Commodification, according to Sociological Images, is "the process by which something that is not bought and sold becomes something that is." It's an essential aspect of capitalism. A listener response on APM's Marketplace recently highlighted at least one way in which a once-commodified service has now become decommodified. There was a time in the not so distant past when having a boy bag one's groceries was a direct exchange, a service for tip. The gratuity based relationship was then subsumed to the grocer himself, paying the bagger a wage and prohibiting tips. Now, groceries are offering elective self-checkout lanes, where customers are required to bag their own items. (It turns out, these self-checkout lanes are probably highly inefficient and, on average, slower than the traditional checkout lanes.) Presumably, there is a cost savings for the grocer who only needs to pay one rep to supervise four checkout stations . I'm wondering where else we might see products and services decommodified in this way, with a direct pawning-off of labor to the consumer. One place that I have noted is on the interwebs. Hulu frequently asks users/viewers to answer marketing research questions like "Is this ad relevant to you?" or, as I saw this morning, what my political leanings were. Inconsistently, I prefer the self-checkout lane but absolutely refuse to answer the targeted advertising queries.
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