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How Companies Learn Your Secrets

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the sit-back-and-wait-for-you-to-tell-them dept.

Math 354

Hugh Pickens writes "For decades, Target has collected vast amounts of data on every person who regularly walks into one of its stores. Now the NY Times Magazine reports on how companies like Target identify those unique moments in consumers' lives when their shopping habits become particularly flexible and the right advertisement or coupon can cause them to begin spending in new ways. Among life events, none are more important than the arrival of a baby, and new parents are a retailer's holy grail. In 2002, marketers at Target asked statisticians to answer an odd question: 'If we wanted to figure out if a customer is pregnant, even if she didn't want us to know, can you do that?' Specifically, the marketers said they wanted to send specially designed ads to women in their second trimester, which is when most expectant mothers begin buying all sorts of new things, like prenatal vitamins and maternity clothing. 'We knew that if we could identify them in their second trimester, there's a good chance we could capture them for years,' says statistician Andrew Pole. 'As soon as we get them buying diapers from us, they're going to start buying everything else too.' As Pole's computers crawled through the data, he was able to identify about 25 products that, when analyzed together, allowed him to assign each shopper a 'pregnancy prediction' score and he soon had a list of tens of thousands of women who were most likely pregnant. 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. '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 apologized and then called a few days later to apologize again but the father was somewhat abashed. '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.'"

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354 comments

Am I the first to call BS? (-1)

mallyone (541741) | about 2 years ago | (#39079051)

Sounds like a typical holywood movie premis.

Re:Am I the first to call BS? (4, Insightful)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 2 years ago | (#39079075)

You underestimate the power of directed advertising. To give you a hint, that's what makes Facebook worth and estimated $100 billion.

Re:Am I the first to call BS? (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 2 years ago | (#39079097)

Nah, this is real. And it will work out just as well as the last time.

OK guys, raise your hands - how many have gotten 'feminine products' adverts?

Garbage In, Garbage Out.

Re:Am I the first to call BS? (5, Funny)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about 2 years ago | (#39079239)

OK guys, raise your hands - how many have gotten 'feminine products' adverts?

Uhh... Dude... I don't know what kind of web sites YOU visit, but...

Re:Am I the first to call BS? (4, Funny)

canajin56 (660655) | about 2 years ago | (#39079465)

Just like TFA, two months ago gmail started serving me nothing but breast pump, neonatal vitamin, and baby bottle ads. I'm a guy, but I am married so maybe they're trying to send a hint "why don't you have kids yet? Here we'll give you discount mail-order vitamins if you get busy!" But they also send me dating site ads. So if they do know I'm married, they don't have a high opinion of my marriage! Maybe that's why they want me to knock my wife up? ;)

Re:Am I the first to call BS? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39079681)

Or your wife has been cheating on you, and Google has figured it out already and is trying to get you to get your act together. They've also figured out that the son of a bitch got her pregnant, even though she's still trying to hide that from you, hence those ads.

Re:Am I the first to call BS? (2)

ArcherB (796902) | about 2 years ago | (#39079721)

Just like TFA, two months ago gmail started serving me nothing but breast pump, neonatal vitamin, and baby bottle ads. I'm a guy, but I am married so maybe they're trying to send a hint "why don't you have kids yet? Here we'll give you discount mail-order vitamins if you get busy!" But they also send me dating site ads. So if they do know I'm married, they don't have a high opinion of my marriage! Maybe that's why they want me to knock my wife up? ;)

Google's ads are based on the email you are reading or other things on your screen. For example, I see ads for the delicious meat-like product Spam when I'm on the Spam page (then again, Google does have a sense of humor). So for a fun exercise, try to find out what it is in your email is triggering the ad you are receiving.

Re:Am I the first to call BS? (5, Funny)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | about 2 years ago | (#39079475)

I practice yoga regularly. My mat wore out, so I was looking for a replacement. (I'm taller than the normally-sized 68" mats, so story of my life, I have to get something 4" bigger.) My job is military contracting.

The combination of yoga + weaponry apparently triggers a profile of "interested in single men".

Google thinks I'm gay... or possibly a woman, I'm not sure.

(It's IE at work. I don't get ads at home.)

