A Thought for Online Food

style="float: right; margin-bottom: 10px; font-weight: 600;"Sat 15th Sep, 2012

A recent study by Dr. Ryan McDevitt, from the University of Rochester, USA, found that when people order food online, they tend to pig out more than when they buy it in person or on the phone. They often go for the more high-calorie options even when buying from a place they have used before in person. That's because they don't feel embarrassed when they supersize, or double and triple the most fattening choices available.

Dr. McDevitt examined over 160,000 orders made over a four-year time period at a pizza chain in the USA before and after the company implemented a web-based ordering system. While ordering online, the same customers made different choices: they bought fewer items, but tripled their bacon and added more toppings. But Dr. McDevitt doesn't attribute the phenomenon to loss of social inhibitions. People make different choices when they believe others are aware of them, according to the study. Online transactions remove the human interaction from the process, allowing consumers to buy items they would otherwise be too embarassed to ask for on the phone or at the counter. "People are embarrassed to order obscure and outrageous things when they do it in person" Dr. McDevitt says. "It makes you look like you are out of control - ordering outrageous things." But no one can give you a dirty look on the web.

When they no longer worry about their self-image, customers can get carried away. The same applies to many other Internet purchases, the study notes. Dr. McDevitt refers to it as "the online disinhibition effect." When buying on a website, consumers are willing to order products they otherwise would not. "You won't believe what people are ordering," Dr. McDevitt says. "People order different types of movies when they get them from Netflix and different types of books when they get them on Amazon." To conduct the study, Dr. McDevitt gathered data on the orders made between July 2007 and December 2011, with unique identifiers anonymously assigned to the customers. The study also pointed out that the store stands to gain from the anonymity gained by their clientele. As for the customers, they should pay more attention to their online eating habits, Dr. McDevitt says. With more and more people thumbing in lunches and dinners on their smartphones, they have to beware what they are clicking on. Anonymously or not, they will eat it later.

For more information, go to: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/07/23/157239715/ordering-food-online-thatll-be-more-calories-cost-and-complexity

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