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BudNet Tracks Your Suds 712

Posted by michael
from the beer-run dept.
An anonymous reader writes "CNN is carrying a story about Budweiser's national internal sales tracking network called BudNET. It allows Anheuser-Busch to instantly track sales across the country, and 'If Anheuser-Busch loses shelf space in a store in Clarksville, Tennessee, they know it right away.' It brings up some interesting privacy issues, because according to the article 'The last time you bought a six-pack of Bud Light at the Piggly Wiggly, Anheuser servers most likely recorded what you paid, when that beer was brewed, whether you purchased it warm or chilled, and whether you could have gotten a better deal down the street.' Frankly, I don't want Budweiser knowing when I choose to buy their beer versus another brands."
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BudNet Tracks Your Suds

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  • by MoxCamel (20484) * on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:11PM (#8387673)
    ...if you're drinking Budweiser, you've got bigger problems.
    • by leifm (641850) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:15PM (#8387757)
      For real. And who cares the they data mine anyway, it's not like they're tracking any one individual's purchases.
      • by infochuck (468115) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:53PM (#8388413)
        For real. And who cares the they data mine anyway, it's not like they're tracking any one individual's purchases.

        Don't want 'em to know who you are? Pay in cash.
        • by leifm (641850) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @02:21PM (#8389560)
          That brings up something I've oft wondered about the more privacy paranoid in the /. crowd. I bet most of us here heavily use debit cards, I know I do, and my bank is sitting on a moutain of data that they could probably make a killing selling to virtually any commercial venture. Are bank privacy policies really solid, is there a federal bank privacy law? I don't hear anyone's paranoid ranting being directed at banks.

          Then you have grocer savings cards, I do hear a bit of complaining about those, but nothing near say RFID. Those are personally identifiable as far as I can tell.
      • by CausticPuppy (82139) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @01:21PM (#8388800) Homepage
        Last Saturday, I purchased a 6-pack of Guinness (in bottles) from the Kroger in Clarkston, GA. No, I do not live near there.

        I paid approximatly $7.50.

        My intent in purchasing the beer was, in addition to enjoying its smooth robust flavor, performing a demonstration to amazed friends on how to remove the magic "rocket widget" from an empty Guinness bottle (without breaking the bottle of course).

        There, I said it. Now the entire world knows what beer I purchased, when, where, and why.
        What is the WORST thing that can possibly happen to me by making this public?

        • by drunk_as_in_beer (661124) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @01:50PM (#8389188)
          There, I said it. Now the entire world knows what beer I purchased, when, where, and why. What is the WORST thing that can possibly happen to me by making this public?

          "This is your boss. According to your timesheet, you reported that you worked all day and night on Saturday. Yet here I find out that you were drinking on the job. Those rocket widgets track when you finish drinking the bottles too, you know, so don't try to say you drank them on Sunday; they also provide a saliva analysis indicating who drank them. You know we have a strict policy on being sober on the job. Don't bother to come in tommorrow, we will ship your personal items to you. Good luck finding another job, you fucking drunk!" :)
        • by whorfin (686885) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @10:54PM (#8394240)
          The whole world doesn't know. Just a bunch of nerds, and who cares about us?
    • by Megor1 (621918) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:19PM (#8387829) Homepage
      Hey I don't think they should be able to track something some critical as water purchases.
      • by lcsjk (143581) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @01:37PM (#8389002)
        The local public utility has been tracking my water usage for years -- and they make me pay them to do it!! Worse than that, the long distance phone company not only tracks my phone calls, but they even track who I call and how long I am on the phone. My grocery store tries to track my grocery buying, but nobody lives at that address. However, Walmart does not have those stupid "shopper cards", so I shop there. Heck, I even think /. even keeps a record of when I respond and what I respond to.
        You can't hide!
    • Re:Quite frankly... (Score:4, Informative)

      by ackthpt (218170) * on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:21PM (#8387867) Homepage Journal
      I had a few pints of ale last night (Mardi Gras, ya know :o) and have no worries about privacy issues with regard to Spudweiser. For one, I don't drink their 'beer' as it tastes like water compared to my usual tipple.

      I can understand their interest in better tracking of inventory, but it done be amazing the lengths they go for profit other than to improve their brands. I'm sure they, like Miller and others, picked up a few microbreweries during the boom in the 90's, but if they watered them down like their own flagship brand then it's a self-defeating measure. (Budweiser shorts on expensive malted barley, using 40% rice)

      I've known enough people who work in stores (or have worked for distributors) and the pressure for sales space (particularly at the expense of competitors) usually is waged with inducements, like clocks, TV's, trips to the Super Bowl, etc.

      After all the advertising, all the tactics, all the analysis, it's still like Eric Idle said. It's worth pointing out to Bud fans, who stand by their 'beer' like it's Mom, Apple Pie and the Flag, that this company didn't become hugely profitable by following the Reinheitsgebot.

    • by Hrothgar The Great (36761) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:25PM (#8387946) Journal
      Why the very thought of anyone drinking such a low class beverage has CAUSED MY MONOCLE TO POP RIGHT OUT! And really, who drinks beer in this day and age anyway? Everyone should drink only expensive wine and scotch.