Re:Am I the first to call BS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39079685)

"by Beardo the Bearded ....
Google thinks I'm gay... or possibly a woman, I'm not sure."

You're the bearded woman, I saw you in a freakshow.

Re:Am I the first to call BS? (2)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | about 2 years ago | (#39079547)

OK guys, raise your hands - how many have gotten 'feminine products' adverts?

That, and worse. It's partly a consequence of the whole family sharing the same IP address in conjunction with quasi-safe browsing habits.

We all have different logon accounts on each of several PCs, and we tend to use more than one browser per person (mostly Opera, Firefox, Chromium). However, both my wife and I have shown the kids how to get their browsers to automatically delete cookies and LSOs on terminating a session, and encourage them to clear private data regularly. So essentially all the vendors have to go on is the IP address, since the cookies are new every visit.

The only one that bugs me is the "daily deal" ad shown at one weather web site, which invariably shows me a picture of a tray of sushi (one of my favorite foods). I don't recall doing any online searching/browsing/shopping for sushi, and doubt if the "daily deal" even has a place offering sushi within 200km of me.

Re:Am I the first to call BS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39079777)

Yeah... some feminist classed hot lesbo pr0n as women audience only...

Re:Am I the first to call BS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39079111)

It turns out there's been some activities in my house I haven't been completely aware of.

So how much did he know? Did he think they were using protection?

Re:Am I the first to call BS? (5, Informative)

Marillion (33728) | about 2 years ago | (#39079133)

Except that it actually happened. I work in a biomedical informatics group and the same techniques we use to find features that can detect early infection in cells can be applied to marketing data. If you have enough training data, for example, start with 2000 known customers who started buying diapers and formula on a certain date. Now what did they start buying seven months before that? Now find the customers who match that profile. Data are data.

Re:Am I the first to call BS? (1)

PlatyPaul (690601) | about 2 years ago | (#39079253)

Sure. The real question is: what is the operating point (detection vs. false alarm, or false positives versus false negatives, or ...)?

I imagine that the cost of mailing out pregnancy coupons, both paper costs and PR, is low enough to tolerate a lot of bad guesses.

Re:Am I the first to call BS? (5, Insightful)

mosb1000 (710161) | about 2 years ago | (#39079373)

Have you ever checked your mail? Notice how it's literally full of completely untargeted advertising? If that's profitable, how could this possibly not be?

Re:Am I the first to call BS? (0, Redundant)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 2 years ago | (#39079469)

. . . start with 2000 known customers who started buying diapers and formula on a certain date. Now what did they start buying seven months before that?

Well, they weren't buying condoms, I'd imagine . . .

Re:Am I the first to call BS? (0, Troll)

ArcherB (796902) | about 2 years ago | (#39079753)

. . . start with 2000 known customers who started buying diapers and formula on a certain date. Now what did they start buying seven months before that?

Well, they weren't buying condoms, I'd imagine . . .

Or they were buying condoms, just they were getting the cheap kind or the ones on clearance.

Re:Am I the first to call BS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39079515)

what are they buying those 7 months in advance? Maternity wear! Target is one of the last few stores to actually have this section.

Re:Am I the first to call BS? (4, Insightful)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about 2 years ago | (#39079145)

The anecdote might be fake, but the use of stats? More than you can imagine. The fact is, human behavior is predictable.

Re:Am I the first to call BS? (1)

johnvile (2560845) | about 2 years ago | (#39079213)

that's why they have a name for people with your opinion and a name for peolpe with mine.

Re:Am I the first to call BS? (1)

apotheon (577944) | about 2 years ago | (#39079563)

-- "What Are They Gonna Do When Were All Using Freenet"

Statistical profiling, of course.

Re:Am I the first to call BS? (4, Insightful)

Artraze (600366) | about 2 years ago | (#39079363)

Why do you find it so surprising that they do a good enough job of detecting pregnancy that after the better part of a decade they'll have found a case where the girl's father didn't know yet? Keep in mind that the girl is probably trying a lot harder to keep it a secret from her father than she is the store. Especially if he's the type that gets upset enough over stupid coupons implying potential pregnancy to go yell at a store manager? Yeah, I'm sure he's the first person she would tell.

