Sarah Sheard's Thoughts and Theories

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Science of Shopping

Paco Underhill's new book, Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping, has a lot of very interesting tips both for store owners and for shoppers. I'm personally one who gravitates toward not accumulating a lot of things, but find that I too am snookered into picking up things I didn't intend to when I go out.

This book is easy to read, and fun, and engrossing for those who are into unusual nonfiction. Some of the tidbits:

No one looks at anything in the first few feet of a store. They're too busy transitioning into the store.

Stores should not place hand baskets at the front of the store. People go in for a few things, then find a few more, and by the time they need a basket, they're somewhere deep in the store. I myself have done this hundreds of times! If you want a hand basket now, you actually have to go out beyond the cash registers to get one! How smart is that? Store owners actually want you to stay there and pick up more and more things to buy, but they're actually encouraging you to go toward the exit, where you're just as likely to say, aw never mind, this will do, and leave.

Women's clothing stores can boost sales by putting in comfortable chairs with magazines that interest men next to them. That way the "wallet carriers" won't be bugging the women to go, and they'll stay longer and buy more.

You know those nice displays next to the cash registers at bookstores? You can't see them when you have time (when you're waiting in line) and you don't have time to look through them when you can see them (when you're at the cash registers) so they aren't doing anything other than cluttering up the space. The bookstore should put them where people waiting in line can look at them.

A whole lot of the book meets my own personal definition of genius which is:

Until you say it, nobody has thought of it.

After you say it, it's obvious to everyone.



  • I'm so glad you have a blog, Sarah -- that way a person doesn't have to be on a listserve to enjoy your (non-engineering) writings!

    I must say, those men sitting there while their lady companions shop are a mystery to me. Why don't the ladies take their own wallets and leave the men at home?

    By Blogger PurplePeg, at 6:38 AM  

  • Sarah, Now that I can do this without logging in, here is my comment directly. Tom:

    I am reminded of my constant complaint at buffet lines.

    They always put the silverware and napkins at the beginning so you have to carry them while trying to balance a plate and cup as you load your plate.
    Silverware and napkins should be at the end of the line.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:12 PM  

  • Oh I totally agree about buffet lines! I always forget to get silverware if it's at the beginning (and sometimes even at the end); besides, how do you know if you even need a knife before you pick what food you're going to have? I'm not one to waste so I don't want to take something I'm not going to use. Don't people even think about how people are going to use them?

    And how about pots in cupboards? Don't people think about putting the ones that get used all the times in the most convenient places and the rarely-used ones where you have to dig for them?

    I suppose not. (And they're probably happier for it!)


    By Blogger SarahSheard, at 2:18 PM  

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