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[P]
Can I Have Your Zip Code?

By Lord13 in Culture
Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 02:23:59 PM EST
Tags: Round Table (all tags)
Round Table

"What do you feel like doing today?" I asked my girlfriend yesterday.

"I don't know" She replied.

"Hey I know, let's be patriotic and go spend some hard earned cash on overpriced items we don't need at stores of questionable value and taste!" I say cheerily.

"What?"

"Let's go shopping!"

So off we set for a merry time of spending money for the betterment of the country. We didn't need anything specific, just decided to do some impulse shopping.


After hitting the ATM (I always pay in cash) we talked about which stores we would wander and headed out. Best Buy was our first stop. My girlfriend was still using an old 15" monitor on her computer so we decided to spring for a new 19 incher.

A young sales representative approached us after a time and asked if we needed any help.

"Yea, we need one of these monitor's." I reply to his inquiry.

Not moving a muscle, the Best Buy sales representative immediately hits me with the pitch "Would you like an extended warranty for $50?"

"No"

Unfazed the sales rep tells me he'll meet me in the front of the store with the monitor when I'm done shopping. My girlfriend finds the new Tori Amos album and, after a brief review of the latest PC games, we head up to the cash register.

The lines are always long at my area Best Buy. So after a good 10 minutes of waiting, we are greeted by the smiling cashier "Would you be interested in signing up for a subscription to MSN?"

Playing dumb I ask "What does MSN stand for?". The cashier looks to be about 17 or 18 years old and I'm doubting she knows much about what she is selling. My girlfriend lets out a small sigh next to me, she knows what's coming.

"Umm, I don't know, I forgot, let me check...(brings out a MSN subscription form)...I'm not sure...it's an internet service."

"Is it faster then AOL?" I ask.

"<laughs> I don't know, probably not." She replies.

Continuing with the stupid questions I ask "Will it work with my cable modem?".

"I really don't know, I can get someone else to answer your questions if you like."

Satisfied my theory was correct I dismissed that idea and paid for my purchases. My girlfriend reminded me that I can be quite a jackass as we left the store.

Next we went to Kohl's. I picked up some new kakis and shirts for work and my girlfriend got a bedspread. After a warm greeting the cashier asks "Can I have your zip code?"

"Sure" I reply, "12345".

I'm rewarded with a annoyed look and, after a couple seconds hesitation, she punches a key that bypasses the prompt for a zip code. My girlfriend simply shakes her head and the cashier rings up the items without further incident.

Next we were off to World Market to pick up some white chocolate for a cooking experiment. Once again, the cashier asks me for my zip code. I'm a little annoyed that ever place I shop today is asking me something when I try to make my purchases. I simply reply "No", which, to my amusement, utterly confounds the cashier. She blinks a confused look for a good 7 or 8 seconds before calling her manager on the phone.

"What should I enter if the customer refuses to give me their zip code? Uh huh...yep...ok thanks" She then appeared to punch in the zip code for the store and proceeds to ring up the chocolate.

"What was that all about?" My girlfriend wonders as we leave World Market.

"They must have a rule about getting the zip code for every purchase or that cashier has never had anyone refuse to give it up." I offer.

Still wondering, we drive over to Radio Shack to pick up a RCA cable. I've shopped at Radio Shack plenty of times before and I know they ask for your phone number and address. After being bugged all day, I decided to have a little fun.

After finding the cable we walk up to the cashier.

After a plensant greeting the cashier asks "Ok, can I have your phone number?".

"Sure it's <insert made up phone number that sounds reasonable>"

The cashier watches his terminal while it searches for my phone number. Since I made it up, it brings up nothing.

"Ok, can I have your address?" he asks.

"What do you need that for?"

"We'll send you a flyer in the mail"

"Gee that'll be great. It's one-four-seven-two Main Street. Apartment number one-eight-one-six..." I waited until he finished entering that much before continuing "...Privacyville, MI 12345"

As soon as I said `Privacyville' the cashier's shoulders slumped and was obviously quite annoyed. He paused for a few seconds before angrily and loudly whacking the backspace key on the keyboard.

"Is there a problem?" I inquire.

"If you didn't want to give me your address, why didn't you just say so?" he spits.

"I was annoyed that you asked, I just thought I would share." After getting the priceless `your-a-real-jackass' look for a couple seconds the cashier rung up my RCA cable post-haste. It was almost like he wanted me gone and out of the store as soon as possible.

My girlfriend started laughing as soon as we got out the door. "Do you always have to be such a jackass?"

"Can I have your zip code?"

