Every Bond You Break, Every Step You Take, I'll Be Watching You

Everybody have a good weekend? Do anything fun and exciting? I spent my weekend stalking people. And the stalking? Harder than it looks.

So the class that I'm taking right now (the LAST class, I might add) is a marketing class called Consumer Buyer Behavior, which is basically why people buy what they buy. It's really interesting. It also involves a lot of field work...observing shoppers in their natural habitat without them knowing. Which is why I found myself slinking around a Kroger on Saturday afternoon, humming the Mission Impossible song and trying to blend in while furiously scribbling in my spy notebook about the shopping habits of my "mark". I nonchalantly followed them from aisle to aisle, making notes about every product they looked at while pretending to be thoroughly engrossed in the nutritional information on the back of a bag of pretzels whenever they looked in my direction.

Here's what I learned:

One-People are completely oblivious to any crazy women watching them from behind the spray cheese display. People! You don't think it's weird that you've seen me in every single aisle that you've been in, turning around when you turn around, stopping when you stop, shopping for over an hour, yet all I have in my buggy is a prop bag of pretzels?

Two-Lots of shoppers use lists. And coupons. They'd wander the aisles comparing their lists and their coupons. 75 cents off of this. Buy one get one for that. I'm impressed, budget savvy shoppers. The only time I remember to use a coupon is two years after it expired.

Three- Pringles seem to be a major seller. Especially if they are on the display shelf at the end of the aisle. Of the five shoppers I followed, 4 stopped to look at the Pringles, and 3 ended up buying some. Can we say impulse buy anyone?

Four- If you stop your buggy at the end of an aisle to record how many cans of Pringles the latest mark lingered over, people will RUN. YOU. DOWN. Especially little old ladies. They do not care that you are doing a homework assignment. If you impede the flow of shopping cart traffic, you are fair game.

Five- Peeking over the top of the battery display is a perfect way to spy on people in the checkout line. Unless of course the above mentioned little old lady wants some batteries. And then she doesn't even say excuse me. She just RUNS. YOU. DOWN. Shopping cart road rage claims another victim.

Six- Some shoppers followed their list. Some shoppers went up and down every single aisle. One guy had no idea where anything was located and kept doubling back to aisles he'd already been in. Which means that I did too. We looked like two drunken synchronized shopping cart dancers locked in the intricate art of aisle 4 crazy eights.

Seven- There seems to be a magical force that causes people to manhandle the tomatoes. Everybody and their brother wanders over and touches every single tomato. Pick it up, look at it, sniff it (SNIFF IT?!?), put it down, pick it back up again, squeeze it, put it down again. Repeat with all the other tomatoes. Wander off without buying any. Talk about your vegetable brutality! Makes me glad that I grow all my own tomatoes.

Eight- If you want a good view of everyone when they first come in the door, hide behind the display of potted plants next to the flower section.

Nine- If you want the woman who works at the flower counter to come over 50 times and ask if you need any help, hide behind the display of potted plants next to the flower section.

Ten- Following shoppers around a Kroger for three hours makes you hungry. Those Pringles are looking really good right now. The tomatoes? Not so much.

So there you have it. Consumer behavior in its natural environment. The habits, the psychology, the environment, the Pringles, the norms of your average grocery shopper. I feel just like Jane Goodall. Or maybe that British guy on Wild Kingdom who stood in the bushes whispering "Fascinating!" while his sidekick got mauled by a lion.

Because obviously the lion thought the sidekick was a tomato.


cndymkr / jean said...

You are so right about those damn Pringles. Why? What is it about them that causes me to reach out and grab them. I don't even like them. But every week I buy them.

Mary Ellen said...

Beth I laughed so loud about you following the guy who had no idea where he was going. Great post!

Heidi said...

I hope you never follow me in the grocery store! I have a list (and I pretty much follow it) but I can never remember where stuff is, so I wind up going down aisles two and three times! :) Although, I'm one of those people that would be completely oblivious to someone following me! :)

Elaine A. said...

I would have thought you were crazy and bored, if it makes you feel any better. : )

Reluctant Housewife said...

Great post.

All very true. I was run down, myself, by a little old lady at the end of an aisle; when I stopped to think consider the broccoli. I didn't see any pringles, though. Must not have looked hard enough.

Anonymous said...

You never cease to make me laugh. I started laughing out loud when you mentioned humming the "mission impossible"song.