So there’s this fable in the lore of business intelligence stating that the most commonly purchased two items on Friday afternoons are BEER and DIAPERS. I came by this information via a co-worker of Jake’s who mentioned it at the water cooler one day. We’ve been giggling about it ever since, because, though unexpected, the combo makes perfect sense.
Beer=relaxation=salve for said discomfort
I thought I’d go further to see the details on this parable, and I found the full story here. According to author Mark Whitehorn of the UK’s The Register, the story goes something like this:
Some time ago, Wal-Mart decided to combine the data from its loyalty card system with that from its point of sale systems. The former provided Wal-Mart with demographic data about its customers, the latter told it where, when and what those customers bought. Once combined, the data was mined extensively and many correlations appeared. Some of these were obvious; people who buy gin are also likely to buy tonic. They often also buy lemons. However, one correlation stood out like a sore thumb because it was so unexpected.
On Friday afternoons, young American males who buy diapers (nappies) also have a predisposition to buy beer. No one had predicted that result, so no one would ever have even asked the question in the first place. Hence, this is an excellent example of the difference between data mining and querying.
Okay, so I understand that the context of this story is scientific in nature (data mining, i.e. discovering new meaning through data), but what comes next in Whitehorn’s article is hilarious despite itself.
The story goes on that, once the correlation was uncovered, it was easy to back extrapolate from the effect to the cause.
- Young American males frequently indulge in ritualised carousing behaviour with friends of Friday nights.
- Carousing usually involves the consumption of beer.
- Most young American males only buy diapers after they have fathered offspring.
- Offspring acquisition is a known carousing inhibitor.
That last part is the best: Offspring acquisition is a known carousing inhibitor. That’s Nerd for “babies keep a brother down.”