We’ve known for some time that businesses are capable of tracking our spending habits and then targeting us in a way that gets us to buy. However, it’s no longer something that businesses do after the fact. Technology is advancing to a point that it is possible to track us in real time — and offer immediate incentives for spending more money.
One of the most basic examples is the latest move by some stores. After quickly analyzing what you have just bought, a coupon for something you buy regularly is printed out with your receipt so that you are more likely to bring repeat business to the store. This seems fairly benign, but other enterprising businesses are using more aggressive tactics.
The most pronounced example is the rewards program at Harrah’s casinos. You can sign up for the rewards program and get a slick card that you can swipe when you gamble at Harrah’s casinos to earn points. The computer analyzes your data in real time, combining it with data from past trips, figuring out your spending (read: losing) threshold. As you approach that threshold, an employee is nudged to bring you a free something to keep you in your seat. A drink is preferable, since the alcohol will encourage you to make poor decisions while feeling good, spending more money at the casino.
Another drink-related technology is a table from Microsoft (Stock Quote: MSFT) that alerts servers when you are running low. This technology measures the liquid in your class, prompting servers to offer you a refill when your drink is at the ideal level, when your glass is starting to look empty, but is not actually empty. That way, you keep the refills coming, running up your bill.
All of this means, of course, that you will have to be more on your guard when it comes to protecting your money. With technology making it easier for companies to track you in real time, it becomes important to keep your wits about you, and to pay attention to how fast you are spending money.