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Provide your social – Get a coupon

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On Saturday, my family and I were out doing some shopping and running some errands. During this trip, something that I’ve often got annoyed at kept coming up, but in a day where we had extra errands and things to purchase, I found it incredibly annoying.

That annoying thing is when you are looking to pay for something as simple as a pair of shoes and you are asked for your phone number, address and email address. Payless Shoe Store is a perfect example. We purchased one pair of shoes for less than $20. All set to pay with cash (yes, I know that is not the norm anymore), we were immediately asked three questions. What is your phone number, address and email address.

My husband, wondering why such personal information is needed for a less than $20 crash transaction, asked why. He was told how important providing this information is because we will get coupons and emails with only the most exclusive sales notices that Payless offers. The cashier made it sound like we were being admitted into some exclusive club where we would really get these special deals.

Interestingly, my husband pointed out that they would only need an email address for that. However, she disagreed and stressed that the phone number was required to put us into some awards program. Still hesitant, we asked to just pay for the shoes.

I realize this is the norm, but I don’t have to like it. I hate feeling like I am being interrogated every time I go into a store and want to make a purchase. We live in the age of technology, we are enticed with the promise of super savings only to be bombarded with pointless emails and have our information used on a larger scale where we fill in a database used for research, even more email blasts and making it where our inbox on the computer is 1 percent important and 99 percent annoying.

This leads me to Sears. Again, we had to go through the personal information spiel. Again, we weren’t purchasing anything with a Sears Credit Card – we did use a debit card. We were only purchasing a sleeper for the baby, a shirt for our daughter and one other item. All under $40. However, we were asked to verify our information once my husband gave the phone number.

The address hadn’t been updated, which means we couldn’t finish our transaction until that was all updated. I guess we could have just said no altogether, but they got my husband when they said we had earned rewards’ points. Those points amounted to $3.43. Nothing that really impacted the bottom line in my opinion.

This got me to thinking about how much information we are giving at these stores day-in and day-out in the name of coupons, savings and rewards. However, how much of it really turns into our benefit? The stores wouldn’t be doing it if it were solely about helping the customer. Let’s be realistic, these businesses stay in business because they are turning a profit. What helps turn that profit? Getting data for market research, passing the information about our shopping habits on and the vicious cycle will continue.

As a society, we were both shocked and angry to hear about how much the National Security Agency (NSA) is spying on our everyday lives. When it comes to retail, we willingly give the information while standing in line with people surrounding us, listening and who knows what.

We are one step short of giving up our social security numbers. I wonder what kind of savings a store would have to offer for us to spout out those numbers for a good deal on a pair of high-heel shoes.

—Thelma Grimes

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