Zombie shopper! From Stay Free!, an experiment that may explain my bizarre experience with zombie people at the new Mall of America-area Ikea over Labor Day:
Several recently published studies conclude that supermarkets are geared to lull the average shopper into a trancelike state and that this glassy-eyed mesmerization makes the customer purchase more goods. This comes as no surprise to this writer, as these results parallel my findings of thirty years ago when I undertook several experiments in social psychology under the guise of adolescent pranksterism...


The experiment was simply designed: It would involve the surreptitious placement of various individual supermarket goods in the hand basket or cart of a targeted shopper (the "subject") by the experimenter, namely, this writer. I would then follow the subject to a position directly behind him or her in the checkout line and observe whether he or she completed the shopping transaction by purchasing the introduced foreign product (the "item").

....In approximately one year of trials, run on an average of twice a week, not one subject rejected the item, or even regarded it strangely; all items were purchased without question. It mattered not one iota whether it was an incredibly commonplace and ubiquitous item, such as a roll of Scott-brand bathroom tissue, or a more arcane item, such as a meat thermometer. Forty items or four, the compliance rate was an astounding 100 percent! Everyone bought what was put in the basket without even a second's hesitation.

Unfortunately, my teen foray into the social sciences was curtailed by a variety of factors, namely the overwhelmingly one-sided data collected, the distractions of an increasingly challenging high-school curriculum, and my awakening to the fact that I could have introduced a yelping schnauzer and her litter of suckling pups into a subject's cart without notice...

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