Nudgin’ the Nannying up A Notch


T’other day I was standing in line at a local chain drug store. They have a brand new kind of blood pressure taker over on the side and, apparently, lots of people like to use those things. Never thought much about ‘em before but, now, they’re noo and “improved”.

They talk.

Yep — in a female voice pitched to carry to the far corners of the store, one is urged to ‘calculate one’s whole life score.’ or something. Apparently, the written instructions are no longer sufficient; while the thing is pumping up it talks “reassuringly” to the person whole dang store in the kind of condescending, fake-cheerful tone one’s maiden aunt used to use.

The whole minute while the cuff is squeezing the arm, the machine shouts “reassuring” phrases at five second intervals. Phrases like, “almost done,” “hold still, now” “hang in there” and “Good Job!!


These are adults using this machine. Mostly older adults as not many 20-somethings are even aware of what blood pressure is. And that’s how the makers of this machine think it is appropriate to talk to people.

Next up: your shopping cart.

“MyCart is a nonfinancial approach that would use behavioral economics to encourage healthier purchases by any consumer, including SNAP [food stamp] participants,”

Yeah — not just talking down to those who can’t manage to feed themselves, but to all of US.

The cart would be color-coded, physically divided, and have a system installed so that when the shopping cart reaches its healthy “threshold” it would congratulate the customer. …“You achieved a MyCart healthy shopping basket! Goody! Goody! for You!

Which assumes that people will be putting their items in the “correct” color-coded partition.

The panel based this approach on a $999,891 government-funded study [what happened to that last $109?] entitled “Nudging Nutrition,” arguing the research “suggests an intervention of this sort might be successful in modifying consumer shopping behavior.”

The panel concluded that it was “somewhat unlikely” that SNAP recipients would not be able to easily understand the new shopping carts. [what does that even mean?! words of one syllable or less? baby-talk?]

So instead of using financial approach of only allowing SNAP/OtherPeople’sMoney™ to be used for the stuff they’ve decided people should eat, they’re gonna bother US all with some patronizing, cutsey talking shopping cart.

And that ain’t all:

“Consumers could be guided to healthier choices through the use of visual displays and other signage, including ceiling banners, refrigerator and freezer door clings, and shelf talkers.”

And I get to pay for the privilege of being nagged by inanimate objects.

For instance, Safeway, Inc. would need to spend $40.05 million to introduce the carts at its 1,335 stores in the U.S. [roughly $30,000 for every store]

Yeah — that won’t be reflected in every price.

Now comes the Language of Our Betters:

“The principle of self-attribution suggests that when an individual perceives they have the ability to freely choose between options, they are more likely to be satisfied with the choice they make,” the report said. “Using this principle, positioning healthier items for increased salience can support consumers choosing healthier options.”

That’s how they talk to one another.

Optimistic Exit »

The good news is that the next time I was in the same store, I noticed the voice had been turned off.

Guess there were complaints…


  1. Fawkes News (Blacklisted and Loving It)
    Posted July 18, 2014 at 9:46 am |

    These people really get off micromanaging our lives, don’t they?

  2. Caged Insanity
    Posted July 18, 2014 at 10:01 am |

    Fawkes: Ever since I was young I loathed and hated being micromanaged in any form. It is repulsive, vile, and simply evil.

    Today’s world is driving me over the edge.

  3. Paul Moore
    Posted July 18, 2014 at 10:25 am |

    Cart: “Do you think that your choice of Nacho Cheese chips and Four O’clock Gin is really wise?”
    Shopper: “I have an electric grinder, and I’m not afraid to use it.”

  4. jlw
    Posted July 18, 2014 at 10:37 am |

    why weren’t you one of the complainers?

    i’m not trying to be rude. i’m curious. i complain about things like this. i frequently find that the employees don’t like it either. sometimes i get results. sometimes i don’t . sometimes i never return to the store. sometimes i do.

    sometimes i am told “we’ve never had a complaint before.” there has to be a first in order that there be a second.

    i have had employees give me phone numbers to call, websites to complaint at, even specific ways to phrase a complaint (“don’t use my name, but…”).

  5. staghounds
    Posted July 18, 2014 at 10:39 am |

    Not enough. There shouldn’t be ANY choice in how to spend the money earned by others.

    Welfare deadbeats should be fed sufficiently nutritious and unpleasant meals in single sex, age segregated, lockedthe barracks where they live.

  6. Nomen Nescio
    Posted July 18, 2014 at 10:47 am |


    Cart: “Do you think that your choice of Nacho Cheese chips and Four O’clock Gin is really wise?”
    Shopper: “I have an electric grinder, and I’m not afraid to use it Do you think talking like that to somebody buying gin at 9 AM is really wise?”

  7. Claire: rebellious pink pig with car keys - and a *cause*
    Posted July 18, 2014 at 10:54 am |

    Staghounds @5 — ya mean Nutriloaf?

    2 oz Cooked Ground Beef

    4 oz Canned, Chopped Spinach

    4 oz Canned Carrots, Diced

    4 oz Vegetarian Beans

    4 oz Applesauce

    1 oz Tomato Paste

    1/2 cup Potato Flakes

    1 cup Bread Crumbs

    2 oz Dry Milk Powder

    Preparation: mash the f#ck outta everything and slap it into a loaf pan. Cook until non-toxic.

  8. geezerette
    Posted July 18, 2014 at 11:33 am |

    I was just discussing this with the Mr.. The control starts with the government issued free food ——–and government paid for health care————-I give it about 10 years and anyone with Obama care will have to go through the same thing.. If you don’t you won’t get health care—– all of your purchases are on a computer now———–so what ever store you shop in has that info to know what to stock. How hard would it be for “them” to know how healthy you eat??? Can you imagine the price of food when we have to not only pay for the shipping with the gas prices as they are and now talking carts and someone to follow us around and tell us what to buy? Kill your own and grow your own. Gee when did we do that to survive?

