The Real Reason Target Always Has Those Red Spheres Outside

Have you ever wondered why Target has those giant red spheres adorning every parking lot? Is it meant to be a 3-D representation of the center of the target, or does the company just love Red Nose Day so much they want to celebrate it 365 days a year? Or (shudder) are they really, really into clowns? The horror. No, the answer is none of the above. While both the shape and color of these concrete structures do most likely take their inspiration from the company's logo, the reason they stand outside every Target store is that they serve a purpose. They are, in fact, something known as bollards, a type of structure meant to prevent cars from smashing through store windows. (Great, another thing to get paranoid about next time you're shopping at Target.)

According to street furniture maker Furnitubes, Target isn't the only organization to choose a more whimsical style of traffic barrier. Some British schools installed child-shaped bollards (people reportedly found them quite creepy), an Australian town chronicled its history via wooden bollards made from recycled timbers from its piers, and some Texas graffiti artists covered bollards with knitted or crocheted caps.

Target's bollards aren't always safe

While keeping cars from driving through store windows is undoubtedly a good thing, sometimes bollards — specifically, Target's — can cause more harm than good. On one occasion, a rogue bollard got loose and rolled across a parking lot, smashing into a New Jersey woman's car (via UPI). Luckily she was uninjured in the collision with the two-ton concrete clown nose, but her car sustained $3,300 worth of damages. When Target didn't offer to pay up, she sued them for more than $100,000 in damages to compensate her for "pain and suffering and anxiety." 

Target also faced a lawsuit over injuries sustained by a five-year-old boy who'd fallen off of one of these balls outside another New Jersey Target. (New Jersey seems to be ground zero for bollard-related incidents, at least those occurring at Target stores.) The New York Post reports that the boy shattered his elbow and may face future arm mobility problems, so his mom claimed Target should pay $1.6 million on the grounds of those bollards being considered an attractive nuisance to children. Her lawsuit was ultimately dismissed, however, as the judge agreed with Target that the fault lay not with the bollards' bright, cheery design, but in the fact that the injured child had been allowed to climb on the bollards in the first place (via Coupons in the News). As the judge probably told the plaintiff (in slightly different words): Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to climb bollards.