Target Thinks I’m Pregnant #bigdata


IMG_2293I went to Target, this weekend, and bought Efferdent for my retainers and purple nail polish for my toes you will never see.

(Wait, I am lying. I also bought a Kit Kat for my sexy abs. I love those Kit Kat Minis, too. I stick them in the freezer and pop a few of them in my mouth during the day. OMG delicious.)

Anyway, the checkout lady handed me two coupons: one for frozen food and another for 25% maternity clothes.

Target thinks I am pregnant.

I am not pregnant. In fact, I have my period. And while I should not be shocked by the intrusive use of my personal data, I am offended. What if I were pregnant but recently miscarried? What if I was trying IVF and it failed? What if I were standing there with a colleague who saw the coupon and told my boss that I was pregnant?

Jesus, no thanks. And if Target had been reading the tea leaves properly, it would know that I haven’t used a coupon since 1997.

Of course big data can mean big business, but data mining can also be mediocre and obnoxious. And as Google has learned, big data can be useless data. You can learn a lot about your customers (or employees) by examining browsing patterns and shopping history; however, it doesn’t mean what you learn is important. And sometimes the data is myopic. After receiving my maternity coupon, I went back through my receipts and realized that I stopped purchasing tampons in March. In fact, I bought a boatload of Tampax at Costco for a better price. I am good for feminine hygiene products until 2014. You need some? Call me.

But I love how Target feels like it’s doing me a favor by offering coupons. I suppose I should thank them for the honor of saving me 25% on shitty maternity clothes made by child laborers in China. But I have bigger questions:

Who the F told Target that it is okay to track and monetize a private medical conditions? And what the F will Target do if it ever learns I have cancer, multiple sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease?

Big data can be trendy. Big data can be sexy and alluring. But when you run a business, I want you to think about the benefits and burdens of collecting data on customers and clients. When you do collect data, make sure you use it properly and respectfully. Don’t just aim to comply with privacy laws. Operate like you would in any other aspect of your organization: meet and exceed customer (and employee) expectations.

And quit assuming I am pregnant, jerks.

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