Honestly, I expect this happens quite a lot, but most people aren't hotheaded enough to go yell at a store manager about coupons. (Who would then have to call the them back a couple days later? That strikes me as more creepy than the preggo-score.)

Re:Am I the first to call BS? (4, Insightful)

apotheon (577944) | about 2 years ago | (#39079593)

(Who would then have to call the them back a couple days later? That strikes me as more creepy than the preggo-score.)

Maybe the manager asked for the telephone number when the guy came to complain so that he could call back a couple days later and offer them some kind of conciliatory special deal at the store (like discounts on something). On the other hand, maybe the manager was trying to arrange for the guy's family to no longer get (at the time, presumed faulty) targeted advertising, and was calling back to give them an update on the process (once again having explicitly asked for contact information for just this purpose). I don't know if it was actually creepy. We don't know enough details to come to a conclusion about that, I think.

Re:Am I the first to call BS? (2)

Nemesisghost (1720424) | about 2 years ago | (#39079533)

Oh, I assure you it is not BS. I took a graduate level DBMS class and the book for the class has a chapter on data mining. This was a specific example given as to the uses of data mining. Hell, this guy probably used the exact same algorithms from that book to do it.

My Daddy Daddy (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39079071)

My daddy knows WHY I'm preggers. HE DID IT!

Why do they keep sending me these Trojan cupons? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39079099)

According to our systems your girlfriend is very likely to become pregnant soon....

But we're waiting till we get married.

That's an eye-opener (4, Insightful)

idontgno (624372) | about 2 years ago | (#39079107)

But not terribly surprising.

Given the opportunity, marketers will be more observant of the goings-on in a household than, say, the father of the house.

Hell, I am the father of the house, and most stuff that happens catches me by surprise. So I can sympathize with the father mentioned at the end of TFS.

Re:That's an eye-opener (5, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 2 years ago | (#39079153)

I'm the father of the house, and I came to the conclusion that I don't want to know what's going on in the house. Both kids are in their late teens now, and mutual ignorance seems to be the best way to get along.

Re:That's an eye-opener (0, Flamebait)

Ihmhi (1206036) | about 2 years ago | (#39079461)

Thanks. All we need right now are more parents ignorant of what their children are doing to make this a better society.

Hey, you know when your kids fuck up? That's an opportunity to ask why and maybe teach them how to do things better. A mistake (even a huge mistake) on their part isn't necessarily a reflection on your parenting. How you respond to their mistake is a reflection on your parenting. Plugging your fingers in your ears and loudly humming are the sort of things that helps cultivate a culture of ignorance and irresponsibility.

Re:That's an eye-opener (4, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 2 years ago | (#39079739)

I think once your kids hit their late teens, they're close enough to being adults (if not outright adults) that the time when you're close personal involvement could have changed anything is long past. You're basically stuck with "I told you so..."

Re:That's an eye-opener (4, Informative)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | about 2 years ago | (#39079501)

Indeed. I've got an eight-year-old daughter. When she was newborn, the older guys in band were saying, "you think you're having sleepless nights now? Wait until she's 16 and dating."

Re:That's an eye-opener (1)

dbc (135354) | about 2 years ago | (#39079275)

Hell, I am the father of the house, and most stuff that happens catches me by surprise. So I can sympathize with the father mentioned at the end of TFS.

This man speaks truth.

Data Mining at it's finest (1)

phamNewan (689644) | about 2 years ago | (#39079109)

Lying with statistics is an art, but it appears that once in a while they can be useful. This really is an impressive use of statistics.

Re:Data Mining at it's finest (0)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about 2 years ago | (#39079701)

Lying with statistics is an art, but it appears that once in a while they can be useful.

How is this "lying"? Seems to mee they are spot on.

Creepy, but it used to be more common (5, Insightful)

The Raven (30575) | about 2 years ago | (#39079119)

Back when retailers had a more personal connection to their clients, it was also not uncommon for a shopkeeper to notice that a customer was pregnant and stock something specifically for her. Personalization has always existed; this is a more of a comeback than something completely new.

