The Island of Ablai Pt 10
Pt. 9 Supply and Demand
Pt. 10 - The Role of the Buyer
We have been focusing on things from the consumers side of the coin (pun intended). Today we switched it up and looked at it from the customers. What are the choices that people make before they buy a product?
To do this, we went shopping. Kind of. Each student chose a product that they wanted to buy (it was really amazing how many selected some kind of electronic device, or gadget). We then brainstormed the most important factors to consider when buying that product (size, material, memory, price, etc). After we had our list of the four or five most important factors we put them into a table.
Next was the research phase. As a class we brainstormed a list of places where you could research prices online. It really surprised me how much they knew about online retailing. Amazon, Rakuten, YamadaDenkiWeb, Kakaku.com, Apple Store; these words are part of their vocabulary. Even though they have no money. Interesting to think what the world will be like when they are in charge.
One child also suggested ebay, or yahoo auctions. This led to an interesting discussion about the difference between an auction and a retailer. It also led to a rush of stories about people being ripped off, or tricked by online retailers. Some products are fake. One boy talked about how a friend of his mothers was trying to buy a bed, and found one that seemed really cheap. She bought it, send off the money, and within a week, it arrived. However, it was a model of a bed. Not a real bed. We questioned whether or not this was the buyers mistake, or the sellers trickery. It could have been either, as both exist in the world.
Next, they got out their iPads and started searching and filling out their tables. It took a while to get into a rhythm, as they were kind of excited to be doing something so grown up and adult. We also had difficulty (being an international school) with different products in different currencies and different languages. I asked them to stick to one currency and research only from that country. Most of the students stuck to Japan and searched in Japanese, but one of my american students (and a couple Japanese) looked only on American retailers.
As they were shopping, I asked them how they were feeling. I recorded these feelings and we spoke about them afterwards.
It was interesting to note how many of them said they would never buy something unless they could physically touch it. Tactile was important to them. I admitted that I used to think the same thing, but I have changed my opinion the more I have bought. I bought all the furniture in my old house without having touched it. Experience changes your mind.
The other interesting thing was the amount of choices was frustrating. Even on a site like Amazon, the amazing quantity of stuff is at times overwhelming.
Choices, choices, choices
Glancing over their list of choices and options, they had to make a choice. I asked them to pay close attention to the reasons they were deciding on one versus the other. Was it one feature of the product that made it comfortable for you? Was it only the price? Why did you choose this?
Once they had chosen, we wrote letters to explain our choices. The letters were addressed to somebody we knew, and we explained our rational for making the decisions we made. This was also a good way to review letter writing conventions.
To my Boss,
I am sorry I am disturbing you. I was thinking of buying a Laptop for my work. My last Laptop was slow at all the kinds of work and I think it is time for new one.
I was thinking it would be great for me to have a Apple MacBook Air. The price is 88,000¥. If the price was cheap, I thought it would be a low quality so, I chose the high price Laptop. The speed of this Laptop is 2.6 GHz. I thought it was fast and, it was the most fastest Laptop on my list. The size of this Laptop is 11 inches. It is a small size Laptop so, I can use it anywhere and carry it anywhere. Easy for travel. The memory is, 64 GB. Me myself I thought I don't need so much memory. And if the memory was full I can put it to google docs etc. All I need is something fast, small, and good quality. I think this is perfect.
I am sorry to disturb you.
I hope you agree to my terms.
Big Picture; what did I just do?
We then gathered as a group and brainstormed a web of interactions. Where did our money go? Imagine that we spent money on an iPhone 5 (why is this item such at it item to have? Advertising? Design? Quality? We don' know, but probably a little of all of them). We imagined all the different people who made or will make money because of one purchase. We built a web on the iPad collectively (I have it connected to the class TV so we can all see it).
The purpose here was for them to see the complexities of this web. It is not a linear process. The whole world of shopping, manufacturing and purchasing are all connected. I don't expect them to be able to map out all the complexities (economists struggle with this) but rather just to recognize that it is complex. I think they get that.
We thought about where we fit in this web. This is something I tried before but failed. It worked this time because they had experienced the process of buying.
Next, we can finally focus on our responsibility as consumers in this web.