      Why just the other day my chauffer took a wrong turn off of the freeway and pulled me past this run down little liquor store where this shabby looking man (who by the way was driving a Pontiac! A PONTIAC!!!) who hadn't shaved for a couple of days was walking out with a bottle of Johnny Walker Red. RED LABEL?! I exclaimed, exhaling a puff of cigar smoke and tipping my top hat back in a bemused manner. WHO ARE THESE CRETINS? I practically had my driver phone the police right then and there.
      • by Suicyco (88284) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:32PM (#8388079) Homepage
        I drink beer, I love beer. I love beer so much that I cannot drink bud, because I like to drink BEER.

        Thats not snotty IMO, Bud is just crappy "beer". I suppose its a cheap alcohol delivery mechanism, but beer its not.
        • Re:Wow you're right! (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Hrothgar The Great (36761) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:38PM (#8388180) Journal
          Wrong. I love beer as well, and I find nothing really wrong at all with the taste of cheap beer. I love a wide range of tastes of beer, and cheap commercial beer has a distinct taste, especially among different brands, and they are among many others I enjoy. I like microbrews as well, but I also like the taste of Pabst Blue Ribbon and Old Style because they do not taste like other beers I drink and I am often in the mood for them.

          I do think it's snotty to crap on them because they're big and commercial, and I think you're all a bunch of god damn yuppies and beer snobs. No offense.
          • by stevesliva (648202) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:55PM (#8388438) Journal
            Better to crap on the beer than the people drinking it. That's what's snotty. I think Bud is crap, but I won't assume you're trash just for drinking it. Or endorsing it and winning the Daytona 500... (Likewise, disliking NASCAR is just fine, but implying everyone who likes it is dumb-as-nails is snotty)
            • by gosand (234100) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @03:25PM (#8390285)
              (Likewise, disliking NASCAR is just fine, but implying everyone who likes it is dumb-as-nails is snotty)

              Amen. But try telling that to the people who get pissed off when I wear my "NASCAR is stupid" T-shirt. After a couple of minutes of staring at it they figure out what it says, spit tobaccey on me, and tell their sister/wife to go git their shotgun out of the camper. Then they say "You think yur bettern me, just cause you have a shirt on." I try to explain that I just don't like NASCAR (when they tilt their head like a dog, I rephrase it as NAASCOR and it registers) and it doesn't reflect in any way on how I feel about him personally. Then they think I am some kind of faggot for having personal feelings towards him, and I have to quickly leave in my "furrin" car before the little lady gets back with the shotgun.

          • by IWorkForMorons (679120) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @01:08PM (#8388628) Journal
            Obviously, you have never taken a Pacific Challenge. Pacific Real Draft, as far as I can tell, use to be made by the Brick Brewery [brickbeer.com]. But they don't show it on they're site, so this is about my only proof [50megs.com].

            This was a contest in my college bar. It was thought up by the bartenders to get rid of the 2 year old Pacific they had in their fridge. It was so crappy that they only bought two cases of it, and they still had about 40 by the time this started. Basically, we'd play pool, and the loser had to chug a bottle of this crap. I myself drank about a dozen of those things. I swear, it was like giving Old Jenny Rottencrotch a full tongue bath. They gave away the beer for free, since they'd make it back in the shots of SoCo I'd buy to get rid of the taste. The only upside was that my pool game improved dramatically...
          • Re:Wow you're right! (Score:4, Interesting)

            by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @03:23PM (#8390270) Homepage Journal
            The problem with budweiser isn't the fact that it's associated with rednecks. The problem with it (and with all other big name beers) is that it's brewed in giant vats and usually contains well over 50% adjuncts as opposed to barley; corn, rice, wheat, etc. All the big american beers are pilsners because pilsner is easy to brew and responds relatively well to the inclusion of adjuncts, which is what made it the de facto standard of bootleg beer during prohibition. After prohibition was repealed people just kept making pilsners, because americans were used to drinking them, and everyone who made real beer (apologies to the real pilsners out there) had gone out of business.

            Microbrewing has brought about an American beer renaissance in which other styles of beer are being made again and sold at tolerably reasonable prices, though it still costs three or four times as much to drink good beer as crappy beer.

        • by oneiros27 (46144) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:45PM (#8388295) Homepage
          For that matter, most of the folks in the military. You see, the simple fact is, alcohol is expensive. And the great thing about alcohol is, the more you drink of it, the less you care about it.

          So, typically, you get a case or two of the stuff you like to drink, and a case or two of something cheap. [exact numbers vary by the number of people involved, their prefered drinking habits, and at what point in the night they become incoherent]

          As people get more loaded, you give 'em the crappy stuff. They don't really care. This enables you to get some good stuff, and some crap, rather than settling on the mediocre middle ground for everything.
        • by curtisk (191737) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:52PM (#8388393) Homepage Journal
          Thats not snotty IMO, Bud is just crappy "beer". I suppose its a cheap alcohol delivery mechanism, but beer its not.

