Friday, September 10, 2010

Annoying Intrusion

I find the way grocery stores track consumer behavior and attempt to manipulate it pretty interesting. The most obvious manipulation - cash register coupons - range from the intuitive to the head-scratching. How do they decide what to incent me to buy based on what I've bought up to now? For example, I discovered recently that spending $100 at my regular store when I don't usually spend that much triggers a coupon at the cash register for a free gallon of milk on my next visit. On other trips, I get a coupon and think they're depending on a buggy algorithm.

On my last trip, though, when I looked at what the cashier handed me, I found something annoying. Rather than a register coupon lagniappe, she handed me an advertisement. For Kleenex with some kind of space-age polymer in them. Already disgusted with receipts as long as my arm (and filled with useless messaging), do I now have to figure out what to do with an advertisement? I'm managing groceries and usually one or more children; the last thing I want to do at that moment is think about getting that slip of paper home to my recycling bin. By teaching me that I should expect something of value - a relevant coupon - they have also trained me to look closely and consider this advertisement. That Pavlovian manipulation irks me the most.

If you share my dismay at this intrusion, I propose a little consumer civil disobedience: leave the ad at the register. Make it the store's problem. Just think if everybody did it - cashiers awash in ads for Kleenex and Depends.

1 comment:

K said...

I think they would just toss them in the trash.