Best Buy was the first store to ask me for my Zip code a good 5 or 6 years ago. I was a little unnerved by the question, but reacted the same way most people do which is to simply give them my zip code. Over the years I've alternated between giving out my real Zip code versus a random number that may or may not be a Zip code in Michigan.

At some point it seems to have become a commonplace question as more stores recognize the value of tracking where their customers are coming from. It's not exactly a huge amount of information to be giving away but it this little question has already evolved into a sales pitch for MSN at Best Buy. To beg the question: What will it evolve to in the future?

It's a subtle cultural shift and an annoying one at that. Why do I have create a moment of unpleasantness in a transaction for chocolate?

Topical Questions:

How do you feel about last minute sales pitches such as Best Buy's practice to ask about MSN subscriptions?

How do you feel about the increasing practice of asking for Zip codes before purchases?

Can anyone outside of the US relate with similar requests for information at the time of purchase?

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Poll
Requests for Zip codes are:
o Ok, what's your problem? 9%
o Annoying, but I just give'em what they ask for. 15%
o Annoying, I always refuse. 21%
o Annoying, I give them false info. 29%
o Madding, I foam at the mouth. 4%
o Nonexistant, I never been asked. 20%

Votes: 65
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Also by Lord13


Display: Sort:
Can I Have Your Zip Code? | 155 comments (154 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
They do it perfectly (4.37 / 8) (#2)
by DesiredUsername on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 12:46:11 PM EST

I absolutely hate it. But in the "heat of the moment" the annoyance is *just below* my wish to get home and play with my new toy, my exasperation at a naughty child and my auto-piloted politeness. Which means they win, at least in the short term (in the long term I avoid those stores...)

However, I have actually refused information in stores before. Example: Applying for a video rental card I was asked if I had a work number. "Yes, but I don't think you need it."

Play 囲碁
"May I have your $UNECESSARY_PERSONAL_INFO ?& (4.00 / 9) (#3)
by greyrat on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 12:46:17 PM EST

"No, you may not."

There, that wasn't too hard -- or too impolite.


~ ~ ~
Did I actually read the article? No. No I didn't.
"Watch out for me nobbystyles, Gromit!"

Could still be a little more polite (3.50 / 4) (#44)
by squigly on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 03:39:18 PM EST

"I'd rather not give it to you, thankyou". Much more polite, and adds an explanation.

[ Parent ]
. . . or this (4.00 / 3) (#89)
by bigdavex on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 10:07:09 PM EST

"I'd rather not give it to you, thankyou". Much more polite, and adds an explanation.
I don't think there's any additional information in that reply over the orginal poster's.

I've said this occasionally, when I'm not in a hurry: "I don't usually give out that information. Why is it necessary?" I think that puts the onus of explanation on the proper party.

[ Parent ]

Wierd (4.05 / 18) (#4)
by itsbruce on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 12:50:08 PM EST

If any British store tried doing that, the customers would tell them to fsck off very bluntly indeed (as opposed to the more usual British sales transaction where the sales assistant tells the customer to fsck off). Are Americans just insanely helpful and happy to co-operate?


--I unfortunately do not know how to turn cheese into gold.
Bad moderation (2.50 / 2) (#10)
by ucblockhead on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 01:06:15 PM EST

The above comment does not deserve a '0'. It is not spam, crapflooding, nor is it particularly offensive.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Chill (2.50 / 2) (#20)
by itsbruce on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 01:33:22 PM EST

If the guy wants to advertise himself as an asshole, give him room.


--I unfortunately do not know how to turn cheese into gold.
[ Parent ]

It's a mistake (3.33 / 3) (#66)
by tmoertel on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 05:55:35 PM EST

This was (I hope) a mistake. See this comment for more.

--
My blog | LectroTest

[ Disagree? Reply. ]


[ Parent ]
Store loyalty cards (3.25 / 4) (#12)
by miller on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 01:08:19 PM EST

Look at all those loyalty cards where you have to fill in your entire address before they'll give you it - and then people'll gladly use it for every store purchase they make, for a few pennies saved.

Sure, you could give a fake address, or you could swap cards with your neighbour, or get a couple of cards and buy different things on each - but in my experience, people don't.

--
It's too bad I don't take drugs, I think it would be even better. -- Lagged2Death
[ Parent ]

Re: Store Loyalty Cards (4.20 / 5) (#95)
by phliar on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 11:18:47 PM EST

Look at all those loyalty cards where you have to fill in your entire address before they'll give you it - and then people'll gladly use it for every store purchase they make, for a few pennies saved.
I heard of this "card assistance plan" - there's a certain grocery store here in San Francisco where, just outside, there's a bin full of those cards. When you go to shop there, you grab a card; when you're done shopping, toss the card back in the bin.

