most recent, and for those who like to test products before they buy, Target is one of the few places you actually touch a Kindle e-book, usually only sold on Target sells the Kindle in stores, but not online, for the same price as Amazon. But do you really want to pay the tax on the purchase? The Kindle sells for $139 (with Wi-Fi) and $189 (with Wi-Fi and 3G) at both retailers, but with free shipping and no tax on Internet purchases, this makes Amazon the less expensive option. If convenience and immediacy are important, Target is a great option, but for bare bones pricing, Amazon wins.
(Note: Unfortunately, if you live in Kansas, Kentucky, New York, North Dakota, or Washington, you are subject to tax.)

Years of comparison shopping -- both personally and professionally -- go into this list. And if you're currently boycotting Target due to its recent political contribution, then you'll be glad to know that even goods on the "buy" list can be gotten elsewhere without paying a premium.
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