retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Associated Press reports that Safeway is testing a new shopping card called the “Magellan” that includes a book-sized computer on the handle through which shoppers can swipe their Safeway club cards. The computer then can use the shopper’s buying history to display four SKUs that are available at cheaper prices than would be available to anyone else.

The computer also is able to promote merchandise that is of interest to the shopper based on historical buying patterns, using a sensor to know where the customer is at any given moment.
KC's View:
Ferdinand Magellan, of course, captained the ship that first sailed around the world between 1519 and 1522…hence the cart’s name as a reference to a pioneer of centuries gone by.

However, it should be noted that Magellan never completed the trip -- he was killed in the Philippines in 1521, and his crew completed the trip without him.

Maybe the cart should have been named the “Piri Reis,” after the famous admiral of the Turkish fleet who drew an amazingly accurate map of the world back in 1513…(Though Piri Reis sounds more like the name of a shortstop for the Brooklyn Dodgers than it does a world famous cartographer…)

But we digress…

This shopping cart system no doubt will raise hackles in the privacy crowd, and it certainly illustrates a central problem with this kind of marketing:

How obvious do you want to be?

On the other hand -- and let’s not be sending in emails accusing us of being mean -- if Safeway had access to this kind of technology in its Genuardi’s and Dominick’s divisions, maybe it wouldn’t be in the fix that it is now…