Sunday, December 14, 2008

Waste lots, want not

As consumers people are getting used to the increasing amount of advertising that appears next to, above and even on the products they buy and they are getting good at ignoring the information overload. It is also that after each purchase the customer is bombarded with one last plea to get their money before they leave the register by the use of secondary printers on each check stand that spit out coupons and advertisements shortly before they receive their receipt.

While sometimes as annoying as those subscription cards in magazines at least coupons have the possibility that it might be recycled in some manner when the offered discount causes a customer to return and buy the featured item. What is maddening is the increase in useless advertising that prints out along with and sometimes in lieu of coupons.

Once items are scanned at a register the coupons and ads begin to print out. In conjunction with a discount card that identifies the shopper targeted discounts and coupons will be applied and printed. But there are failures in the system. Ads, often duplicates of two or more, will print out promoting the very same product the customer just purchased. Considering how intimately the buying habits of each customer are tracked the seeming randomness of the advertising is causing a consumer backlash. The message is getting drowned in a sea of junk spam at the register. Additionally, the coupon dispenser beeps with false error messages that prompts the cashier and customer to pay attention to the device and printing ads. While the false error tone is intended to signal the end of the coupons being dispensed the real result is that the public is being desensitized by "false negatives" and are ignoring the messages altogether.

The coupons and ads have become such an annoyance that by the end of a shift each cashier has a full trash can of strips of paper the customers refused to accept. The avalanche of ads and coupons are the treeware version of email spam. Most customers just leave the junk print outs behind. Many cashiers act as content filters for the spam by sorting and applying to the purchases only those print outs that are immediately useful such as cash back or used to get a discount during the purchase for items they are buying. While the intended use of the coupons and ads are to get return business, customers appreciate more receiving an instant discount than a ream of useless paper they will never use on their next shopping trip.

Other than the annoyance of the ads and coupons that often print out during each transaction the spamming of a shopper shows how much lip service some companies pay to being "green". Not to suggest that the two companies in the advertising examples above are not fully committed to managing their use of the environment wisely. The coupons are printed out via a service they subscribe to in order to make consumers aware of their products and discounts. However, any company committed to being "green" should be responsible enough to be aware of just how much waste is generated by their vendors and affiliates.

Just think, if just one 6-inch ad is printed out during each transaction, times 3000 customers a day at each store, times 2400 stores nation-wide that is...Well, someone else can do the math. That's the result of waste from just from one company. That is a lot of paper. That much waste seems not only criminal, but sinful as well.

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