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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Wednesday 4/7


Have you ever noticed how the beer and wine aisle at the grocery store is right next to the diapers and formula?  If you don’t drink or you’ve never had a baby, maybe you haven’t noticed, but look again next time you go grocery shopping.  It seems pretty obvious to sell peanut butter next to jelly, maybe even on the bread aisle.  The potato chip and other-greasy-but-oh-so-good snack aisle does well right next to all of the sodas.  Someone, somewhere has to decide where to put things in a store, but diapers and beer?  Believe it or not, they thought about that, too.

There is a dual-sided argument to why things like diapers and beer are next to each other at some stores.  One side says that they put all the food groceries together and then all of the non-food stuff together and beer just happens to wind up next to the baby aisle in coincidence.  I suppose, but I’ve been to a lot of grocery stores and I don’t think all of those coincidences are, well, coincidence.

On the other side of the argument, marketing people have a little tool called data mining.  It is a relatively recent development, too, within the last few decades.  Basically, all the information from all receipts for a grocery store go into a ginourmous spreadsheet.  Then, computers can sift through all those transactions and see what shoppers tend to buy together, like noodles with sauce and hot dogs with buns.  Data has been analyzed for centuries and been used to produce research support and such.  But with computers getting faster and databases becoming unfathomably large, data mining is finally becoming widely practical.

Well, in the process of searching for the obvious things you buy together, researchers sometimes stumble upon correlations no one would think of.  Lo and behold!  There exists a strikingly high percentage of purchases including both baby products and alcohol. 

If you drink and also have babies, it isn’t hard to see why.  After a long day of dealing with a teething infant, sometimes you just need a drink, something to relax with.  Children, even though you love ‘em, can bring you to your last nerve and alcohol, for a vast majority, is the ultimate unwind at the end of a long day.  And multiple children just compound everything.  If one cries, they all cry.  One wants something, they all want something. 

So next time you buy dog food and turn around to find air freshener or pick up some bagels “conveniently” located right next to the cream cheese, remember, someone decided to put them there.  After all, the store wouldn’t want you to forget to buy something (*wink, wink*) while you’re there.

By: S. Cole Garrett


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