Troubling the Customer: Why is Buying Blue Jeans So Hard?

Why do we tolerate inconvenience?

Stack of blue jeans taken by the author
Lots of choices, but only a few will fit.

Being born in the 50’s, I spent most of my working life wearing a business uniform to work. My uniform included lace-up dress shoes, over-the-calf wool blend socks, leather belt, boxers/briefs and tee shirt, dress suit (jacket and trousers), and if it was raining, I carried/wore a Burberry-type overcoat and a wool scarf. For men in business, men wore suits and ties, and women wore dresses, or skirts and blazers. Blue jeans were for working in the yard or in the garage.

Saying that things have changed is the ultimate understatement. Blue jeans are  acceptable at work. Not only are they acceptable, a friend of mine at a huge IT company told me they the senior manager were specifically asked NOT to wear anything but blue jeans. In my wildest imagination, I could have never have imagined this eventuality.

Bottom line… I have to buy jeans on a fairly regular basis.

Why do I have to look through 347 pairs of jeans to find the 4 pair in the store that are my size? I must riffle through stacks upon stacks of jeans because it is more convenient for the store to display clothes based on their style, not their size.

I predict that some retailer will figure this out. They will increase their displays and they will minimize the stacks and stacks of inventory displayed on the floor. But for now, I will continue to move around hundreds of pairs of blue jeans to find the half dozen pair of jeans that I will try on.

bh 2016-01-29

How Many Legs Does the Average Swede Have?

More brilliant analysis from the mind of Hans Rosling and his colleauges.

How many legs does the average Swede have? The surprising answer can tell us a lot about averages…

How to End Poverty in 15 Years

This sounds like a ridiculous notion, but we have come farther than you may think in the last 50 years. This BBC special will demonstrate how close we truly are to success.

15 years from now, nobody will still be living in extreme poverty anywhere in the world – that’s the pledge being made by President Obama and the Pope. Eradicating global poverty in a single generation is the number one ambition to be announced at this weekend’s Sustainable Development Summit in New York. But is it possible? Find out from the eminent statistician Professor Hans Rosling in ‘Don’t Panic, How to End Poverty in 15 Years’ on, Wednesday, 23 September at 8pm on BBC Two. In Professor Rosling’s words, “Watch the programme and you will learn a lot”.

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Keep Your Career Options Fresh

I am asked on a fairly regular basis, “What can I do to help my career and ensure I stay relevant in the marketplace.” After writing several emails to people with my recommendations, I decided to jot down a generic version of the advice I usually provide. Here are some things that I recommend people do from a career standpoint, whether or not they are looking for a new position.

Make Your LinkedIn profile a Value Proposition

Use your LinkedIn profile summary to answer the question,

What is it about me and my recent accomplishments that make me indispensable to any organization?

People have lots of things that make them valuable to a team, but those traits  rarely appear in a list of job titles. Bottom line, no one really cares about your job title, they just want to hire someone who has lots of energy and who can contribute immediately.

Get Active on Social MediaiStock_compass3

Social media is not just for funny cat videos or for pictures of your latest culinary creation. To expand your career Find people interested in topics in your area of expertise. (LinkedIn, Twitter, Mashable, etc.) Follow them, comment on their work, and expand your network.

  • Get active on LinkedIn, especially in professional interest groups. Find thought leaders in your areas of interest, read and comment on their work or their posts.
  • Twitter: follow some heavy hitters, but seek out up and comers across the spectrum. Twitter is a great place to things that provide a unique point of view.
  • Facebook: I almost hesitate to put FB on this list, but despite its ability to deliver time-wasting content to us on multiple platforms, Facebook is a great way to reconnect with people you may have lost over the years. That being said, it is not a great place to look for a job.

Create Something Interesting

Learn how to communicate for the new digital age. There are lots of opinions on how to write content people will want to read. Do some research. Find stuff that catches your eye and learn to use the “Add to Reading List” command in your browser. Go through stuff you’ve saved and note things you enjoyed reading. Comment on things and start posting content. Remember that brevity is key. Using images is also a plus. Many times you will find great content buried under obscure titles. Use content that is already out there as a springboard for your opinion.

Enjoy the Process

One of my favorite non-fiction authors is Gretchen Rubin. One of her Secrets of Adulthood is,

What you do everyday matters more than what you do once in a while.

Love this concept, especially as it related to how we engage the world. Being a lifelong learner doesn’t have to be a chore. Exploring new concepts and finding new ways to look at old things keeps us young.

So what do you think? I hope this kicks off a discussion on ways to stay relevant. I know I’ll keep working on this issue, and I look forward to your feedback!




How Much Hotter Is a Ghost Pepper than a Jalapeno?

scoville-chart-displayUntil a few months ago, I had never heard of a Ghost Pepper. This week, I saw that fast food chain Wendy’s now offers more than one menu item containing Ghost (Bhut Jolokia) Pepper. I love spicy food, but I know many people that find the jalapeno peppers I love to be far to spicy for their tastes. So if I am at the right of the ‘spiciness loving distribution curve’, how is it possible that these new peppers will become popular?

