The Dark Side of Web One-to-One Marketing

 
 
By Evan Schuman  |  Posted 2005-06-07 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Opinion: A University of Pennsylvania study raises questions about how online retailers are identifying potential customers and how they are using that information.

It has been said that a university’s role is not necessarily to preach the right answers, but to teach students how to ask the right questions. To the extent that’s true, a recent University of Pennsylvania report seems to be properly performing its role. The report itself was hard to ignore; it reported that 64 percent of consumers "do not know that it is legal for an online store to charge different people different prices during the same time of day, a practice used by some companies that base their prices on what they know about a customer’s buying habits." The upshot of the Penn report—that consumers are remarkably clueless about e-commerce practices—was of little journalistic interest. I have given up having any faith in the American public ever since it gave "Laverne and Shirley" the highest TV ratings for a disturbing percentage of its run. So, rampant consumer ignorance on Web issues seemed to be a big Dog Bites Man story.
Consumers want to know that they are being treated not only fairly, but equally. The suggestion that the existence of a cookie—showing perhaps showing a prior visit to a price comparison site or even a rival vendors site