          I drink beer and used to work at a beverage distributor and one of the jokes at the place was the "bud-fart" effect, so your analogy of it being crappy beer is more literal than you may realize.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @01:01PM (#8388532)
          At the International Brewer's symposium, A round table discussion was started with introductions. The AB CEO identified himself, then ordered a Bud. Lkewise the CEO of Miller, who ordered one of his own. This went on until the CEO of the Guinness brewery introduced himself and ordered a diet Coke. Stunned the other CEO's exclaimed as one, "why did you order a soft drink?", to which the peatbogger replied, "since no one else ordered beer, I didn't either".
    • Re:Quite frankly... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DHR (68430)
      I'd tend to agree, surely people don't prefer Bud by the taste, maybe they're just afraid to try something different? One of my favorite pub's (Jacks Bar, SF) has 80+ beers on tap, and if you ask the bartenders what the most popular beer is, guess what they'll say? Bud.
  • by Clemence (16887) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:11PM (#8387676)
    . . . about admitting you drink Bud.
  • Easy solution! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:11PM (#8387680)
    Don't buy Bud. It's industrial swill anyway.

    Drink a good locally produced microbrew instead.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:11PM (#8387683)
    People (men, in particular) will actually enter a store called Piggy-Wiggly when not accompanied by an infant?
    • Re:Piggly-Wiggly? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by stevesliva (648202) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:22PM (#8387895) Journal
      Incidentally, Piggly-Wiggly was the first grocer to come up with the astounding idea of self-service grocery stores, rather than letting the clerk collect and package your purchases. Clarence Saunders even patented the idea.

      Piggly-Wiggly's success led to a number of copycat chains, quite a few of which decided to also copy the astoundingly dumb naming convention in addition to the whole self-serve thing.

    • Re:Piggly-Wiggly? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by arnie_apesacrappin (200185) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:26PM (#8387981)
      It's a southern thing. There were at one time Piggly-Wiggly knock-offs called Hoggly-Woggly. It's the same store as Kroger, Publix, Winn-Dixie or Meijer (but without clothes and other-non food goods). It just has a goofy name.
  • Just pay with cash (Score:5, Insightful)

    by javatips (66293) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:11PM (#8387689) Homepage
    Frankly, I don't want Budweiser knowing when I choose to buy their beer versus another brands.

    Just pay with cash and they'll never know it was you!
    • by frovingslosh (582462) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:23PM (#8387917)
      Just pay with cash and they'll never know it was you!

      Unfortunately, at a growing number of stores, including every single grocery store in my area, thay want you to carry and use a card that identifies you to the system even if you do pay cash. Of course, you can not cary a card, but then you don't get any of the sale prices, and more and more items seem to be "on sale". Of course, the sale prices are still higher than the items were before the cards, and higher than the items are in areas where they don't have the cards. So yes, you can pay cash, but be prepaired to pay a few bucks extra if you want to retain your privacy.

      • Well, there's a few things you can do:

        1. Use somebody else's card. When you get one of those cards, they give you a couple copies. Friends will often just give them to you.
        2. Get one online. Seriously. I don't have the time to find a link, but there was that guy campaigning to make himself the #1 consumer of some grocery chain by giving away stickers with his barcode on them.

        Personally, I hate the things too (it's just such an obvious excuse to raise prices and track purchases), but don't have too mu
        • by ejaw5 (570071)
          http://www.cockeyed.com/pranks/safeway/ultimate_sh opper.html

          That's the guy you were probalby talking about. "Together we might amass a profile of the single greatest shopper in the history of mankind."
        • by El (94934) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @01:23PM (#8388831)
          but don't have too much problem when the local store thinks it's my girlfriend who's loading up on beer. I'd be a little concerned about other men hitting on your girlfriend when they see her going through the checkout line with 10 cases of beer. "Hey there sweetheart, let me help you with that!" If she's also buying a pizza, that's some guys' picture of "the perfect woman"!
      • Isn't this what privacy concerned people have been saying for ages?

        "If you are going to profit of my information at least share some of the fruits with me"
      • by switcha (551514) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:37PM (#8388157)
        thay want you to carry and use a card that identifies you to the system even if you do pay cash. Of course, you can not cary a card,

        Or just download, print and apply the the Ultimate Shopper's [cockeyed.com] number and get your sale prices whilst still donning your tin foil apparel.

      • by Simonetta (207550) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @01:00PM (#8388515)
        Yes, the Albertson's chain went to a customer ID card about eight months ago. I suspected at the time that it was a way to raise the general level of prices on all the items without pissing off all their customers at the same time.
        This is more-or-less what has happened. If you use a card (the cashier scans the barcode on the plastic card) then you get the sale items at about 20% less than the standard price. But at normal price, almost every item in the store is 20% higher than the other stores in the area.
        In my neighborhood there are seven major grocery stores within a mile radius of my apartment, so I can take advantage of weekly sales.

        That is, if I can find out about these weekly sales. I want to be able to go to a website and find out what each store is having on sale this week, and, what the normal non-sale cost is for each item for each store.

        The stores treat this information like it was top-secret military data. They threaten anyone who records prices for comparison with arrest. There are signs all over the stores: "No cameras", "no notebooks".
        Such contempt for the general public makes me very uncomfortable whenever I go into grocery stores nowdays. I've reduced my shopping at Safeway by about 95% and at Albertson's by at least 60% in the past year. The checkers are amiable but extremely slow. The management is scientifically selected to be crypto-fascist pinhead morons and the whole experience of 'doing' these stores is unpleasent. And I'm just a normal shopper: not a shoplifter or scammer.

