25 April 2017

Subtleties of online shopping

Excerpts from an interesting article in this month's The Atlantic:
Our ability to know the price of anything, anytime, anywhere, has given us, the consumers, so much power that retailers—in a desperate effort to regain the upper hand, or at least avoid extinction—are now staring back through the screen. They are comparison shopping us...

The price of a can of soda in a vending machine can now vary with the temperature outside. The price of the headphones Google recommends may depend on how budget-conscious your web history shows you to be, one study found. For shoppers, that means price—not the one offered to you right now, but the one offered to you 20 minutes from now, or the one offered to me, or to your neighbor—may become an increasingly unknowable thing...

Four researchers in Catalonia tried to answer the question with dummy computers that mimicked the web-browsing patterns of either “affluent” or “budget conscious” customers for a week. When the personae went “shopping,” they weren’t shown different prices for the same goods. They were shown different goods. The average price of the headphones suggested for the affluent personae was four times the price of those suggested for the budget-conscious personae. Another experiment demonstrated a more direct form of price discrimination: Computers with addresses in greater Boston were shown lower prices than those in more-remote parts of Massachusetts on identical goods...
More at the link.


  1. I must screw up shopping metrics to no end. By family income, I'm affluent, by nature, I'm budget conscious. My last name is Hispanic but I'm whiter than Wonder Bread and a good quarter of the people on the Mayflower were my ancestors. The dichotomies keep on going until they must have no freaking idea what "bucket" to put me in.

  2. I've always suspected this, it's nice/scary to get some verification for this. What a world we live in!

  3. I read the article and found it scary.

    1. I did too. If more clothing makers ACTUALLY made quality clothing that didn't fall apart after a few washes, I wouldn't spend so much time at my local thrift shop digging for clothes. So now, when I do go to a local clothing shop, I have to worry about how my spending habits are being monitored? Greaaaaat. :/


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