Friday, September 11, 2009

Learning Consumer (Mis)behaviour

One thing that I've learnt during my MBA is that Marketing is an amazing ego-killer. You may be a student in a premier management college, with seven-figure salary prospects, but when you stand outside a store with a survey questionnaire in your hand, you're no more than a pest for people. You see the rude, harsh side of human behaviour, as lowly college students shoo you off with a dismissive wave of their hands, saying "Don't bug me, I have no time for you". You feel like telling them, even my chaddis are more expensive than all the clothes you have on your body, but you have to swallow your pride, and manage a smile. I got a stark reminder of this when I went to conduct a small survey a couple of days ago, at a posh apparel store in Pune. During the course of my survey, I got to observe several kinds of people. And their shockingly rude manners.
For some reason, all the shoppers seemed to rush out of the store as if a fire had broken out inside. If you tried to stop them midway to ask a couple of questions, they would impatiently ignore me and say, "jaao yaar...". There were the 40-plus uncles and aunties, who avoided me like a plague. I thought I was smartly dressed, but it seemed as if these people regarded me as some drug peddler trying to sell marijuana. Getting female respondents was an even more enlightening experience. Before the survey, I thought that a survey is a good pretext to talk to pretty girls. Then I found out the hitch: Girls rarely go alone for shopping. They are invariably accompanied by either their boyfriends or their husbands. The moment I get close enough to a girl to greet her, her guy suddenly springs forward, casting suspicious glances at me as if I am going to run away with his girl. I got no chance to redeem myself. Then there are some overenthusiastic college grads, who interrogated me with more questions than what I have on my questionnaire("Where is your college?","How much fees did you pay?","How can I get admission there?").
Finally, after five patient hours, I managed to get 20 respondents. But I got to learn more about how the world can be, if you aren't a recongnizable figure. As Dalton Russell from Inside Man says, "Respect is the ultimate currency."

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