First Person: As a Gen-X Consumer, I Can’t Be Put in a Box

Yahoo Contributor Network

I have nothing against the country's largest data brokers for tracking consumers' spending habits and trying to classify them into different categories. In fact, when I read a recent article by CNNMoney, I was curious to find out what kind of consumer I am.

I thought maybe I'd be one of the so-called "Shooting Stars," or "Married Sophisticates." However, I soon learned that none of the labels fit my buying behaviors.

According to the article, Acxiom uses its massive data base on consumers to help marketers understand how to reach their target audiences.

Some critics don't like the fact that the groupings can result in biases based on income. For example, a new retailer is more likely to place an upscale mall in an area with consumers who spend more money. Other people think it's an infringement of personal privacy to track consumers.

Married sophisticate

According to the article, married sophisticates are people in their late 20s and early 30s with a middle-class lifestyle. They may own a home, drive an eco-friendly car and shop at stores such as Banana Republic. I drive a fuel-efficient car, but I'm now in my 40s and quit Netflix years ago.

Truckin' & stylin'

Another cluster is the truckin' & stylin' group of people who are in their 30s or 40s and live in a rural town. They may be married but don't have children. Since I have two children and don't live in the country, I can't relate to this category. Also, I don't shop at Wal-mart or watch NASCAR.

Collegiate crowd

Since I'm not between the ages of 18 and 23, I'm not in the collegiate crowd. However, I have two sons in that category. My older son is a renter and lives in a college town. I don't think either of my sons read magazines or shop at American Eagle, but they are single.

Shooting stars

I'd fit into the "shooting stars" category a little bit if it weren't for the fact that I have children. Shooting starts are in their 30s and 40s and don't have children. We do have a six-figure household income. My husband has a graduate degree, and I shop at Ann Taylor. I do use the web to check my investments and make travel plans.

Apple pie families

Another category is the "apple pie families" that are upper-middle class living in a smaller city or suburb. Since I loath the minivan, I don't fit into this category. I've shopped at Target and Home Depot, but no more than any other store. However, I do live in a suburb. Also, I know how to make apple pie, but that probably doesn't count.

City mixers

Marketers also have a name for childless and single urbanites. They are called "city mixers." Although I love Whole Foods Market, I don't like museums at all. I rarely go to the theater. I do watch, "The Office," but I don't shop at Crate & Barrel. Since I'm married with children, I also don't relate to the "metro parents" or single parents living in the city with an income of less than $50,000.

Timeless elders

The final category mentioned in the article is the "Timeless Elders" one. Since I'm 25 to 30 years away from retirement, I can't relate to the retirees who clip coupons and shop at discount stores such as Kmart. I didn't even know that "The Price Is Right," or "60 Minutes," was still on the air.

Even though I didn't relate to any of the clusters, it was fun to hear about how marketers label customers' demographics and shopping behaviors. My shopping patterns don't follow any real pattern at all. Maybe there should be another category for members of my Generation X called "Consumer X" since the "X" stands for mystery.

*Note: This was written by a Yahoo! contributor. Do you have a personal finance story that you'd like to share? Sign up with the Yahoo! Contributor Network to start publishing your own finance articles.

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