The flipside is that a shopkeeper also had a personal connection to the mother. Target has no such connection to Customer#9810957065409. This takes the personalization away from 'cozy' toward 'creepy'. It's like the uncanny valley of interactions.

Re:Creepy, but it used to be more common (5, Funny)

i kan reed (749298) | about 2 years ago | (#39079161)

But our marketing blast algorithm is programmed to have feelings and care deeply about you. And to maximize the emotional manipulation on you. It's like having an omniscient psycho ex. What's not to like?

Re:Creepy, but it used to be more common (4, Funny)

404 Clue Not Found (763556) | about 2 years ago | (#39079241)

Heck, if an omniscient psycho ex offered me discounted, in-stock products I was going to buy anyway, I might just keep them around. That's everything Amazon tries to be already, anyway.

Re:Creepy, but it used to be more common (2)

EdIII (1114411) | about 2 years ago | (#39079381)

But our marketing blast algorithm is programmed to have feelings and care deeply about you

Now that was creepy. I feel like you are going to offer me some cake now.

Re:Creepy, but it used to be more common (4, Interesting)

dbc (135354) | about 2 years ago | (#39079261)

Funny you should mention that. I grew up in a small town. When my wife and I were married, one of the local retailers was on my wife's gift registry for her china pattern. This retailer knew I had a (relatively, small-town-scale) wealthy aunt who frequented the shop. So the retailer loaded up on all the wacko, high mark-up accessory pieces for my wife's china pattern and every time my aunt came into the store she would get the sales pitch for a soup tureen or something. This went on for years.

Re:Creepy, but it used to be more common (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39079285)

>> notice that a customer was pregnant

I had to send all those diapers back; it turned out she was just fat.

Re:Creepy, but it used to be more common (2)

subanark (937286) | about 2 years ago | (#39079313)

Target doesn't need to worry about stocking things for particular individuals. The reason they do this is to offer good discounts to select individuals that are at a crucial point in their life where they "settle down" and adopt store loyalty. These discounts could actually be a loss for the store. Once the customer becomes loyal, there is no reason to offer further discounts.

The store that has the personal relationship will continue to stock diapers until there are no longer customers who have young children.

Re:Creepy, but it used to be more common (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39079433)

"Target has no such connection to Customer#9810957065409." Hey that's my customer number you insensitive clod!

Hot dogs... and Ice cream (1)

Oswald McWeany (2428506) | about 2 years ago | (#39079121)

How to tell they're in the 2nd trimester?

Track who buys what by Credit Card #. If 3 months after buying a lot of vaseline and thigh highs their buying trends switch towards buying stretch pants and "hot-dogs and ice cream" together... ... and their husband starts buying the vaseline instead... and ear plugs.

Re:Hot dogs... and Ice cream (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about 2 years ago | (#39079245)

Most likely it's people who buy less alcohol and cigarettes, start buying anti-nausea drugs, and buy pickles and ice cream together late at night... but nothing else.

Re:Hot dogs... and Ice cream (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39079775)

They gave away some hints when they mentioned the unscented lotions... someone switching from scented to unscented is likely a huge factor

Re:Hot dogs... and Ice cream (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39079447)

Should the brain associate some other phenomenon besides anal intercourse with vaseline? Because you don't get pregnant through anal.

Perhaps the police could use this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39079147)

To look for criminals, or people who have a high probability of committing criminal acts.

Re:Perhaps the police could use this (1)

_Lint_ (30522) | about 2 years ago | (#39079379)

They do. A decade ago, I saw a demo of some software developed for Brazil, which predicted likely locations for illegal poaching, logging, and mining based on past illegal activity, geographic features, and anything that looked like a road or hidden runway (even if the road or runway wasn't anywhere near the site).

Baby stuff (1)

DanTheStone (1212500) | about 2 years ago | (#39079163)

For some reason my girlfriend started getting advertisements and coupons for baby stuff for a while after her sister (in another state) had a baby. Perhaps we tripped some uninformed algorithm with gift purchases, but we gave the free formula to her sister and those have all stopped eventually. The biggest pain was the Highlights subscription we never signed up for, which eventually went to collections (for $25!) after we ignored it.