I'd really like to see the demographic data they come up with for those cards!


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

Ah yeah (3.25 / 4) (#116)
by cpt kangarooski on Tue Oct 09, 2001 at 12:06:01 PM EST

I do actually make an effort to find stores that don't do this. When I was in Seattle, I stuck with QFC and Top primarily for this reason; I was closer to the Safeway. (of course, Top is a _really_ nice grocery store anyway)

Sadly, I'm now in South Jersey, which sucks. The Acme doesn't have cards, but all the ones I've found so far are pretty trashy. ShopRite (which I won't go to right now anyway, b/c I won't cross the picket lines there) uses cards, and unfortunately is pretty good in other respects. So I pay cash, and always get a new card every time. I've been Han Solo, Linus Torvalds, Bill Gates, John Q. Public, Fakity McFake-Fake.... should probably start keeping track on the Palm.

And meanwhile, my greatest disappointment is that in Seattle _EVERY_ damn grocery store I ever went to was open 24 hours. Here they all close, dammit.

--
All my posts including this one are in the public domain. I am a lawyer. I am not your lawyer, and this is not legal advice.
[ Parent ]
Not so much insanely helpful (3.75 / 4) (#13)
by Lord13 on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 01:15:17 PM EST

Most Americans will just give them their zip code versus creating a ripple of unplesantness in the transaction. It's easier that way. This is also what makes it a little scary since businesses have recongized that it is a tactic that works. Best Buy has taking advantage and taking it a step further by trying to push MSN. It works too. The long lines there are caused, in part, by someone spending 10 minutes filling out the subscription form while everyone waits. If the zip code question isn't annoying enough, now I have to wait while some moron signs up for MSN.

Growing half a tree, water it everyday.
[ Parent ]
British... (3.00 / 7) (#55)
by reeses on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 04:57:23 PM EST

Right, you only want your government spying on you, not merchants. We tend to be the other way around. :-)

[ Parent ]
But you have both (3.20 / 5) (#106)
by itsbruce on Tue Oct 09, 2001 at 07:12:17 AM EST

All the same.


--I unfortunately do not know how to turn cheese into gold.
[ Parent ]
British stores (3.50 / 4) (#104)
by Robosmurf on Tue Oct 09, 2001 at 05:43:20 AM EST

The British store Tempo (another electronics retailer) asks me for my post code (the British equivalent of a zip code) at every purchase.



[ Parent ]
The reason they want your zipcode. (4.57 / 21) (#5)
by ucblockhead on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 12:52:45 PM EST

If you ask the cashier why they want your zipcode, they will say that it is for "demographic" or "marketting" reasons, the implication being that they don't want it to track you individually. This is a lie. The cashier almost certainly does not know it is a lie, but it damn well is.

I know this because I had to code a "zipcode" prompt for cash registers at a US retailer. (One of the reasons I left that place.)

They want it, because if you pay with a credit card, they can use your zipcode to get your address. You see, the credit card companies won't give retailers customer addresses, but they will give names. So if "Joe Blow" buys with a credit card, they have no clue which "Joe Blow" it is. However, if you give your zip code, they suddenly know that you are "Joe Blow" who lives in "Walnut Creek, CA". With most names, this is enough to get an address from public records. Bingo, they now know exactly where the "Joe Blow" who used that credit card lives. "Joe Blow" will probably then get a shiny, new catalog despite never giving an address to anyone. Buy something out of that catalog (the nice person on the phone will often ask for a number printed with the address), and they can track you even further.

(BTW: I vaguely remember "12345" being an actual valid zipcode. I always give a more random seeming one. Bad data screws the works more than no data.)
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup

Paranoid. (2.33 / 3) (#14)
by jabber on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 01:18:02 PM EST

They want your ZIP to do geographical distribution analysis.. If lots of people from the adjacent ZIP come to a certain location to shop, then it might be time to open a store in that ZIP.. It's really that simple.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

No, I have first-hand knowledge of this. (5.00 / 13) (#25)
by ucblockhead on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 01:48:55 PM EST

Again, that is what they tell you, but that is not the case. My post is not "paranoid". My post is based on my own experience in putting together the infrastructure to capture customer zipcode data for a US retailer.

