If you’re a savvy shopper, you’ve probably learned the benefits of clearing your cookies and browsing data. Especially when searching for big purchases like airline tickets, many of us use the trick to save. Companies know that you’ve looked before, that you’re likely to buy the tickets— that you may even need to buy them— so they can hike up the price. It’s called dynamic pricing, which basically entails moving the price based on what they are perceiving a customer is able or willing to pay. And though you may be able to get around it, to some degree, with things like airlines tickets, it’s on the verge of taking over your entire shopping experience.
In some cases, it’s already inescapable. Many of us have hopped into an Uber during a ridiculously high surge because we’re so used to taking them that we haven’t left time for any other options. I paid a ridiculous amount to get to the airport during the train strike. Why? Because they knew we were at their mercy and adjusted their prices accordingly. But that is a uniform hike, that applies to everyone. What is perhaps more worrying is to see how quickly prices are starting to reflect our individual positions. Mac users are charged more for hotel rooms on some sites than non-Mac users. There are rumors of Uber charging more to travel between more expensive neighborhoods than in other areas. But now even our supermarkets are getting in on the game.
Supermarkets Are Getting In On The Game
A recent Guardian article warned that supermarkets may soon be switching permanent price tags out for more flexible options. Screens will be designed to look like traditional price tags, but could be adjusted throughout the day. This way they can charge you more for basics when data shows you’re willing to pay for them. How do they know? Well, retail giants have been tracking our spending history online for years. There’s no reason some of that that information can’t translate to brick and mortar locations. In fact, there is very little about us, especially about us as consumers, that has not been tracked, analyzed, and distilled in a way that can eventually be used against us.
“Facebook has about 100 data points on each of its 2 billion users, generally including the value of your home, your regular outgoings and disposable income – the kind of information that bazaar owners the world over might have once tried to intuit,” the Guardian explains. “Some brokerage firms offering data to retailers can provide more than 1,500 such points on an individual. Even your technology can brand you as a soft touch.”
If the idea of this terrifies you, you are not alone. It’s hard to imagine the data gathered about us online hitting as close to home as somewhere like our local supermarket, but that’s what the future does seem to hold. Manipulating prices may soon be as normal as companies over-charging for chocolate around Valentine’s Day. Dynamic pricing has been evolving for years but it seems as though a surge is brewing. So clear your cookies while you can, because that may be our last remaining line of defense.