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01/26/2009 What Groceries Can Teach the Web


This weekend, shopping at Price Chopper, I noticed something I hadn’t seen before. We’ve started using the reusable shopping bags partly because we’re tired of recycling our pile of plastic, and partly because it’s good for the environment. What I finally noticed on Saturday was that stores credited us money for doing this. They gave us money to change our behavior.

It’s not a lot of money. Three cents per bag. But they’re doing it. I wouldn’t have noticed if they didn’t do this. In fact, when they asked how many bags I brought, I thought they were about to charge me again!

My wife informed me that all the stores we shop at do this. That made me wonder two things:

  1. Why don’t the stores publicize this? They really put their money where their mouths are.
  2. How can more online business do this? What could they do, in a similar vein?


The first thing that pops to mind is e-billing. I just signed up for e-billing at AT&T. What I didn’t see was any reduction in what I’m paying. I have to assume that doing so saves AT&T money and time. While it’s convenient for me, it’s not that much more convenient. If AT&T and others want to change our behavior, I think they should share the savings with us. Same as the groceries, the incentive doesn’t have to be large, as long as it’s something.

Are other companies taking anything off of bills for e-billing or automatic payments? Should banks do the same for online banking? My bank charges me to online bank, so they make money coming and going.

How about other behaviors? If I’m an e-shop, can I incent people to create an account by giving them something back? Or something for putting their names on my e-mail list? When you start getting into these areas, it gets a little greyer.

But for an e-commerce store, I would want more behaviors like this. Few actually offer any type of major benefit to customers besides ease of use around forms. But haven’t browsers’ auto-fill functions taken most of the pain out of filling out forms?

A little could go a long way. For businesses, it shows that we’re in this together, and that everyone can benefit. My goal, after all, isn’t to drive another businesses bottom line. It’s to drive my own while trying to do the right thing.

Kudos to Price Chopper, Hannafords and others who do the right thing: rewarding us for changing our behavior.

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