[Clickworthy] How companies learn your secrets (a “Target”-ed case study)

We are very conservative about compliance with all privacy laws. But even if you’re following the law, you can do things where people get queasy.

So says Andrew Pole, a researcher for Target. The major retailer’s name seems more accurate than ever after a lengthy piece in the New York Times Magazine by Charles Duhigg about data stores collect from consumers… and what can be done with it.

(If you’re not up for the 9-page read, Forbes blogged an abbreviated take on the story.)

The highlight of the article is the story of a Minneapolis teen who received personalized mailers from Target that started offering her maternity and baby products. Her father complained to the store, furious that Target would seemingly promote teen pregnancy. But they weren’t. What Target knew – even though the father didn’t – was that his teen daughter was indeed pregnant.

Pole explains how Target calculates a so-called “pregnancy score” based upon common purchases over a period of time. Buying unscented lotions and particular vitamins? Expect to see coupons for diapers in a few months. Subtly mixed with other offers, of course. Target wouldn’t want you to realize you are in the Matrix.

And it’s not just consumers who enroll in a variety of rewards programs. We know the drill there – we give you access to our purchasing habits, you give us a few pennies off our toilet paper and sodas. It’s a deal most people are comfortable with.

In Duhigg’s piece, we learn that retailers like Target track each credit or debit card swiped at their stores for future purchases. They then use that credit card verification – which includes your name on the receipt – to seek out and purchase, if need be, even more demographic information about you.

Retailers constantly complain about credit card transaction fees, but it appears they have found a convenient way to profit from our love of plastic.

The question is, do we really care? Sure, when it is explained on it’s face, we are discomforted, but is it enough to give up rewards programs; to switch back to cash and constant trips to the ATM; to avoid shopping at certain stores altogether?

I would argue we are perfectly content sacrificing our privacy for discounts and convenience. What say you?

The biggest 7%-off sale in history: Why are sales tax holidays such a draw?

At 12:01 a.m., Mississippi’s sales tax holiday weekend officially began. It is one of the most restrictive in the country, covering only “Clothing and footwear items, meant to be worn next to the body and cost[ing] less than $100 per item,” according to the Department of Revenue press release. Touted as a back-to-school savings event, it doesn’t cover backpacks or school supplies of any kind. And if your child participates in athletics, sportswear doesn’t count either, despite it’s closeness to the body.

Still, your favorite shopping destination in the Magnolia State will likely be packed this weekend, as families look to save on blue jeans, t-shirts, socks and the like (unless they have a Nike swoosh on them, I suppose).

Why?

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Going ‘Gaga’ for 99 cent album – Amazon’s cloud service promotion

Her music is shallow. A Madonna acolyte who thrives on controversy and shock factor, muffled beneath layers of techno beat. Her stage name is even obnoxious.

So, when I purchased Lady Gaga’s new album, Born This Way, on Amazon, I felt dirty. Like a wine connoisseur who grabbed an oversized juice box off the shelf at Walgreens because it was free with the purchase of a tube of toothpaste. I placed a notepad over the Mae album on my desk. It didn’t need to see this. I hesitantly clicked the purchase button. Then I wondered…

Is there any album I wouldn’t buy for 99 cents?

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