On Wednesday night’s The Colbert Report, host Stephen Colbert (wearing the traditional “Ash Wednesday” cross on his forehead) devoted his nightly “The Word” segment to retailers and their increasing reliance on the science of “predictive analytics.”
A recent New York Times article discussed how Target and other retailers are gathering and analyzing customer data in order to ascertain “information like your age, whether you are married and have kids, which part of town you live in, how long it takes you to drive to the store, your estimated salary, whether you’ve moved recently, what credit cards you carry in your wallet and what Web sites you visit.”
Colbert’s segment featured a story about a father of a teenage girl who received coupons for new mothers in the mail. The father arrived in the store angrily demanding to know why his daughter had been sent such items, but when a manager called days later to apologize, the father responded that his daughter had turned out to be pregnant after all. The retailer had analyzed the girl’s purchases and knew about her condition before her closest family members.
In other words, said Stephen, you may not know that your wife is cheating, but Target does, and they’ll send you a coupon for a new hot-plate for your tiny, post-divorce studio apartment.
Watch the clip, embedded via Comedy Central, below: