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Attention, Shoppers!

Paco Underhill knows what they look at, what they buy and why, so get ready to put a huge dent in the concept of customers' free will.

By Scott S. Smith

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Paco Underhill is the founder and managing director of Envirosell Inc., a New York City-based research consulting company that studies the interaction between customers and their environment. If Dalai Lama is right that "shopping is the museum of the 20th century," then Underhill is the curator. Part cultural anthropologist and part spy, Underhill has innovated commercial research with his scientific studies of purchasing behaviors. When he talks, everyone interested in consumer spending habits listens. Especially during an economic downturn, when it's ever more critical to persuade customers to spend money despite widespread budget-tightening.

His 150 clients worldwide include retailers such as The Gap and CVS Drug Stores as well as Fortune 500 banks, restaurants and product manufacturers, including Citibank, Coca-Cola, Estée Lauder, Hewlett-Packard and McDonald's. Plus, any business owner can benefit from the ideas Underhill expounds in his bestselling book, Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping (Simon & Schuster).

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