Don't let Droopy Dog face behind gun counters

Old news and other oddities in the world of Internet retail. People are more likely to buy merchandise from happy avatars rather than sad.

Duh. Did we really need a research study to tell us that?

In a 2007 study involving an animated human face nicknamed "Baldi," an Ohio State University professor proved that people are more likely to buy products from happy digital characters than from those who "frowned" or appeared "sad."

Discounting other possible negative influences such as Baldi's cue ball head and eyebrows in the shape of mutant spermatozoa, Li Gong, assistant professor of communication, concluded "that digital characters might be better merchants if they act consistently happy, even if the products they're selling—such as novels—are heart-wrenchingly sad."

This waste of time and valuable resources also mentioned that participants had an overall lukewarm reaction to Baldi, meaning, regardless of robotic expression, people are more likely to purchase products from actual people over Sims.

This brings to mind my reaction to botoxed TV newscasters smugly describing murderous rampages in god forsaken parts of wherever. I can never decide if I'm more creeped out by news of massive human suffering or the sight of frozen waxen flesh describing human suffering. Something about the disconnect flips an emotional switch in the pit of my stomach.

Next thing I know, I'm watching Jon Stewart and mindlessly surfing the Internet. One of these days, I'm going to find a way to do both simultaneously on the same electronic contraption.

But getting back to this insipid study, imagine for a moment a nondescript sales counter manned by two almost identical sales clerks. One projects the image of a happily contented Stepford wife and the other looks like the human equivalent of Droopy Dog. Both are well-groomed, perfectly pitched and pleasantly scented. Who do you choose to help you decide which AK-47 to purchase?

Okay, bad choice of merchandise. Make that a pair of orthopedic flats. Same concept. The product is a real downer. Which sales clerk do you approach to wait on your smelly bunions?

Right. Stepford zombie. Because deep down, although Droopy Dog and smelly bunions go together like spewing oil and the Gulf Coast, subconsciously no one wants to mix their shopping experience with even a whiff of negativity, and that holds true all the more when shopping for items less than, shall we say, "happy."

Unless, of course, it's Jon Stewart rocking a droopy-dog-face behind the counter.

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