I’m updating this post in honor of Wilbur Scoville’s birthday. I talk about the Scoville Scale many times when discussing subjective measurement systems. We are used to using time, length, width, and other physical measurements; but it is more difficult to measure things that are more subjective, like the spiciness of a pepper. Wilbur was a chemist, award-winning researcher, professor of pharmacology, and today is famous for his Scovill Scale. Happy 151st Wilbur!

This is a great article from the London Telegraph


Who was Wilbur Scoville? The science behind what makes chillies so hot

The inventor of the Scoville test has been commemorated with a Google Doodle on his 151st birthday

Hot chilli peppers have been credited with helping to lose weight, inducing labour and relieving pain. But until Wilbur Scoville, there was no objective way of measuring how hot chillies really are.

Scoville, an American chemist born 151 years ago on Friday, is responsible for the “Scoville organoleptic test”, a scale of “hotness” that has been the definitive rating of how spicy a chilli is for more than 100 years.

On his birthday, Google has saluted Scoville with an interactive Doodle that asks visitors to assist his experiments by cooling the chillies’ heat.

By clicking the mouse at the correct point on a sliding bar, you can fire ice cream at the offending chilli to neutralise it, with the game getting more difficult as they get hotter.

click here to read the complete article.


How Does the Brain See?

I found this short video (6:26) from Autodesk’s Tom Wujec on 3 ways the brain creates meaning.  This is the science behind how we receive and assimilate information.

Showrooming Versus Perfect Economic Information

Target hopes to kill  showrooming in their stores by matching Amazon’s price year round. Maybe this will happen, but they may have made the problem worse. Today, I read the term “showrooming” for the first time. I heard the term, “perfect information” for the first time as an undergraduate economics student at the University of Georgia. Ashley Lutz’ article from  Business Insider got me thinking about incentives and unintended consequences.

Example of Showrooming image
Showrooming is the practice of examining merchandise in a traditional brick and mortar retail store without purchasing it, but then shopping online to find a lower price for the same item. Online stores often offer lower prices than brick and mortar stores because they do not have the same overhead cost. Showrooming can be costly to retailers, not only in the loss of the sale, but also due to damage caused to the store’s floor samples of a product…

Showrooming is the practice of going to Target (or some other physical store); finding an item you intend to purchase; and then checking the price of the item as listed in the store, as well as the price of the same item in other locations. (This includes on-line vendors like Amazon, etc.) As a supplier, brick and mortar stores hate this, since they have sunk costs related to building the store to begin with. In their mind, it is not fair that a consumer come into their store, gain value from them by seeing the item, asking the sales staff for help, and then rather than buying from the store, ordering the item on line.

A state of perfect information is assumed in some economic models with the understanding that both the buyer and the seller are rational and have perfect information. (That is, all the pertinent information that is available.) With perfect information, they will choose the best products, and the market will reward those who make the best products with higher sales. Perfect information would practically mean that all consumers know all things, about all products, at all times.

Before  smart phones there was “information asymmetry”. Consumers had to extend more effort to discover the price and availability of an item. Today’s shoppers have more and better information.  With this information, buyers can weight the offering of various sellers. I may save $20 on an item, but I may also have to wait 7-14 business days for delivery. If I chose express shipping, I can have it tomorrow; but if the extra shipping charge is $12 then I am down to an $8 savings. And so the consumer calculation goes.

Here’s the rub… if it is my  responsibility (as the consumer) to inform the seller of a lower price, then I have a strong motivation to ‘showroom’ everything in my Target shopping cart BEFORE I leave the store. So the improvement designed to kill the practice may make it worse.

Bob H. 1-8-2013

Target Unveils Key Measure To Kill ‘Showrooming’

Ashley Lutz | Jan. 8, 2013, 10:47 AM

Read more:

Target just effectively ended the practice of showrooming in its stores by saying it would match Amazon’s prices year-round.

The discount chain said it would match prices of some online competitors all year, instead of just over the holidays. In addition to Amazon, Target will match prices from itself, Best Buy, Walmart and Toys R Us, Reuters reported.

By matching Amazon’s prices, Target is ensuring that customers won’t check out a product in a retail store and then order it for cheaper from Amazon.

The announcement comes after Target reported that sales in December were flat from a year earlier.

“Target said that throughout the year it will match the price when a customer buys an eligible item at one of its stores and finds the same item at a lower price in the following week’s Target circular or in a local competitor’s printed ad,” according to Reuters. “It will also match the price if the customer finds the same item at a lower price within a week on Target’s website or the websites of Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy and Toys R Us.”

Best Buy, Walmart and Toys R Us have also been impacted by showrooming in the past.

While the move is bold, it may not have a huge impact on Target’s earnings. In November, CEO Gregg Steinhafel downplayed the significance of the company’s holiday price-matching policy.

“We don’t see a lot of price match activity in our stores,” he said on a conference call with analysts. “We’ve been price matching for a long time. Our value proposition is so good day in and day out, and our circular price offering is so good that we don’t expect this to be meaningful.”

Still, the announcement sends a strong message that Target sees Amazon as a major competitor.

Reposted from Business Insider: