Sexy Mathematicians, Febreze, and Chocolate Loving Rats

The NYT MagazineLast Sunday’s New York Times Magazine cover story about how retailers track our shopping habits has a bit about the surge in popularity of mathematics and statistics experts. So math teachers might want to have a look at the article for possible use in the classroom as a motivational tool.

Watching You Shop
Watching You Shop

The rest of us will want to read the story for the stunning revelations about what retailers know about us and how they use the information they gather every time we enter a store, buy online, or – gulp! – get pregnant.

Have you ever shopped at Target? If so, and if you paid with a check, debit, or credit card, Target used that transaction to create a ‘Guest ID’ that it will use to track your purchase habits so effectively that, in one remarkable case, a Target shopper learned of his daughter’s pregnancy through the store’s directed marketing.

There’s also a good deal to learn here about the neuroscience and psychology of habitual behavior. Proctor & Gamble used the study of habits to turn a failing product – Febreze – into a $1 billion blockbuster.

So be aware that what gets scanned at the checkout will become part of your profile that retailers will use to predict your shopping habits and target their advertising.

Or you could pay cash and stay off the grid.