Thursday, May 04, 2006

The "Cootie" Effect

Does it gross you out to know that someone else has touched something? Apparently it's a problem for clothing retailers.

The Cootie Effect

EDMONTON, Canada -- You can call it "the cootie effect."

Researchers at the University of Alberta School of Business said they have found shoppers are much less likely to buy an article of clothing if they think another person has already touched it.

Not only were shoppers much less inclined to buy a shirt if they believed someone else had already touched it, they also indicated that the value of the product had been diminished if they knew it had been touched.

In addition, the researchers determined that "disgust" was the underlying reason for the participants' opinions, and that the level of disgust increased as the perception of the extent to which the article had been touched or tried on also increased.

Dr. Jennifer Argo headed the study, which is published in this month's Journal of Marketing.

She said people just don't "outgrow the simple notion of cooties, especially when we are reminded of them."

I remember when I was in, say, third or fourth grade, we girls would cross our fingers and pretend it was a "cootie spray" and we would "spray" the water fountains or chairs or anywhere that someone "gross" had been... thereby magically sanitizing the area.

I've never been terribly bothered by just knowing someone else has, say, sat on the public toilet seat ahead of me. If there's something, er, left behind on the seat or in the bowl, however, I'm a little less enthusiastic. I do carry Clorox wipes with me for such occasions. BLECH! No, what bothers me much more than surfaces? SMELLS. I cannot go into a restroom that smells. It just gags me. The Quebec team found out just how grossed I am by smells as we were traveling through rural Michigan and meeting more than our share of hog farms. Now that is one of the most hideous, retch-inducing smells EVER. I was glad I'd spent the time to wash my pillowcase before I went, because I spent a good deal of time with my face buried in it. I owe the BOUNCE fabric softener people a debt of gratitude.

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