February 20, 2014

Okay, Sherlock, How'd You Do?

Yesterday I posted a problem to demonstrate the difficulty of understanding some purchasing behaviors.

Here was the problem:
I get The New York Times delivered to my home in the San Francisco Bay Area every morning. Yet when I'm on the road, I don't buy The Times on Mondays or Tuesdays. I do buy it, however, on Wednesdays through Sundays.

Pretend you're a marketing strategist, and see if you can come up with a logical explanation for this purchasing behavior.
Before the answer, an observation.

While most of our purchasing behavior is done for obvious reasons, we each have little quirks that are very difficult for a strategist to intuit or even discover.

For example, there are restaurants I go to not because I like the food, but because I like the bread or the bar. There are also restaurants I avoid whose food I like, but whose bathrooms stink. Likewise, there are a number of categories I participate in in which my behavior is due mainly to personal quirks. I am sure we each have some of these.

The point is, it is easy to fool ourselves into thinking that data has all the answers. There are always personal behaviors that are not easily explained by anything other than knowing the person.

Now to The New York Times mystery.

The answer is this. I get most of my news on line, not from the newspaper. I get the newspaper for basically three reasons: the sports section, the business section, and the crossword puzzle.

The Times has a terrible sports section so I don't read it for that. The business section is very good, but not compelling. The primary reason I get The Times is the crossword puzzle.

The Times crossword puzzle gets tougher as the week goes on. Monday and Tuesday are not challenging for me; Wednesday starts to be a challenge; Thursday is usually pretty difficult and contains a trick to it; Friday and Saturday are killers; Sunday is about as hard as Thursday, but it's big so it's fun.

So the explanation is, I don't buy The Times on Monday or Tuesday because the crossword is too easy. It's highly unlikely that this behavior is representative of anyone but me. Nonetheless, I think it demonstrates that synthesizing a correct explanation for a purchasing behavior - when not obvious - can be a tricky business.

Kudos, and a free beer, to Adam and DuBoisterous, who nailed it, and also to Vinny Warren and Charlotte, who made me laugh.


Amanda said...

This was FANTASTICALLY fun to read & mull over. Point well made, sir.

Jim said...

Is this blogger a draconian threat? (15)

Cecil B. DeMille said...

I don't always get the New York Times. But when I do, I get it for the crossword puzzles.

Jimi Bostock said...

So, yep, i agree that it was a bit of fun and I used my Facebook page to see if anyone could crack.

The point about difficulty is well made but I would love to hear more about what it all means for us on a daily basis

Vinny Warren said...

Monday and Tuesday not tough enough for you eh? My bigger problem is Will Shortz is so predictable over the long haul. The NYT crossword app is pretty good too. And you get to crow your times over Facebook. make your more easily impressed friends feel inferior. gold!

johndodds said...

If the crossword is your primary motivation, why don't you just buy those online and not bother with the paper? Is the cost set badly or do you prefer the paper edition of the puzzle experience?

bob hoffman said...

There's something about doing it on line that isn't quite as satisfying to me.


Crosswords are billable, yes?