Don’t Ask, Just Give

February 7, 2016

I was out in the stores shopping recently.  At the check-out counter the cashier points to the credit card pad and said, “Just hit OK so that I can complete your transaction.”  Luckily I glanced at the screen and noticed that the “OK” option was for me to give out my personal email address to sign up for coupons and special discount offers.  I looked at the worker and said, “No, I don’t want to do that.”  She looked surprised, then fumbled around and hit a few keys to complete the transaction.

A short time later, I was purchasing items at another store and the cashier asked, “What’s your birthday?”  My what?  I glanced up, puzzled by the unexpectedly personal question.  She repeated the question.  Now I’m a bit bristled at this request and I responded with, “I’m not interested.”  This opened up to a three minute dialogue where the worker proceeded to try and get me to sign up for the stores rewards program.  Her reasoning was two-fold:

  1. It’s free
  2. You get a free gift on your birthday

I kept saying “no thanks” and she kept trying to get me to sign-up.  Eventually the worker finished my transaction but it was an uncomfortable shopping experience.

Earlier today, I decided to browse a few retail sites on the web.  After every site loaded I would get a pop up prompting for my e-mail address.

All of these queries have me wondering, how many people answer these questions and fill out these surveys without thinking about what they are freely giving away?  And why do the retailers want your personal information so bad anyway?

I don’t know what retailers do with this information, but I do know that I have to be the one to give it to them.  And I am not going to blindly give out my personal information for marketing purposes.  I’d rather go without the “free gift.”

Is the “reward” worth the price of giving up your personal information?

2 comments

  1. No, it is definitely not! Let me share a little story with you… Awhile back, I started getting phone calls and emails from insurance agents, all wanting to sell me insurance for a car I was not buying, would never buy, and did not currently own. After one very nice agent left his third voicemail, I called him back and spoke with him. It turned out that he’d gotten my information from a ‘lead sheet’ website.

    I contacted that website and told them if my information was not removed from their database, my next step would be to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, and the appropriate state agencies. I set a time limit of 10 business days – that if I got any emails or calls after that, I’d be filing those complaints. Fortunately, it worked.

    So how did these people get my name, email, phone number, and the insane notion that I’m the sort of person who would want a Chevy Malibu? No idea, but this happened within 90 days of opening an online account with America’s Favorite Upscale Department Store, noted for their iconic yearly sale.

    Here is the thing I think many people don’t know: a retail business has databases and web “solutions”, that gets their product from the manufacturer, to the warehouses, and distributed to stores, or shipping centers. Most of these places do not write their own software, or build their own interfaces. That is handled by third-party contractors. I know this, because the BF works for a Fortune 500 company, and he works in “IT solutions”.

    I think one of these third-party groups sold a bunch of information, including mine, and somewhere in there, it got attached to ‘car purchase’.

    Because this is something I really cannot prevent, I try to limit the amount of personal information to retailers. A ‘special birthday gift’ would have to be ridiculously huge, to make up for the aggravation of the emails and phone calls I was getting. A freebie pair of underpants, or a mini-mascara, just doesn’t cut it.

    1. I am one hundred percent with you. I went on a rampage a few years back to fight against junk mail and marketing. Every letter I got, I called the opt-out number. And I registered with the direct marketing association as well on the internet. The efforts were a pain, it took a long time to get everything to go through, but now my junk mail is much, much less.

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