        The worst grocery store in the country has got to be Safeway. They constantly do bait-and-switch with items that are advertised at reduced price only to have you pay extra at checkout because the fine print shows that the item was not the sale item. Like for example, big signs saying that "Flavor Fresh" brand frozen peas are 79 cents for a pound. So you grab a pack only to be charged $1.29 at the register. Turns out that the peas you grabbed were "FlavorPac" brand which looks like exactly the same package AND was placed directly under the sign saying "Flavor Fresh" peas were on sale.

        This happened to me so many times at Safeway that I call it the 'Safeway Shuffle' at the checkout; where they send someone back to check the price when you complain that you were overcharged. I was at the point where I was bringing a caliper to measure the width of the barcode line and comparing it to the barcode on the sale announcement, when I realized that there was a simpler and more elegant solution. Just get the fuck out of Safeway and don't go back!
        I'm still amazed that they're still in business. But many places in California, they're the only store for miles around.

        So, yes, I'm pissed that companies are collecting all this information about customers without allowing the customers to use it for their benefit. The internet really has changed everything: people really do expect a mutually benefitial relationship from all this information gathering.

        This is the point that the business and management people just don't seem to understand. In the coming years, companies that share information with their customers will prosper and those that hoard and hide information will not.
    • by mblase (200735) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:26PM (#8387968)
      Even if you pay with a credit card, BudNet isn't concerned about you personally. Their system tracks beer purchases by location, and cross-references it to demographics known to live there.

      So they don't care if John Q. Slashdotter is buying Bud or Bud Light, individually speaking. They only care if blue-collar Caucasians or white-collar African-Americans or gay males or straight females or college undergrads or senior citizens are buying it, and where, and for what price. That information is all their marketing department needs to know to tailor their ads.
    • by AKAImBatman (238306) <akaimbatman@gmai ... m minus language> on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:33PM (#8388094) Homepage Journal
      This whole idea of anonymity is getting out of hand. Guess what? Anonymity never existed and has never been protected by any government. The idea of being anonymous came out of people getting lost in the industrial culture. Before the industrial age, you tended to have few choices on who to buy from, and the store owner knew you and what you bought. He didn't carry anything that you didn't want people to know you bought, because it would soon be getting around if you did buy it. Now we're using computers to pull that all back together, but mostly for the old advantages of knowing how to serve the customer better. Budweiser is not really interested in gossiping with others that you bought a keg, so what's the big deal already?

      I know people like the idea of having a protective shroud of mystery surrounding them. I hate to break it to you, but it's just a false sense of security. If you do something worth noticing, you *will* get noticed.

  • by connorbd (151811) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:12PM (#8387690) Homepage
    Anheuser-Busch: the Wal-Mart of beer. They can't stand the competition either...
  • i think this (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 2MuchC0ffeeMan (201987) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:12PM (#8387705) Homepage
    I think this is a little more paranoia than we need.

    If you bought directly from budweiser, they would know what you paid for, if it was cold, etc. So pipe down.

    They can't really single out a person, or name a customer, there's no privacy issues here, at all. Just a company doing inventory control, to an extreme.
    • by Embedded Geek (532893) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:22PM (#8387901) Homepage
      I think this is a little more paranoia than we need.

      But drinking Bud always makes me that way.

    • Re:i think this (Score:5, Insightful)

      by PeelBoy (34769) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:23PM (#8387916) Homepage
      Exactly..
      "Frankly, I don't want Budweiser knowing when I choose to buy their beer versus another brands."
      And how would they know when you purchased other brands?
      • by lambadomy (160559) <lambadomy&diediedie,com> on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:48PM (#8388335)
        Nanotechnology! Each case of Budweiser has hundreds of little drones in them that move to the other beers in the fridge and monitor them, reporting back to the "mothercase".

        In the future, once Coors and Michelobe and whoever have this technology, you'll see an endless nano-war in every cooler as the beers armies try to invade and repel each other.

    • Re:i think this (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Eagle5596 (575899) <slashUserNO@SPAM5596.org> on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:31PM (#8388063)
      I personally agree, the end comment on the story:

      Frankly, I don't want Budweiser knowing when I choose to buy their beer versus another brands.

      Is just classic slashdot overreaction. I swear, if there were an article talking about medical records, some slashdotter, or even an editor more likely, would post the comment "Frankly, I don't want my doctor to know my current medical conditions."

      It's ridiculous people. Yes, privacy is important, but only in certain areas. Budwiser has just got an extremely good system for controlling where they send products, what they sell them for, and which companies are competing with them, and how well the competition is going.

      It's not like Bud is handing over your drinking habits to the US gov't, and the US gov't upon seeing a southerner switch to a light beer declaring "ARGH! He must be a terrorist! I bet he stopped watching NASCAR too!"

      Bud is just managing their stock, and trying to determine how the market truly feels about their product, and the prices they charge. It's all about managing their stock of beer, and where they will advertise.

      Please, leave your tin foil hats at home before you post.
  • by Tackhead (54550) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:13PM (#8387713)
    > Frankly, I don't want Budweiser knowing when I choose to buy their beer versus another brands."

    ... has Budweiser sold beer?

