Valdosta Daily Times

Business

October 7, 2012

Exchanging personal information for a discount

VALDOSTA — The latest trend in the retail and restaurant world is requesting personal information from customers in exchange for a discount card that enables customers to get products at lower prices than those who refuse to provide personal information.

While I understand it from a store’s viewpoint in that they want to track their customers, from a customer’s standpoint, I resent having to provide information that isn’t anyone’s business to get the store’s specials on food or other items. To be honest, I am still not convinced it’s legal as it would appear to discriminate against those who either refuse the information or who do not meet certain criteria in order to qualify. I didn’t think you could charge two people two different prices on the same item unless the discount, such as a coupon, was readily available to all without exception.

I’ve long refused to provide my telephone number in stores as I don’t care to have my personal shopping habits tracked and my information sold to others who then solicit business through emails, phone calls or direct mail, and I hardly think I am alone. The current backlash against sites such as Facebook for sharing what many assumed was personal data is becoming more prevalent as Americans in general are tiring of having their privacy invaded. Those who have no issue telling anyone and everyone every single detail of their lives are certainly welcome to do so, but those of us who prefer not to ought to have that right without being penalized by being charged higher prices.

Case in point at a drugstore recently. A female customer in front of me purchased a number of items, including a candy bar. The cashier took her discount card and along with her receipt, she received a number of coupons. The cashier then said loud enough for everyone in line to hear, “Wow, to get that many candy coupons, you must eat candy bars every day!” The embarrassment factor for this woman was akin to what a man must feel when a cashier announces that he is purchasing feminine hygiene products. I can’t imagine her wanting to shop there again, and after being told I couldn’t get the discount on the items I was shopping for that were listed in the store’s sales flyer without providing my phone number and address, I’ve ended my patronage also.

Isn’t it enough that stores get your money? Do they really need to know where I live to give me a discount on milk? Or shoes? Or toothpaste? I’m curious — am I alone in this or are there others who think the same way?

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