Trader Joe’s and Transitive Trust   2 comments

Lots of eco-friendly shoppers here in Southern California love Trader Joe’s.  What’s not to love?  Relatively cheap prices, interesting selection, organically friendly and overall green, right?

Right?

Turns out maybe not quite so much as you may have thought.  Greenpeace’s report on sustainable fishing and grocery retail outlets in the U.S. rates TJ’s several steps below Wall Mart (not that this is anything for Wall Mart to write home about, as they still were flunked pretty badly).

This of course isn’t necessarily a good reason to stop shopping at Trader Joe’s, it just illustrates a point.  If you really want to go green, you can’t outsource your shopping decisions to a retailer and expect that they’re always going to meet your standard.

This doesn’t just apply to seafood and Trader Joe’s, of course.  Generally, if Alice trusts Bob for some reason, that does not necessarily mean that Alice should trust Bob in all areas, just those where Alice has reason to expect that Bob’s agendas coincide with her own… and even then, Alice must reasonably account for Bob’s other influences.  In the social sciences, trust is “a prediction of reliance on an action, based on what a party knows about the other party.” (danke, Wikipedia).

Transitive trust, in particular, is difficult to manage properly -> if Alice trusts Bob, then by extension, Alice trusts everyone that Bob trusts.  This is not always a good thing, and it behooves Alice to know something about who Bob trusts, usually through some audit process.  One way to deal with this problem is to try and turn a transitive trust relationship into a distributive trust relationship -> that is, Alice trusts Bob on issues A, B, and C, but relies on Mary as an outside expert in A, Joe as an outside expert in B, and Lou as an outside expert in C to provide audit checks on Bob.

This is essentially what organizations like Consumer Reports do as a business model.  By combining and comparing various authoritative experts, Alice can audit Bob’s trustworthiness without having to do all the work herself.

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Posted June 18, 2008 by padraic2112 in security

2 responses to “Trader Joe’s and Transitive Trust

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  1. I only go there for the Two Buck Chuck.

  2. Pingback: Wednesday, November 5th, 2008 - Best Day « Pat’s Daily Grind

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