There’s a Better Lesson to Learn about Shopdropping

Caught this New York Times article by Ian Urbina via Rob May of Business Pundit:

Anarchists in the Aisles? Stores Provide a Stage

This is the season of frenetic shopping, but for a devious few people it’s also the season of spirited shopdropping.

Otherwise known as reverse shoplifting, shopdropping involves surreptitiously putting things in stores, rather than illegally taking them out, and the motivations vary.

Anti-consumerist artists slip replica products packaged with political messages onto shelves while religious proselytizers insert pamphlets between the pages of gay-and-lesbian readings at book stores.

Self-published authors sneak their works into the “new releases” section, while personal trainers put their business cards into weight-loss books, and aspiring professional photographers make homemade cards — their Web site address included, of course — and covertly plant them into stationery-store racks.

“Everyone else is pushing their product, so why shouldn’t we?” said Jeff Eyrich, a producer for several independent bands, who puts stacks of his bands’ CDs — marked “free” — on music racks at Starbucks whenever the cashiers look away.

I had heard of this practice a while ago, but had no idea a word was coined for it, or that it had blown up into such widespread international practice.

As an author always looking for better distribution, and as an ex-retailer who knows how hard it is to keep inventories straight and visual merchandising accurate and pleasing, I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand it is deviously clever, but it also smacks of "all gain without the pain" cheating, and in my aloha dictionary ‘deviously’ and ‘cheating’ are not admirable words; they line up with vandalism.

Okay, thinking further, no mixed feelings.

Shopdropping is like stealthily moving into someone’s house while you know they are away on vacation, and using the stuff they had worked for and earned and then leaving your mess behind for them to clean up after you. Even this artist-turned-con-artist admits to the deception, and I wince at how he has enrolled others into feeling it is nothing more than a game: Video Clip.

I want to highlight Rob here, for his thoughts on the lesson learned:

Rob writes,

Sounds like a business opportunity to me. Stores should set aside a few shelves that they can auction off weekly to the highest bidder. It would give them a way to test market new products that they may want to carry, without the accompanying risk of carrying the inventory.

Let’s promote learning a better way to share your messages, with more honesty and integrity instead.