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Diatribe: Cashiers Who Want Our Telephone Numbers.


Back in the day, we used to sign up for “mailing lists”.  If we were interested in a particular product or wanted to be notified when something went on sale, a shopkeeper would take our name and number and file it away until he or she could call us to make a sale.

Then we started getting catalogues.  And, if you actually placed a catalog order, it was as if your name address appeared on the lists of every retailer and wholesaler in the world.  Catalogs routinely filled mailboxes across the country offering items that marketing professionals determined we might find interesting based on our previous purchases.

Then came Rewards Programs that required us to join a “club” to get better service and pricing discounts.  Of course, retailers that use these programs are simply trying to track their customers’ spending habits.  By revealing personal information we, essentially, consented to being included in their marketing platform.

Before we knew it, we began receiving dozens of unsolicited emails about products and services that we had no interest in receiving.  Someone was collecting our information and selling it to the highest bidder.

Soon, cashiers at retail establishments were required to input shoppers’ zip codes before each transaction could be completed.  We couldn’t pay for our purchases without revealing this information.  A zip code can be used to track our purchases and send us junk mail.  (Interestingly, in early 2011 the California Supreme Court concluded that protections in the state’s constitution are in place to protect consumers from this practice.)

Now we encounter cashiers in many retail stores that ask for our telephone numbers.  Starting, perhaps, at Radio Shack, the corporate marketing suits have deemed it an acceptable practice to badger each and every customer for a telephone number.  Make no mistake, a telephone number is not necessary to complete a cash purchase … all that is required is cash.

Of course, we can refuse to divulge information to cashiers by simply stating “I opt out” or “no thanks”.  It’s important to remember that the cashier has nothing to do with this policy and that they’re simply doing their job.  Surely, they’d rather not have to ask for the information.  We should ask them if they have comment cards or an email address that we can use to express our dislike of the store’s policy of collecting phone numbers for telemarketing purposes.

Perhaps we should all provide telephone numbers that belong to the Better Business Bureau or to City Hall.  Try creating an email address specifically to give to cashiers … you might be amazed by what you learn.  If we flood the databases with incorrect information their records will become useless and we’ll be able to spare future generations from the same nuisance.  If the strategy stops working, maybe they’ll stop using it.

Copyright © 2012

From → Diatribes

  1. I always say no, and when they say it’s just part of a survey, I ask how my zip code helps–or even my phone number. One woman, at a Pier One, was so adamant about getting my info, I set my keys on the counter and told her she could just drive over to my house and check my phone herself.
    She burst out laughing.


  2. justajeepguy permalink

    It depends. As a former retail District Manager – I know some things – what I give depends on the company.

    What I did over 10 years ago now, was create a FREE email address just for shopping. This way I get the specials without the spam. I tend to never give out phone #’s.


  3. I have started getting blasts on my phone via text messages. This has really put me over the edge…


  4. I give retailers or any other business corporate entity as little personal info as possible. I have never liked the idea of being a target for a marketing study, or becoming another entry on a list that gets sold to many other marketers, so then they can do the same, and do it exponentially.


  5. Having been on both ends I can tell you it sucks being the person who has to ask knowing how irate it can make people. Some cashiers key in a fake zip code to avoid confrontation.

    My old business used the information for expansion reasons not so much marketing. It let us know what zip codes customers were driving from or the impact new stores had.

    A pain all around.


  6. I stay away from that stuff


  7. I don’t trust them


  8. It’s annoying to be asked for my number in line but I’ve found not doing it draws way more attention that if I just give it out. I don’t see anybody in line writing it down either, so more than likely nobody cares what my phone number is! One of the advantages and one of the disadvantages of being older! HA!


  9. Aw crap I voted on the wrong one. I meant to say, “No, I refuse or give a fake number” but accidentally clicked the safety thing. I really don’t think it’s unsafe to give your phone number in line, but I have absolutely NO problem telling clerks I won’t give out my phone number or e-mail address. More often I’m asked for e-mail and frankly I get enough crap as it is.

    And while we’re on the topic, here’s another reform I want to see happen: I want to be able to make a charitable donation or political donation online using my credit card without having to give my phone number, or if for some reason they absolutely must have it to verify my identity (which seems weird) they need to let us opt out of getting solicitations. I swear if I get another phone call from the damn Democrats I am changing my phone number. Also, too many non profit groups use telemarketers and my rule of thumb is that if you’re doing that with the money I’ve given you, you’ve got too much money. End of discussion.


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