  9. DougM (paleface™)
    Posted July 18, 2014 at 11:59 am |

    It’s okay:
    They will never be used to upload your personal behavior to a gov’t database, update your centralized medical records, or automatically adjust your Obamacare subsidy;
    They will never be used to push a corporate political donor’s product;
    They will be updated weekly for the latest, greatest good/bad fad; and
    Hey, don’t cost nuthin’.

    Okay, now show me where the US Constitution permits Congress to allocate one. measly. dollar. for this.

  10. DougM (paleface™)
    Posted July 18, 2014 at 12:26 pm |

    Then again,
    what’s wrong with trying to maintain a trendy healthy lifestyle?

  11. dick, not quite dead white guy
    Posted July 18, 2014 at 1:27 pm |

    what happened to that last $109?]
    The grantee can proudly claim they came in under budget (actual study costs were $461.73, not including traveling all over the country, staying in nice hotels, a few dozen new high end laptops, meals in four and five star restaurants, $900,000 in salaries for the three studiers, and four visits to grocery stores in the past year.
    That’s so the Government drone who gave the grant will give the grantees another mil next year to put up Moochelle posters around the country advertising the plan and supplying four test shopping carts in those four grocery stores.

  12. Colonel Jerry USMC
    Posted July 18, 2014 at 2:05 pm |

    Vegetarian beans? What kind ain`t? (…Rocky Mt. Oysters don`t count======)

  13. ZZMike
    Posted July 18, 2014 at 3:05 pm |

    Musta been CVS. I saw one of those new-fangled machines near the pharmacy. I actually saw someone using it – right next to the line of people waiting for drugs. Every once in a while, the person using it would look around apprehensively to see if anyone was “shoulder surfing”.

    I heard about the “market advisors”, but hadn’t found anything on the web. They already use “behavioral science”, by laying out the store so that in order to get from WhatYouWant A t WhatYouWant B, you have go go past the cookies and the laundry soap.

    There’s one big problem with the MyCart (and why the heck does everything nowadays have to be called “MySomething”?), and that is that a fair percentage of shopping carts end up down the block, sometimes over the hill and far away, ending up abandoned on street corners and city parks.

    That would be fairly easy to address, with a voice that would detect when the cart left the premises and announce – in Spanish – that this was not a Good Thing.

    But wouldn’t it be easier to only allow the Good Stuff on the shelves?

    New slogan: “”Keep the government out of my shopping cart! !”

    staghounds n (#5): Back in the 1800s, I think it was Charles Babbage (one of the more brilliant Victorian scientist/engineers), came up with an idea to help feed London’s poor (of which there were many). He came up with a more or less nutritious stew or soup, which could be made economically.

    In the London of those days, there were no food stamps.

  14. geezerette
    Posted July 18, 2014 at 7:50 pm |

    Announce in Spanish—-:)) first thing I said the carts will have to be ably to choose English or Spanish.

  15. Posted July 18, 2014 at 8:02 pm |

    The principle of self-attribution suggests that when an individual perceives they have the ability to freely choose between options, they are more likely to be satisfied with the choice they make,” the report said. “Using this principle, positioning healthier items for increased salience can support consumers choosing healthier options.”

    So in other words, they’ll tell you what to ‘choose’ and that will make you happier because you’re ‘choosing’.

    Except for the cost, I’d be in favor.
    I’d go to the supermarket at least once a day and load a cart up with crap just to hear it berate me and then walk out leaving a full cart.

  16. mech
    Posted July 18, 2014 at 8:42 pm |

    How long before the homeless are watching Netflix on these things? They could get instructions to hack the cart on their smartphone Yootoob.

  17. PeggyU
    Posted July 18, 2014 at 8:43 pm |

    Veeshir – I like that. :)

  18. Lord of the Fleas
    Posted July 18, 2014 at 9:06 pm |

    I’d recommend that the sociopaths who come up with these ideas read With Folded Hands (Jack Williamson, 1947). Great short story.

    But then, they wouldn’t have a clue what the moral of the story could possibly be.

  19. rickn8or
    Posted July 18, 2014 at 9:22 pm |

    This “nannying” you mention is starting to resemble something I’ve come to refer to as “nagging.”

    (And not the good HeadMissy Bossy kind.)

  20. Mike(AZ)
    Posted July 19, 2014 at 5:13 am |

    I work in the trenches for a major grocery retailer. Since the article used Safeway as an example let’s just stick with that. $40 million for new carts? Anybody care to ask how much money they spend to replace the carts that are stolen and “recycled” for drug cash? Or Kroger? Or Wal-Mart?

    Even the mostly plastic carts have metal frames that are worth more to someone than their value as grocery carts.

    I’d rather they spend $40 million on pay raises and health plans.

    As for Mooshell, does she even know which end of the cart to push?

  21. ZZMike
    Posted July 19, 2014 at 8:08 pm |

    Lord of the Fleas : “Folded Hands” is online.

    About 5 minutes before I got here, I saw this on Drudge:

    Human or robot? Hit Swedish TV series explores shrinking divide

    “Real Humans”, by screenwriter-actor Lars Lundstroem, stars humanoids called “hubots”, a word mixing humans and robots. They are merchandise, bought and sold, run on electricity, but can think, make choices, have sex with humans, even fight for their own freedom and rights.

    The trouble with science fiction is that eventually it’s less fiction and more science.

  22. ZZMike
    Posted July 19, 2014 at 9:34 pm |

    “… “MyCart is a nonfinancial approach …” Really? Is the government going to pay for them? Then it comes out of tax money, and we suffer.

    Is the store going to pay for them? Then they’ll have to raise prices, and we suffer.