Inconsiderately Polite

College Students' Views on Etiquette Online

Can We Teach Companies Some Etiquette?

on May 2, 2013

Let’s face it: almost all of us has stalked somebody’s facebook/twitter/blog before. Yet most of us don’t log every single thing they do, save all of their pictures, note what they click on, and go into their browsing history in an effort to collect private information. This, to put it lightly, would be a giant violation of online etiquette. If you found out one of your acquaintances on facebook was doing that to you, you’d probably feel pretty creeped out. If it was something that kept happening over and over again, and you were powerless to stop it, you might even quit going on the computer altogether. Yet, this is what corporations are doing to you on a daily basis.

Charles Duhigg wrote about this very thing in his article, “How Companies Learn Your Secrets.” He focuses mostly on Target, and how the company wanted to figure out a way to figure out women were pregnant without actually being told. Most of our shopping habits are pretty set in stone, but certain life-changing events, especially the birth of a child, can get people to change where they shop. Target knew that if they could grab expecting parents, they would have them for years to come, and, most importantly, get a lot more of their money. So they hired Andrew Pole to help them figure it out. And he did. He was able to determine through what customers bought if they were pregnant. It’s great for business, but unnerving for us. The sick part of it? Target knew that pregnant women would be creeped out if they just sent a bunch of coupons for baby stuff when they hadn’t told Target, or even anyone else, that they were pregnant. Duhigg even mentioned an example where a father called the manager of his local Target enraged, yelling about how they were sending his daughter coupons for cribs and diapers. Were they trying to encourage her to get pregnant? But as it turns out, the daughter was actually pregnant and hadn’t told him yet. The father was obviously upset, but I think we need to look at it another way: that poor girl obviously wasn’t ready to tell people she was pregnant, but she was forced to because Target had to send her coupons. If anyone else forced her to do that, we would call it what it is: rude and unacceptable.

But, to their credit, Target knew that sending pregnant women coupons would be kinda scary, so instead, they sent the coupons mixed in with a bunch of random other stuff. This way, we see stuff we’ll find useful, and not know the ridiculous amount of information they know about us, we shop there, they win. And it’s not like it’s just Target–it’s everyone. Each website we go on, and many that we don’t, track everything that we do and use it for their own purposes. A lot of people don’t care too much, but as I stated in the beginning, imagine if it was someone you knew? What make’s that somehow more weird?



One response to “Can We Teach Companies Some Etiquette?

  1. hochul49 says:

    I found Duhigg’s article to be both interesting and creepy. I feel like companies can do anything nowadays. They will stop at nothing to guarantee that their customers will continue to buy from their stores. I never thought about it from your point of view. The poor girl who was forced to tell her father that she was pregnant because a store stalked her buying habits and came to the conclusion that she was expecting? How terrible. I was joking around when I read this article, saying that I was going to start going into Target to buy things that I never usually buy, seeing if Target’s computer program will pick up on some crazy pattern that I form. Maybe they will come to the conclusion that I am a poor college student who has nothing better to do on the weekends but go to Target and walk around aimlessly, throwing random things into my basket. If i start getting coupons for baby products mixed in with coupons for food and clothes, I am going to have a temper tantrum in the middle of the store.

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Inconsiderately Polite

College Students' Views on Etiquette Online

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