Re:Baby stuff (1)

Vanderhoth (1582661) | about 2 years ago | (#39079529)

I have a pretty small anecdotal sample group, four sets of sisters, but my experience is sisters of similar age tend to get , or try to get, pregnant around the same time. From what I've observed it's like it's a competition to see who can pop out the first grandchild.

I think it boils down to younger siblings hate seeing the older ones get everything first. Maybe marketing has picked up on a similar trend.

Please (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39079181)

don't link to paywalls.

Statisticans... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39079183)

I thought these guys where thinkers and provided nothing useful to our everyday life...

Seems a bit like a made up story to me (1)

Duhfus (960817) | about 2 years ago | (#39079201)

I am not sure if the story is really true or not, but it stopped being believable when it said "the manager called again after a few days to apologize". Really? He remembers the person who had come in a few days earlier complaining about (targeted, yes, but still) mass-mailed coupons? And he calls them to apologize again?

It would be nice to see managers like that at the stores I shop at.

Re:Seems a bit like a made up story to me (1)

mehrotra.akash (1539473) | about 2 years ago | (#39079295)

I did lodge a complaint at a pizza hut once and the regional manager (or some position like that, he managed the branches in the city) called me up after about a week/10 days

Re:Seems a bit like a made up story to me (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39079427)

A few years ago we ordered a pizza from a national chain and the pizza never came. We called back a couple hours later and the guy on the phone swore up and down we never ordered anything. My wife sent an email to the complaint email address of the company. She got an email back from a district manager ... who happened to have been a delivery guy at the location we ordered from at our old address a few years before ... and he remembered us, at least partly because we usually tipped well.

As it turned out, one of the people answering the phone was just pretending to take some orders and not actually putting them in the computer. I don't think he worked there long, as we weren't the only ones to complain.

Personally... (1)

EliSowash (2532508) | about 2 years ago | (#39079235)

I really hate being marketed to. I don't want Doriotos because they sponser a football bowl, I don't want a Merc because they own the Superdome...but it must work, otherwise there wouldn't be billions of dollars spent every year on such things.

Re:Personally... (2)

marnues (906739) | about 2 years ago | (#39079393)

No you don't. You hate seeing marketing material that wasn't meant for you. I feel the same way. Personally, I love the marketing material that's on the boxes of plastic toys I purchase.

Big Business and Big Government (5, Insightful)

mfwitten (1906728) | about 2 years ago | (#39079265)

Coincidentally, the FBI now lists as suspicious activity making purchases with cash.

Re:Big Business and Big Government (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39079605)

Is this true?

It wouldn't suprise me, I recall LO restricting the legal use of cash. http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20111019/17424316421/louisiana-makes-it-illegal-to-use-cash-secondhand-sales.shtml
Consider also structured transaction rules.

Re:Big Business and Big Government (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39079633)

Because it is true, it is SUSPICIOUS, there is increased chance you will NOT pay full amount for your TAX if you are paying by cash, it does not mean everybody, or even most people will avoid tax if they pay by cash, but it does considerably increase odds that you are ones of those that do, and need to be checked "just in case"

ad hominem, outing, and stalking (4, Insightful)

mounthood (993037) | about 2 years ago | (#39079279)

Almost all forums have rules against personal attacks [wikipedia.org]. You'd commonly be banned for posting someone else's "IRL" (in real life) information. Yet here we see corporations doing exactly that for nothing more than profit. Data-mining like this is the beginning of an assault on our right to be "secure in our persons" and enjoy privacy.

Re:ad hominem, outing, and stalking (3, Interesting)

keefus_a (567615) | about 2 years ago | (#39079513)

Except there's a clear defense to this particular assault. It's called cash.

Re:ad hominem, outing, and stalking (2)

aztektum (170569) | about 2 years ago | (#39079683)

Yeah, data mining w/o direct consent should be illegal.

As we better understand the mechanisms of consciousness and the brain and realize this shit it possible, it should also be made illegal.

it is ridiculous that one could use these to manipulate you into buying more stuff. It goes against much of what the founding fathers of the US were against. An individuals mind must be their own.

Same goes for the propaganda networks posing as "news" programming on television. It's blatant co-opting of an individuals own faculties.

