Pavlov's Light Bulb

In a discussion about using small frequency changes in LED light bulbs to transmit data, someone mentioned that companies are already using this technology in supermarkets and other large stores to dynamically change prices on their products.

Which led me to a little though experiment: What if retailers could change the price of a product spontaneously for each shopper? What if they did away with even the pretense of fixed prices and rewarded certain kinds of shopping behaviour in order to guarantee allegiance to their store?

  • First-time shopper gets ridiculous discounts (maybe even a few freebies) as an enticement;
  • Long-time shoppers get small but consistent discounts on selected items;
  • One shopper is publicly penalised with higher prices – retailers (ab)use fear of scapegoating to keep shoppers in line;
  • Shoppers induced to say or do things they would not normally in order to qualify for perks.

I think there’s a cute but fundamentally plausible (and scary) short story in there….