Thursday, November 07, 2019

Why do stores sometimes pay people to be fake shoppers?

When desperate storeowners want to convince passersby to stop in, they hire fun, happy people to pose as shoppers. They’re actually out-of-work actors, retirees, and me.

See Confessions of a Professional Fake Shopper by Sam Dunnington.

In economics, signaling theory says that we send out signals to convince people we have certain traits. For example, a college degree is a signal to employers that you might be smarter and more hard working than the average person.

But sometimes people try to fake the signal (at the bottom I have links to many other posts I have done on this. There is alot of faking out there).

Excerpts from the Dunnington article (the whole article is interesting):
"John spread his arms like a tent revivalist and addressed the 50 of us standing in the subterranean concourse of Philadelphia’s Jefferson Station. John, the hiring manager for the temp agency, was a tall man with a big belly, a nice smile, and 10 drops of sweat perpetually shining on his pate. “Good afternoon,” John said. John had zeal. “We are today creating an atmosphere of fun, and crowds, and happy shoppers.” John explained that street construction had decimated walk-up traffic to a department store down the street. A client had hired the temp agency to turn that around: People would peer through the scaffolding and jackhammer dust, see a Fun Crowd of Happy Shoppers inside the store, and thus be compelled to join in. John looked around at us in the dank gloaming of the train station and beamed."

 "“No one should think for a second that you are not a real shopper,” John said through his smile. That was why we were meeting in the train station. “Imagine you are on a break from work, maybe for lunch, just out to do a bit of shopping.” When he said this, he made a little rectangle with his hands, like a director coaching an ensemble cast. “We will not reimburse you for purchases,” John said, “but if you want to buy a hot dog? Sit down and eat it right outside the store? Knock yourself out.” Two of the waistcoats next to me nodded to one another, as if we’d been negotiating, and the opportunity to eat hot dogs on the clock sealed the deal. John warned us we would be supervised, even if we didn’t see them coming, and dispatched us to the store."

Related posts:

A fake job reference can be just a few clicks away.

Fake Economist Fools Portugal.

Slave Redemption in Sudan. (Fake slaves are sold to those who buy slaves and then give them their freedom)

Can A Product Work Just Because It's Expensive?. (fake medicine)

If It Pays To Have Friends, Can You Pay To Have Friends?. (you can hire fake boyfriends)

Study: Half of American Doctors Give Patients Placebos Without Telling Them.

Saudis grapple with fake street sweepers .

Rent a White Guy: Confessions of a fake businessman from Beijing (by Mitch Moxley in The Atlantic Monthly)

Can adding a phantom third story to their homes help families find a wife for their son?

Why do employers pay extra money to people who study a bunch of subjects in college that they don’t actually need you to know? Signaling

Mexicans buy fake cellphones to hand over in muggings
Conspicuous Consumption, Conspicuous Virtue, Thorstein Veblen (and Adam Smith, too!)

How does a company selling used luxury goods spot fakes? (signalling and conspicuous consumption).

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