Faulty analogy: Lack of hostile intent (4, Informative)

LordZardoz (155141) | about 2 years ago | (#39079711)

Lets have a fictional person called Phil (a victim) and Bob (the guy posting the info) for the purpose of this post.

If Bob posts Phil's name, address, and phone number in a message board without Phil's permission, there is most likely some kind of hostile intent. This usually happens when Phil has managed to make Bob angry for some stupid reason (flame war, abortion debate, maybe Phil is just being a jackass here. Who knows? The reason is not relevant). So Bob gets Phil's info and posts it online in that message board. Why does Bob do this?

Most likely, Bob is hoping someone will go to Phil's house and beat him up. Or break a few windows. Maybe Bob just wants someone to take a crap in a paper bag, light it on fire, and throw it on Phils porch. The intent is to make it easy for all of Phils enemies to harass or inflict harm on Phil.

Target or Walmart do not have any hostile intent. They just want to sell you stuff. They gather and analyze data, and the only objective harm thaty they would intentionally cause is filling your mail box with unwanted spam. I would agree that doing so should earn someone a kick in the nuts anyway, but it is only annoying, not dangerous. In many cases they are using info they gathered themselves for their own benefit. It could also be argued that what they are doing is of mutual benefit: Walmart gets Phil to buy stuff, Phil will have a chance to buy something he wants.

The only problem for Phil is when access to that data is then sold, shared , or illegally accessed by those whose interests may run against him. There needs to be legal protections in place for Phil, and Walmart needs to be held responsible for any harm that comes of them keeping that database.

END COMMUNICATION

Re:ad hominem, outing, and stalking (1)

guspasho (941623) | about 2 years ago | (#39079713)

I'm not sure I understand your post. Are you saying the ads were a personal attack?

Re:ad hominem, outing, and stalking (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39079749)

My thesis on this (specifically national ID numbers in Japan) focused on this... Basically the old way of thinking about privacy protection is useless. Data mining of the future means that you can't rely on obscurity or restriction of information at the source. Regulate what both gov an private sector can do with information, and make the enforcement no just effective but also respected. (something it is in norway, unlike the US)

Good Data (1)

hhawk (26580) | about 2 years ago | (#39079291)

Good Data is just that.. and it can make solid predictions. It's clear transparency is good for markets (e.g., stock markets, Etc.) but is it good for people? My own take is data mining and tracking isn't evil; if you do business with a company you should assume, for better or worse, that they will try to understand and learn about you. If you don't wish that to happen, you need to pay in cash, not give them your zip code and avoid reward clubs, etc.

Statistics 101 (1)

clyde_cadiddlehopper (1052112) | about 2 years ago | (#39079301)

Female customers who have recently 1) purchased a pregnancy test kit, 2) stopped buying tampons, and 3) purchased morning sickness remedies such as Saltine crackers.

Impressed (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39079303)

I'm impressed the father came back to the store manager and admitted his error. Takes guts.

Re:Impressed (2)

pepeperes (731972) | about 2 years ago | (#39079527)

The manager apologized and then called a few days later to apologize again [...]

I know this is slashdot, it might be ok to not read TFA, but it seems you didn't even read the fine submission!

Not that specific (1)

Hentes (2461350) | about 2 years ago | (#39079345)

So they are analizing what kind of products a customer buys, and if they are products associated with pregnancy then they market them even more products associated with pregnancy. Seems like that without all that funny little anecdotes about pregnancy prediction, this is just the same algorithm everyone else uses: offering a customer the types of products they have bought in the past. Also, a pregnant woman in the second trimester is quite easy to detect by the good old method of looking at her.

Re:Not that specific (-1, Flamebait)

Wattos (2268108) | about 2 years ago | (#39079399)

So they are analizing what kind of products a customer buys, and if they are products associated with pregnancy then they market them even more products associated with pregnancy. Seems like that without all that funny little anecdotes about pregnancy prediction, this is just the same algorithm everyone else uses: offering a customer the types of products they have bought in the past. Also, a pregnant woman in the second trimester is quite easy to detect by the good old method of looking at her.

Is this the US? Last time I visited, most women looked as if they were pregnant...

