I recommend Richard Thaler's article in the New York Times for a couple of reasons. It's a discussion of the so-called "nudge" strategy in which product/policy designers try to influence people's behavior through "small design changes". The more important reason is that Thaler is coming back to tell us not to over-do nudges. This is a researcher who recognizes the limits of his pet idea, and warns people to use it "for good, not for bad".
The prototypical example of a "nudge" is the organ donation form. By a simple design change (opt-out instead of opt-in), researchers report that the proportion of people who are willing to donate their organs increases dramatically. Most people will agree that this "nudge" is for the societal good. It is even more appealing if we can assume that people who would have chosen not to opt in but choose not to opt out are making conscious, rational decisions based on all available information. (It's also possible that some of these people might not be aware that by not opting out, they have opted in.)
It is easy to accept the nudge strategy when the outcome is good for society. However, Thaler points out recent instances in which the nudge seems to be purely for business profit, and is to the detriment of the user/customer.
For example, Thaler isn't happy that airlines force customers to positively state they don't want to buy travel insurance before they are allowed to purchase tickets. He was even less impressed when the airlines prompt customer to select "Yes" by placing "Recommended" next to that option (a very common marketing tactic).
There are many examples of such practices. Have you been subjected to one of those tablet registers? The designers of these devices all force you to choose an amount of tips in full view of other patrons (peer pressure) and sometimes even the server. In almost every case, the "No Tip" option is hard to find. When you press "No Tip," it is frequently the case that you are then forced to confirm once, or sometimes twice. (By contrast, when the tip amount is positive, I don't recall being asked to confirm.) Sometimes, you don't like any of the "suggested" tip amounts. That usually means you have to figure out how to customize the tips, and again they make it hard for customers to do this.
Thaler absolves governments of nudging for the wrong reason. But I am not sure why governments are exempt from this criticism. For example, when the new "see-through" scanning machines came out, some passengers wanted to opt out. There were reports that the TSA agents were told to make the frisking experience as uncomfortable as possible for those passengers.
I am sure you all have encountered nudges that annoy you. Tell me about them!