Mark Dolliver’s Takes: Weight Loss, Etc.

The so-called sales help

If you’re going to make customer service the focus of an ad campaign, you’d better hope the company’s salespeople don’t undo your work. In a study by the Wharton School and the Verde Group that asked about people’s most recent shopping experience, 33 percent said they’d been unable to find a salesperson to help them. They’re luckier than the 25 percent who were “ignored” by salespeople—”no greeting, no smile, not even eye contact.” This was the shortcoming “most likely to be shared with others through word-of-mouth.” Shoppers under age 30 were especially critical of bad salespeople.

Automotive intentions

Time will tell, but Cerberus Capital Management might have made more profit buying a used-car lot than it will derive from owning Chrysler. It’d have a bigger potential customer base, anyway, to judge by Vertis Communications’ poll of adults who expect to buy a car in the next 12 months. As you can also gather from the chart below, SUVs may not be as popular as they were when gas prices were lower, but the category isn’t about to vanish. One other tidbit from the poll: People who expect to buy a truck are more likely to read automotive direct mail (55 percent said they do so) than those intending to buy a minivan (44 percent), SUV (43 percent) or car (34 percent).

the gas-price effect

When gas prices prod people to economize, it can be a boon for store brands and generics. The chart at lower left, using BIGresearch poll data, reflects this. It also found clothes purchases taking a hit, as 24 percent of respondents spend less on that category due to gas prices. People can cut back on their dining-out wardrobe, since 31 percent said they’re going to restaurants less.

home improvement’s downside

Here’s a sign the do-it-yourself market in home improvement has been booming: A study written up in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine says ladder-related injuries increased more than 50 percent between 1990 and 2005. Drawing on emergency-room data, the research found men the victims of 77 percent of these mishaps.

their loss is someone’s gain

Let’s talk about the upside of obesity. Sure, the epidemic levels of obesity impose all sorts of costs on society. But the phenomenon also provides gainful employment and profit for the nation’s weight-loss industry. A report by Marketdata Enterprises puts the size of the market at $55.4 billion last year, with a rise to $58.7 billion forecast for this year and to $68.7 billion in 2010. Bariatric surgeries alone constituted a $4.4 billion niche last year. On the less-severe end of the spectrum, consumers spent $19 billion last year on diet soft drinks. However, the report also said that 56 percent of the nation’s 72 million dieters prefer a regimen that’s based on non-dietetic foods (as well they might). Prescription diet drugs accounted for a relatively modest total of $459 million last year, according to the research firm’s report.

potentially fatal fatalism

Why don’t people adjust their behavior to reduce their risk of cancer? Often, it’s because they’re fatalistic about it. A study described in the journal Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention found 27 percent of adults endorsed the statement, “There’s not much people can do to lower their chances of getting cancer.” Forty-seven percent agreed that “It seems like almost everything causes cancer”; 72 percent agreed that “There are so many recommendations about preventing cancer, it’s hard to know which ones to follow.”