Won't work on Slashdot readers (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39079405)

We get out of the house/basement/apartment so rarely that by the time they have enough statistics on us, we'll be long dead.

Re:Won't work on Slashdot readers (1)

Wheatie (598715) | about 2 years ago | (#39079557)

Which is exactly why Amazon is doing the same sort of analysis on your purchasing habits.

Person of Interest? (1)

WorldPiece (2462300) | about 2 years ago | (#39079429)

Reminds me of the tv shows Person of Interest and Numb3rs.. Amazing how much effort goes into targeted advertising rather than solving real problems.

I wonder what they make of my wife's shopping. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39079459)

She had a hysterectomy before we started dating... But starting when her eldest turned 11 every time she got a good coupon for pads or tampons and they were also on sale, she'd stock up. With the current stockpile both girls will be married and contemplating on a second kid by the time they run out of supplies.

That is why I frequently and easily lend out my ca (4, Interesting)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | about 2 years ago | (#39079493)

People often forget there client card at my super market (AH) and I happily lend them mine. Must give them some interesting stats.

The problem is that marketeers really think this matter. Lets examine this particular case for just how idiotic it is.

Target profiles its EXISTING customers to be able to bombard them with coupons for products these same customers already pass everyday... Can win these customers for live? YOU ALREADY GOT THEM! And now instead of them buying the products they already seen at full price, you are reducing the price for no good reason.

TV shows just how desperate marketeers are to prove they matter, the program you are watching interrupted by ads, for the program you were trying to watch followed by overlays of the next program, so please stay tuned... I would if you didn't ruin the program with all this begging. It is like going to a restaurant and having the chef come over after every bite to ask if you are enjoying yourself.

Marketing doesn't sell products, marketing sells marketing. I am not saying ads don't work but rather that the constant overloading of ads, does not work. Check this for yourself, if an adblock takes longer then it used to, do you continue watching? Once ads were singular, to short to flick away. But the "going to the toilet" during the advertising is now a way of life and has been for decades. And here poor advertisers are trying to sell their products to viewers who are studying their toilet door.

Myself? I barely bother with TV anymore. If for some masochistic reason I want to see what happens, I download it and get rid of ads altogether. I have ad block installed and ghostery. NOT because I mind being tracked so much but because I just can't stand the interuptions and delays that slow ads and scripts cause.

This Target campaign targets existing customers into buy stuff they have to buy anyway and ignores new customers altogether... BRILLIANT. I know how effective it is, some marketeers and statisticians got payed big bugs. Mission accomplished. Any actual new customers that make up for the costs and potential lawsuits? (Oh you just wait till they get it wrong or target a woman who had an abortion, or didn't want her family to know or had a miscarriage).

Re:That is why I frequently and easily lend out my (1)

Dinghy (2233934) | about 2 years ago | (#39079675)

Marketing doesn't sell products, marketing sells marketing. I am not saying ads don't work but rather that the constant overloading of ads, does not work.

Some does, and some doesn't, but I'll admit when they print off one of those $0.50 off Pizza Hut coupons, I stop and buy one because it gives me an excuse to do so. They know my weakness! STOP THE COUPONS!

Re:That is why I frequently and easily lend out my (3, Informative)

brainzach (2032950) | about 2 years ago | (#39079693)

The marketing campaign tries to get customers to buy new different products based on their past purchases. They want to identify pregnant women so they can encourage them to buy products at Target once they have a baby, instead of the customer shopping at a competitor for their baby needs.

Target figured out that people change their shopping habits the most when they had a baby, so it provides them with the biggest opportunity to win over customers. Knowing that someone is pregnant is marketing gold. The methods are based of research and the evidence is supported in Target's sales. It isn't just a bunch of BS.

Re:That is why I frequently and easily lend out my (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39079699)

It is true that some poorly implemented loyalty programs just turn into price-discounting programs. Good loyalty programs increase the marginal revenue per customer. Sophisticated algorithms target customers with offers and measure response and effectiveness. This works. IBM, Oracle, and TIBCO and others in the Fortune 100 sell software that does, this. It costs 8 figures, and it works.

It works best on people like you because you think you are getting a discount!