  • by JoshuaDFranklin (147726) <joshuadfranklin.NOSPAMNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:13PM (#8387721) Homepage
    I didn't know about that, I'll have to try it sometime. All I knew about is their piss-colored-water stuff.
  • by DdJ (10790) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:13PM (#8387729) Homepage Journal
    ...that I never, ever buy their beer. Bletch. It's darks and stouts for me, none of this "making love in a canoe" crap.
  • by kasper37 (90457) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:14PM (#8387733) Homepage
    They aren't tracking YOU, they are tracking the beer. Unless I'm missing something, they have no way of connecting any one person with any one beer.
    • by IGnatius T Foobar (4328) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:38PM (#8388171) Homepage Journal
      They aren't tracking YOU, they are tracking the beer. Unless I'm missing something, they have no way of connecting any one person with any one beer.

      Ah, but just wait 'till they brew RFID tags directly into the beer! Then they'll not only connect you with the beer, but with every beer you've ever consumed! And they'll know about everything else you do, buy, consume, etc. because those RFID tags will bury their way into your stomach lining and scream "LOOK AT ME, I AM A NUMBER!" forevermore.

      (It's funny. Laugh. Or be paranoid and don't ... who knows?)
    • by SuperBanana (662181) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:44PM (#8388270)
      break out the tin foil hats

      But to make the hat, I have to buy the cans! Classic chicken/egg problem. Arrgg!

  • by after (669640) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:14PM (#8387737) Journal
    Urine tastes like American beer.
  • by e.m.rainey (91553) <erik@rainey. n a me> on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:14PM (#8387744) Homepage
    Frankly, I don't want Budweiser knowing when I choose to buy their beer versus another brands.

    Then, don't buy bud!
  • by elflet (570757) * <elflet@nextquesS ... net minus distro> on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:14PM (#8387745)
    According to the article "They're drilling down to the level of the individual store," Thompson says. "They can pinpoint if customers are gay, Latino, 30-year-old, college-educated conservatives.

    They do that in two ways (again, according to the article): a "nightly sweep of their distributors' databases" and 2) on-site visits by sales reps who notice how the store is set up, whether it's selling room-temp or chilld beer (or both), and probably noting the class of customers.

    Despite Michael's concerns, there's nothing in there about tying to individual customer purchases or even getting explicit sales data on competitors' products.

  • Oh no! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Rura Penthe (154319) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:15PM (#8387759)
    Yes, who knows what sinister things Bud will do with information they legally gleaned. Of course legal doesn't necessarily mean moral or right, but in this case I fail to see how Anheuser-Busch is going to violate your rights or do anything with the modicum of information they gather. Hell, I can't even find any info in the article that points to anything about tying a purchase to an individual rather than a store.
  • by HBI (604924) <kparadine&gmail,com> on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:15PM (#8387765) Homepage Journal
    Does Piggly Wiggly have a kosher foods aisle?
  • by CharAznable (702598) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:15PM (#8387768)
    Budweiser could stand to spend more on malt and hops instead of impressive IT systems... What's amazing is that they boast about using RICE on their beer!!! Rice is an adjunct that is used in beer to keep costs down and lighten up the body (read: make it more watery)
  • Assumption (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The Clockwork Troll (655321) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:16PM (#8387797) Journal
    The last time you bought a six-pack of Bud Light at the Piggly Wiggly, Anheuser servers most likely recorded what you paid, when that beer was brewed, whether you purchased it warm or chilled, and whether you could have gotten a better deal down the street.
    You mean like what supermarkets have been doing for years (except with more resolution)?

    You know I've bought a lot of embarrassing things at the corner market and haven't even gotten discount coupons for them during check-out at a subsequent visit (a shame). And to the point, I've never gotten any kind of marketing material from Trojans in the mail as a result of having bought ribbed at Safeway, so if someone's correlating my personal information with my condom-purchasing history, they're not being very enterprising (if they were, they'd have sold the information to my wife long ago).

    What I'm saying is, there's a tacit assumption in the article that somehow your purchases are correlated with your name. That's more likely to be happening at your credit card company's clearinghouse than at the cashier's station.

  • by BillFarber (641417) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:18PM (#8387824)
    Privacy issues because they track their own sales?
  • by pridkett (2666) <slashdotNO@SPAMwagstrom.net> on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:19PM (#8387840) Homepage Journal
    I'm a little confused as this isn't really your rights online and anyone that think that it is obviously didn't read the article. This is just and article talking about the information system that Bud uses to track sales of their products. It's a supply chain thing. They're not doing anything devious to go about this, just having people track prices and sales and actually doing something with data.

    Anyone can tell you that beer distribution is complicated [mit.edu], this just helps them better their distribution. Take off the tinfoil hats, nothing to see here.
    • by stratjakt (596332) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:30PM (#8388055) Journal
      No kidding.. "Frankly I don't want Budweiser to know when I buy their beer!"

      I mean, frankly, Budweiser doesnt give a shit about the individuals who buy beer... They give a shit that Coors is outselling them by a wide margin in east Cincinnati, and they might want to know "How can we better appeal to Linux zealots?"

      But tracking individual beer drinking habits? For what purpose? That's just pissing away resources..

      Slashbots should take off the tinfoil hats and appreciate this for the cool and complex data-mining system that it is.
  • by pcx (72024) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:20PM (#8387844)
    • 'The last time you bought a six-pack of Bud Light at the Piggly Wiggly, Anheuser servers most likely recorded what you paid, when that beer was brewed, whether you purchased it warm or chilled, and whether you could have gotten a better deal down the street.' Frankly, I don't want Budweiser knowing when I choose to buy their beer versus another brands."


