Assignment 3


Ethnographic Research
Theme: Holiday Shopping

This week, we were asked to gather observations, experiences, and opinions around our theme. Suggested methods include interviews, observation, and first-hand experience.

To start with, I interviewed four people.
The first one (video below) Is an older woman, who no longer feels she has the energy to shop for everyone important to her, so she gives everyone cash instead, "and they seem to be much happier that way." When she did shop, she didn't really do the big sales normally, but the crowds (and most any other issues) didn't really bother her. She really loves giving, but it's harder when you know the people less well.

The second interviewee felt that while you see some sales, the prices on a lot of things are higher than normal, since you will feel you need to buy it anyway. She also felt that people get really crazy in their attempt to get the right stuff, so she avoids shopping this time of year as much as possible. She really likes giving, and said that shopping for birthday presents (when it's not the holiday season) is great. I asked if she used online shopping, or off peak times to avoid the craziness, and she said that online is ok if you know just what to get, but it's not very good for looking around, and that off peak (evenings) are less crowded, but that the people who are shopping at those times are worse to deal with than normal, because they are overtired. She does not like cash or gift cards as gifts, but does think that a home made gift is a great way to go.

The third interviewee is an employee at Target, and previously at Fleet Farm, so she has experienced Black Friday and holiday shopping in general from the other side. Her immediate answer to the question, "What do you think about holiday shopping, both working in retail, an as a customer," was, "It's shit." She echoed the response of the second interviewee about stores charging too much, and said that customers are extremely rude to each other, and to employees. She wishes Christmas was a bit less commercialized, so everyone could enjoy it more, with less stress. "I kinda just see [Black Friday] as 'everyone turns into vicious material hungry savages. I mean just look at how many people are injured because of stampeding into a store to get that oh so great deal'." She felt people are way to stressed about finding and paying for the "prefect gift", and so no one is really happy, and that unhappiness just feeds into itself.

My final interviewee used to work at Walmart. She said some items are at great prices, but she wouldn't go out on Black Friday, as everyone is crazy, and the deals are hard enough to get that it's not really worth it (unless you want a TV, or maybe a laptop). She doesn't like shopping during the holidays, but feels it is a necessary part of life - everyone hates it, but you also want to give people nice gifts.

Observing people doing holiday shopping was hard, as there really isn't that much holiday shopping compared to just shopping at this time of the year. I did observe normal shopping though. I noticed that as people walked into the store, some stopped and looked around for a moment before continuing. I also noticed that some people can get kinda weird about finding the best line for checkout, switching, hurrying to beat someone else, and just generally looking like any lines were unacceptable to them. Other than these two observations, I didn't notice anything particularly interesting or unexpected, but I made plenty of notes about normal behavior.

Experiencing holiday shopping was somewhat easier than observing; while I can't experience the crowds, I can put myself in the mindset of holiday shopping. I went out to buy a gift for one of my cousins. I don't know her very well, but I do know she loves to bake cupcakes, so I decided to give her a gift related to that.
I went to Walmart, where much Christmas shopping occurs. As I parked, I noticed how easy it was to find a spot, and remembered how often it's very difficult as Christmas draws near. As I entered the store, I realized I had no idea where the baking supplies were, and had to look for signs. The signs actually didn't help much, when I found them, and they were not near the entrance for some reason. I ended up wondering to a few parts of the store that seemed like they might be right: the isle with flour and such, the kitchen section, and then eventually the craft section, where the stuff actually was. Even once I was there, I noticed that I had no idea what to buy, because I really don't know anything about decorating cupcakes.
After about ten minutes carefully looking at everything, I gave up and just started grabbing random items. I went to checkout, but got distracted by isles that included items I needed for myself on my way, wasting a few minutes buying stuff I had not came for. When I got to the checkout, I used the self checkout. It worked well, though it errored out on my first attempt to pay, so I had to cancel the payment and try again. Finally, after I left, I realized that I didn't get a gift receipt, and really needed one for this gift.

Problem statements

Holiday customers need a way to avoid stress during holiday shopping because it is bad for them personally, and rubs off to each other, and to employees. I noticed that nearly everyone I talked to, and some I watched, were clearly frustrated and stressed by the whole experience of shopping for the holidays.

Customers who are not used to a store, or who are buying a gift they don't know anything about need a way to find and understand the right gift for their person because it can be very difficult to buy a good gift when you don't know anything about what you are buying, or even where the right section is This comes largely from my own first hand experience, but I also heard a bit of it in my interviews, and observed it (I think) in the people who paused a moment just inside the store.


I would first like to say this is very well done. The organization makes it very easy to follow. Someone who had no knowledge of what the assignment was could understand it from your entry. The pictures were a little on the large side but I think they worked well with the structure of the text. A few smaller ones during the large chunk of text may help visually.

You have a really good sense at making the blog visually appealing. Your text is broken up effectively, even when there's much of it. It's also good to see the variety in people you interviewed.

Interesting blog.
Here's something that I think might have improved your interviews (or will at least improve any future interviews) - when someone you are interviewing answers a question ask them why they did that, or feel that, or want that etc... I really liked that you included a video, but while watching it I kept thinking that I wanted to know WHY she really liked giving money instead of gifts. She talked about it a little bit, but it is much easier to get to the root of a problem if you ask why. And if you ask why multiple times. Maybe she liked giving money because it was easier. But it was easier because she is less mobile. And she's less mobile because she's older. So maybe there is a way you could create something that helps older people to be more mobile in stores so that they can continue to shop the way they always have.

Other than that, I think you did a nice job! Good luck brainstorming!

Hi Andrew:
Your post is very clear and also has a lot of supporting resources.You interviewed four people!! That’s great. Your video is in good quality as well, but it seems like a little bit short and rushing, if you could prepare more questions for her, I’m pretty sure she will have more information to offer you! The rest of the interviews look good and you did have a big diversity group of people. My topic is “holiday retail environment” I totally agree with you that there are not many people shopping for the holiday yet. It’s too early, and customers do not like to think about holiday shopping right now.
You divided your post to different sections, and that helps the readers a lot, maybe next time pay attention to the format, for example, you changed your paragraph under the section title with “Interview” and “problem statement”; however you didn’t do that for “observing” and “experience”. These are just details, and also maybe you want to shorten your problem statements a little bit, just so they will give you more specific directions for your next project!

Overall this was a well organized post.
Some comments:

Explicitly writing out the questions you asked in the post might have been helpful.

You might have found some additional insight for the observations online from those who have previously written and observed people during the holiday season. Perhaps looking up if a store was having a sale could have been another way to enhance the observation as well.

The second problem statement might be more affective if shortened.

There were a couple typos and missing punctuations, which is understandable to miss in a post as long as this. Just be sure you read through carefully before submitting. " distracted by isles that..." "...where the right section is This comes largely from..."

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This page contains a single entry by bens0468 published on November 11, 2013 9:45 AM.

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