Netflix (1)

TheNinjaroach (878876) | about 2 years ago | (#39079729)

If for some masochistic reason I want to see what happens, I download it and get rid of ads altogether.

I too believe that watching television is an incredibly painful experience. But there is some good content out there, and I pay Netflix $8 a month to watch it ad-free. I seriously think Netflix is easier and more convenient than TPB. Eventually, I suspect that significant price hikes and/or advertisements will make their way into Netflix, but until that happens I think Netflix is superior.

Re:That is why I frequently and easily lend out my (2)

Bardwick (696376) | about 2 years ago | (#39079757)

It's usually not the store that does it (alone). I worked data storage for a company that pulls customer buying information from grocery stores, retail outlets, large financial institutions, well, just about from everyone. Major banks foward them your credit card sweeps about the same time it shows up on your online statement. Last I was there, roughly three years ago, they had 87 ASSUMED data fields on over 30 million consumers, which were extrememly accurate. 12 employees to support a 7 TB oracle RAC.

And people called me paranoid (1)

JohnFen (1641097) | about 2 years ago | (#39079541)

Absolutely detestable. And common. This type of thing is precisely why I take great pains to avoid being tracked, online and off. Pay cash, don't use affinity cards, block all online ads, javascript, etc., and avoid doing business with companies that use these types of methods.

Doesn't Really Bother Me (1)

TheNinjaroach (878876) | about 2 years ago | (#39079747)

I'm not sure that targeted advertisement really bothers me that much. I have to say, my ads in GMail have been spot on more than a few times. Compared to the mind-numbing mass-appeal aim of television advertising, I guess that targeted ads really don't bother me that much.

AARP (2)

Tony Isaac (1301187) | about 2 years ago | (#39079543)

Maybe this is what AARP has been doing. They've been sending me invitations to join their organization for years, ever since I was in my 20's. Undoubtedly their data mining algorithms determined that I would one day reach retirement age, so they are doing everything they can to "capture" me now!

What do they know on me? (5, Funny)

HideyoshiJP (1392619) | about 2 years ago | (#39079553)

I'm a rather young man and I only seem to get things in the mail from the AARP, AAA and Medicare Providers. Maybe it was that sweatervest I bought.

Walmart (4, Funny)

Tony Isaac (1301187) | about 2 years ago | (#39079569)

I'm convinced that Walmart does this kind of data mining too. As soon as I walk into the store, their computer systems identify me, figure out what I'm about to buy, and make SURE that item is already sold out!

Anyone else? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39079615)

Now I just want to try to get Target to think I'm pregnant when I'm not. OMG WHAT DO I HAVE TO BUY? Reverse (perverse?) marketing!

1 For English 2 for French (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39079621)

When I no longer need to press 1 for English every time, every single time, when I use the same ATM card, at the same terminal, then call me. Until then, I say piffle. Piffle Piffle Piffle.

Really, the ATM card asking if I want English or French, there is no excuse for that. LOL! What, the banks didn't each make a billion dollars last quarter? Can't afford and IF statement?

Judging the 'Reccommendeds' by youtube, all this tech does is put you into one of about maybe 10 boxes. It is frightening to see what Youtube thinks I am.

And if the advertiser has enough money, everybody gets the ad anyways. All the small fish trying to economise ad dollars by targetting get blown right out of the eyeball space by the big money.

If they algorithms had any of these brains, they would see I never click and never buy and the websites would not display any ads and save the advertisers money.

Frickin' Snake Oil. But hey, I got nothing against selling snake oil. The almighty buck is my god too. Why else do sheep have fleece?

Press 3 For Newfie (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39079765)

I got a 2 for one sale on magic silver bullets but only if you call now!

Target's not the only one doing that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39079773)

My wife started receiving baby "catalogues" and brochures for baby products from a large-ish chain pharmacy-type store in Canada (Shoppers Drug Mart) shortly after she got pregnant too. It definitely was creepy. It was before we told anyone. This was 6 years ago.

In this case, I figured they somehow mined the data from us using the store rewards card. It never occurred to me that an algorithm of *loosely related* products could predict the due date as well. And I'm a programmer.

We don't use that rewards card anymore.

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