    Not you -- SOMEONE Yes Bud knows when someone purchased their product but they don't know who and unless they have a survey team out, they don't know why. Stuff like this happens all the time and for the most part it tends to make life better for all of us.

    Where we have to worry is when a company starts mining all this data and does track it back to an individual person. When a credit card company or polititical/religious/charity organization can pick up the phone and find out what I watched for TV last night and what books I last bought or checked out at the library, that's when we need to be concerned.

    And even if personal data-mining is possible it's no guarantee it will be used. For example, the EZ-TAG scanners on the toll roads you take can easilly compute your average speed between toll booths and issue you a speeding ticket if you were speeding but they don't. Why? Because the toll road comissioners would be voted out of office if they allowed that.

    • Where we have to worry is when a company starts mining all this data and does track it back to an individual person. When a credit card company or polititical/religious/charity organization can pick up the phone and find out what I watched for TV last night and what books I last bought or checked out at the library, that's when we need to be concerned.

      I always find it amazing what leaps of inference they will make with what they can find out. Here in Vermont, we don't have voter registration, but I kee

  • Okay, how? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by parkrrrr (30782) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:20PM (#8387854)
    The last time you bought a six-pack of Bud Light at the Piggly Wiggly, Anheuser servers most likely recorded...

    what you paid,

    Okay, this part is reasonable

    when that beer was brewed,

    I can see that they might be able to guess at this with a fair degree of certainty, but how do they know I didn't somehow get a 6-pack that's been sitting at the back of the shelf for weeks? Sure, it's got a "born on" date printed on it, but that's not part of the UPC, so how are they getting it?

    whether you purchased it warm or chilled,

    Again, same thing: it's the same UPC; how would it know, other than in aggregate (i.e. the distributor writing down how many 6-packs are in the cooler when he gets there.) And even if it knows in aggregate, how does it know that the guy at the liquor store didn't move a bunch of warm Buds back into the cooler when the distributor's rep wasn't there?

    and whether you could have gotten a better deal down the street.

    Okay, this one's obvious, too.

  • Oh come on... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bob670 (645306) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:20PM (#8387863)
    "Frankly, I don't want Budweiser knowing when I choose to buy their beer versus another brands"

    I think we may have taken the fight for privacy to a new and illogical low? No wonder people lump tech geeks in with the tin foil hat crowd.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:21PM (#8387865)
    Dear Slashdot editor,

    We at Budweiser would like to apologize for any anxiety you may have felt from the recent CNN article. As a token of our esteem, please accept the enclosed Budweiser hat.

    Sincerely,

    BudMan

    BM/css
    encl:
    Tinfoil Hat, mk II, RFID
  • *sigh* (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jrwillis (306262) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:21PM (#8387877) Homepage
    For the love of God people, I'm as much of a privacy advocate as the next man, but MAYBE it's time to take the tinfoil hat off. Why on earth would you care if Budweiser knows when and where bottle #564,356 is sold? It just sounds like good business to me. Besides, it's not like they're doing it for real beer like Guinness or anything. :-)
  • by cyberlotnet (182742) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:22PM (#8387902) Homepage Journal
    People.. Read the article fully. They track the BEER, not the person. Information like that is extremely important for the marketing of a product.

    This information allows them to know there market, plan shipments and various other usefull things.

    But instead you would prefer to assume they are tracking how many brain killing gulps of beer your drinking so they know when your drunk enough to use there super secret beer tracking brain scanner to download your life and the history of your poor sex life.
  • by -tji (139690) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:27PM (#8388003) Journal
    This is not big brother trying to control you life.. This is a company trying to do the best job of marketing they can. They are putting together as much data as they can, to market and sell their product as efficiently as they can.

    Their not tieing this to a record of an individual person. They are not providing the data to the "Office of Homeland Security" to determine who the terrorist / non-bud-drinkers are..

    They're just trying to see who is buying their beer.

    Then, they'll use that data to more effectively target the low-income urban minorities, to keep them under the yoke of "The Man".
  • by dwm (151474) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:28PM (#8388010)
    Read. The. Article.

    Bud is using Information Resources, Inc., which compiles register scan info. This includes those little barcoded keychain dongles that let you get special discounts -- you know, the ones you filled out a form with your personal information to get?

    So, no, Bud can't trace EVERY beer purchase to the individual. And they most likely don't really care which particular individuals buy stuff, they're looking at demographic trends. But data on retail sales to individuals, and personal information abou those individuals IS in the system. That's how they get some of their demographics.

    Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you.
  • Insert (Score:5, Funny)

    by sandbenders (301132) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:28PM (#8388017) Homepage
    Insert 'Free as in beer' VS 'Free as in Speech' joke here.

  • by Performer Guy (69820) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:29PM (#8388039)
    Geeze it's just inventory tracking. There's no "you" in the tracking so give it a rest. I'm sick of this idiotic scaremongering over these non-issues. Companies have a right to track their inventory and always have. This is just tracking to point of sale over the country. It's not merely anonymous tracking it's amorphous, there's no distinction between any of the buyers, they're tracking beer not people and they absolutely have a right to do that.
  • In ancient Sumer. That's right - in IRAQ.

