How Companies Learn Your Secrets

Retail stores gather a lot of information on each customer. Do you use a discount card, credit card, or email address when you shop? If so, the store is able to keep track of everything you buy, and use that information to target their advertising specifically to your tastes. For example, Target hired Andrew Pole to crunch the numbers and analyze how a person's shopping habits can predict what they are most likely to purchase in the future. The data showed that certain purchases can indicate which customers are expecting a baby, and furthermore when they are most likely to deliver!
About a year after Pole created his pregnancy-prediction model, a man walked into a Target outside Minneapolis and demanded to see the manager. He was clutching coupons that had been sent to his daughter, and he was angry, according to an employee who participated in the conversation.

“My daughter got this in the mail!” he said. “She’s still in high school, and you’re sending her coupons for baby clothes and cribs? Are you trying to encourage her to get pregnant?”

The manager didn’t have any idea what the man was talking about. He looked at the mailer. Sure enough, it was addressed to the man’s daughter and contained advertisements for maternity clothing, nursery furniture and pictures of smiling infants. The manager apologized and then called a few days later to apologize again.

On the phone, though, the father was somewhat abashed. “I had a talk with my daughter,” he said. “It turns out there’s been some activities in my house I haven’t been completely aware of. She’s due in August. I owe you an apology.”

The New York Times has an extensive article explaining how stores gather, decode, and use your shopping habits to make more sales. Link -via Metafilter

(Image credit: Antonio Bolfo/Reportage for The New York Times)

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That's why I go around buying a lot of random crap that I don't want...just to throw off the algorithms. Plus, I'm helping the economy - WIN/WIN!!!
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Her Doctor can't tell her parents she's pregnant, but the Baby Bottle and diaper guy can. Just like, you can't discuss a patient in public under HIPAA, but your Bank can tell anyone they want to about your finances.
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