    Obviously, Beer (which the membership of al Qaeda are commanded by God not to drink) is in league with al Qaeda, just like the former secularist government of Iraq (which the membership of al Qaeda was commanded by God to overthrow.) Whatever the article-author may think - it is clear that cool, refreshing beer, or even hobo urine like Budweiser, is more of a threat to our freedoms than the brave members of our law enforcement community.

    Therefore, DARPA has asked Anheuser-Busch to help them keep track of the treasonous fluid. Don't get me started on those frenchies and their wine.
  • Bud? (Score:4, Funny)

    by superdan2k (135614) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:30PM (#8388043) Homepage Journal
    "I don't want Budweiser knowing when I choose to buy their beer versus another brands."

    Funny, I think I always choose to buy other brands. But that's just me. Having taste buds.
  • Begs the Question... (Score:5, Informative)

    by The Ape With No Name (213531) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:31PM (#8388070) Homepage
    Why would you drink Bud anyway? What a shitty beer. For all you non-USAians, contrary to popular belief, there are excellent beers in the States. Only Sheeple drink A-B and SAB (Miller) products. Disclamer: my father was a 25-year employee at Miller as a plant manager, and I grew up drinking Miller products. They are awful. I don't care if it paid the wages and for college. Man, is Miller Lite an abomination....

    Something tells me that if people were to actually expand their horizons on the beer front, they would discover the Sierra Nevadas, Shiners and such that have nationwide markets and comprable pricing to Bud ($9 a 12-er compared to $11 a 12-er for Shiner). Guess what? These are small companies (relative to A-B) who are not going to fool with BudNETing your habit.

    BEER: The cause of, and the solution to, all of life's problems -- HJS.
    • Something tells me that if people were to actually expand their horizons on the beer front, they would discover the Sierra Nevadas, Shiners and such that have nationwide markets and comprable pricing to Bud ($9 a 12-er compared to $11 a 12-er for Shiner).

      Who cares if the beer even has national distribution? Around upstate NY, you can get Saranac, Ommegang, Magic Hat, Wachussettes, or tons of other great beers. I'm sure other parts of the country have similar good small breweries. And these breweries kno

  • by UncleGizmo (462001) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:32PM (#8388076) Homepage
    First, to be clear, Bud doesn't know what 'you' bought. That would take them matching data from the credit card [assuming you purchased with a credit card], which they don't have access to, to the scanner sale [which only records what product was scanned]. All they are doing is making sure their product is available, all the time, and in the right product mix for the store/neighborhood.

    A big problem in the beverage industry is 'out-of-stocks'. Most retailers use direct-store-delivery for beverages [bottlers put the stuff on trucks and tell the truck - sometimes in transit - where and how much to drop off at each store]. Before scanners, it could be days before an out-of-stock product was identified. Think about how much product moves off a shelf - per day, per store, per market - having no product on the shelf adds up quick.

    The dollars manufacturers can lose due to out-of-stocks is huge. And retailers don't want empty space, and they don't want shoppers not finding their favorite product and going somewhere else. The manufacturer who figures out how to keep their merchandise in-stock efficiently will be a favorite of the retailer, especially if they are a big name like Bud, who also advertises a lot.

    Companies like Bud use market research to determine the mix of products. Markets that have a higher Hispanic population may have a higher mix of beverages that cater to this group. But they don't know that 'you' specifically bought their product.

    Nothing to see here...unless you're overly paranoid [but no one on /. is that way, right?]

  • by Lord Kano (13027) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:33PM (#8388106) Homepage Journal
    I even have a certificate to prove that I'm a certified Beer Master. You wouldn't believe how much work goes into making such a thoroughly below average beer.

    LK
  • by Guspaz (556486) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:42PM (#8388233)
    If I pick up a 6-pack at the local depaneur (7-11, corner store, etc) and pay cash, and the clerk prints out a cheap receipt on a cheap non-networked cash register, Budweiser will STILL know who I am, and if my bear was chilled or warm?

    What, do they have a secret network of x-ray thermal spy sats that record all purchases of their product?

    This whole article is overblown and exagerated. Not to mention it doesn't apply to many (most?) stores. At least around here. I don't know of too many corner stores around here that ask for your personal info when you buy beer.
    • From the article:

      This data, crossed with U.S. Census figures on the ethnic and economic makeup of neighborhoods, also helps Anheuser tailor marketing campaigns with a local precision only dreamed of a few years ago.

      The original poster overstated it. AB is taking sales and store info from the store and mixing that with general Census data. The article doesn't say anything about matching a particular person (name, age, gender, etc.) with their buying patterns. So I don't think the article is overblown at
  • by iiioxx (610652) <iiioxx@gmail.com> on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:42PM (#8388242)
    [01-03-04 09:44:31] Beer Location: On the delivery truck.
    [01-03-04 10:26:54] Beer Location: On the store loading dock.
    [01-03-04 11:54:12] Beer Location: In the store refrigerator case.
    [01-03-04 19:22:57] Beer Location: In customer's hand.
    [01-03-04 19:24:03] Beer Location: On the store checkout counter.
    [01-03-04 19:31:44] Beer Location: Outside the store.
    [01-03-04 19:32:10] Container Event: Can opened.
    [01-03-04 19:32:12] Beer Location: Inside customers mouth.
    [01-03-04 19:32:12] Beer Location: Outside customers mouth.
    [01-03-04 19:32:13] Beer Location: On the ground.
    [01-03-04 19:32:17] Beer Location: In the gutter.
    [01-03-04 19:32:23] Container Event: Can dropped.
  • BUD FUD (Score:4, Insightful)

    by telstar (236404) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:46PM (#8388307)
    Man, some people really need to relax.

    Guess what ... You know that broadband bill you pay? There's a company keeping VAST logs of every hit through their servers that you make. I'd worry about that before I worried about somebody making sure there's beer on the shelf when I go shopping.
  • Excuse me, but... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by applemasker (694059) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:47PM (#8388319)
    Exactly what are people railing against here? What legitimate expectation of privacy do you have in the fact that a purchase was made of Bud at a particular time and place, at a specific price? It doesn't even attempt to track who bought the product.

    It's not like they're putting RFID's in the cans/bottles and finding out how long it took you to polish off the six-pack you bought on Tuesday night.

    In fact, as far as I can see, the data is not purchaser-specific and is focused more on the retail outlet's presentation of Bud with respect to other brands. So, who cares? If it focuses their marketing, let it.

  • New concept (Score:3, Funny)

    by Eudial (590661) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:47PM (#8388321)
    Frankly, I don't want Budweiser knowing when I choose to buy their beer versus another brands.

    If you insist on being a covert budweiser drinker, i'd like to introduce the concept of "shoplifting". Walk around and get your ordinary stuff, and put the budweiser in your pocket. Then you pay for the non-budweiser stuff and just pretend you never took the thing. Simple! Just don't get caught or the men with the shiny badges will put you in a really small place with metal bars they call "Jail" or give you those notes that say you need to pay alot of money.
  • by Moderation abuser (184013) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:48PM (#8388332)
    It's almost completely tasteless. All that fresh beer tastes better *bollocks*. Why on earth would you choose that in favour of a decent beer, like the original Czech Budweiser.

    http://www.budvar.cz/

  • All About You! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by telstar (236404) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:49PM (#8388359)
    It always amazes me that it's the same people that scream and shout about privacy issues that come to websites like this one and continually post responses and journal entries about their stance on issues of political, corporate, and other signifigance. If you think somebody could build a profile about you based on the beer you drink, imagine the profile they could construct by piecing together every post you've ever made to websites on the Internet.
  • by NoGuffCheck (746638) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:50PM (#8388372)
    I hear each Bud is laced with an individual chemical compound not unlike a DNA for beer (or serial number). So they already know where you buy and once you piss the bastard out they have engineers down all sewer systems with receptors matching your DNA with the beers.. and bing bango NO PRIVACY FOR YOU!
  • by purdue_thor (260386) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @01:03PM (#8388567)
    Here's an interesting twist... the tinfoils in the crowd are assuming that Budweiser wants to track individuals with this. But that opens a can of worms for the beer distributors! See, then the Govt. could easily see who is selling to minors just by looking at Bud's database. There's no way the stores or the Beer companies want that data out. The beer companies have been doing well to push the whole "you must be 21 to buy" thing, but that step would make them now accountable.

    2.) This would also make it easy to see who sold the beer that the drunk driver was drinking when he smashed his car into a school bus, further opening up the distributors to possible litigation in our sue-happy society.
  • by DigitalDreg (206095) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @01:13PM (#8388691)
    I think it's a great application of data collection and data mining. They are collecting a load of data, some of it automated, some of it gathered by humans, integrating it, and using it to drive their supply chain. Isn't this a good use of IT?

    The article is in the wrong category and is misleading, as numerous other people have pointed out.

    Why not resubmit with a different category and talk about the novel aspects, like taking what the delivery guys observe about other items on the shelf and the clientelle, and how that gets fed all the way up to marketing plans? That's the real jewel of the article ...
  • by ReadParse (38517) <johnNO@SPAMfunnycow.com> on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @01:13PM (#8388692) Homepage
    This privacy stuff is getting out of hand...

    It brings up some interesting privacy issues, because according to the article 'The last time you bought a six-pack of Bud Light at the Piggly Wiggly, Anheuser servers most likely recorded what you paid, when that beer was brewed, whether you purchased it warm or chilled, and whether you could have gotten a better deal down the street.'

    It does NOT bring up any privacy issues, interesting or not. It's marketing data and there's no personal connection to the consumer whatsoever. Budweiser has a business obligation to determine where and how their product is selling.

    Just because they say "you" in the text doesn't mean that "you" are part of the data collected. They're just using a purchase that sounds familiar to "you" to give "you" a frame of reference.

    I'm surprised none of the privacy nuts have muttered the words "Ashcroft" or "Bush" in this thread yet, for no good reason, as is usually the case.

    RP
  • WTF? Who Cares? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Drawsalot (733094) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @01:51PM (#8389200)
    Are we being overly paranoid here... Unless they are checking and recording ID's at the door to gain Individual buying habits, I don't think this is intrusive, just good business sense. It would seem to me this is why, among other reasons, AB is number one. Inventory control SHOULD be a high priority. Beer, with a definite shelf life, is one business where this would be a benefit to the consumer.

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