I am the guy who wrote the code to prompt for the zipcode, and transfer that information to the central office. I personally know the guy who wrote the code that matched this data to credit card records in order to determine addresses. I personally sat in meetings with project managers and the like who explicitly stated that the goal was to match up credit cards to addresses so that in-store customers could be sent catalogs. The "geographical distribution analysis" stuff was mentioned as a "nice side benefit", but it was by no means the driving force of the project. The driving force of the project was to try to convert in-store customers to catalog shoppers, or to try to get them into stores more often by sending catalogs to their homes, both things that required figuring out where instore customers lived (not in general, but specifically). It was thought that the increased sales driven by the targetted catalog mailings would offset the costs of writing and installing the new software. (I was told this explicitly by management personel there.)
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

Uncle! (4.25 / 4) (#38)
by jabber on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 02:56:21 PM EST

Fair enough. Now that you've jogged my memory, I have had conversations with friends who work for certain middle-ware software houses like Blue Martini, Black Rocket and the like, regarding the data-mining capabilities of these products. I must have blocked it out, as though it were some sort of Orwellian nightmare. ;)

In the case of middle-ware and B2C layers, the 'plan' is even more 'nefarious', in that the data entered by the customer in the course of their transaction with a vendor, is intercepted and forked to the middle-ware office as well. There, it is correlated and profiled with other transactions by the same customer with other vendors, and with similar customers any vendors that are cusotmers of the middle-tier. So someone who shops at Williams Sonoma can suddenly start getting catalogues from Restoration Hardware. The middle-ware corp of course gets a 'finder fee' for the prostective customers that their data-mining engine turns up.

But so what?

What is wrong with making my shopping experience more convenient? Yes, the product price absorbs the cost of the extra intelligence, but as long as I as a customer am willing to pay that price in exchange for convenience, what is the big deal?

The retailer goes through the exercise of deriving my address from my ZIP code and Credit Card information. They are already privy to my credit info, and my address is a matter of public record. Why should I be troubled by this?

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

Restoration Hardware (4.50 / 4) (#46)
by ucblockhead on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 03:41:33 PM EST

That'd make the Williams-Sonoma people go apoplectic. Williams-Sonoma owns Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware's biggest competiter!

Whether or not you should care is, IMHO, a personal issue. Maybe you do, maybe you don't. I just think it is important that consumers be aware of what is going on.


-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

Subjective perception of danger (2.50 / 2) (#110)
by axafluff on Tue Oct 09, 2001 at 09:19:36 AM EST

> I am the guy who wrote the code to prompt for the zipcode, and transfer that information to the central office. I am not judging your ability to weigh risks but to me it would be far less of an issue to divulge my ZIP code compared with giving information with which I could be sued for breaching an NDA, contract, or equivalent. :) just my 0.02 wish-they-were-euros-and-not-swedish-crowns

[ Parent ]
NDAs, etc... (4.50 / 4) (#114)
by ucblockhead on Tue Oct 09, 2001 at 11:02:41 AM EST

Nah, I told them I'd tell people. It is really an open secret in the industry, a sort of "we'll admit it if we ask but do every damn thing we can to imply we don't without actually saying so" sort of thing.

(That, and I was a contractor and they forgot to have me sign any sort of NDA. :) )
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

actually a possible alternate explanation (4.00 / 3) (#29)
by jayfoo2 on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 02:06:46 PM EST

Zip codes are used as part of credit card transactions using a system called the Address Verification System (AVS).

AVS can be included in a credit card validation request. It can compare the first 20 letters of the address field (only letters, no numbers or punctuation) or the zipcode (5 digit only, not zip+4). It only works for U.S. addresses.

Using AVS isn't required for card-present purchases (store) it's more commonly used for card-not-present (mail, telephone, internet) purchases. Some merchants do use it for card-present transactions however, especially big ticket ones. Typically the Acquiring bank will offer the merchant a slightly lower interchange rate (the rate they take off the top of the purchase) if they use AVS to fight fraud.

So there is a legitimate reason for a merchant to collect your Zip. I'm not however implying that this is all they want it for. They certainly don't need your phone number for this, that's purely for marketing.





[ Parent ]
That's mostly an internet thing. (4.00 / 3) (#30)
by ucblockhead on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 02:12:01 PM EST

AVS isn't necessary when you are grabbing a physical signature. In any case, the company I was refering to did not use AVS. (Speaking as the guy who wrote all the credit authorization software.)
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
True True (4.00 / 2) (#33)
by jayfoo2 on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 02:23:10 PM EST

Yup, AVS isn't necessary (required) for physical 'card-present' purchases. However I do know some merchants who do use it in stores to get a lower interchange rate.

I don't actually believe that most merchants collect address data for that reason, but I'm playing reatailer's (err. devil's) advocate.

[ Parent ]
12345 (4.00 / 3) (#58)
by physicsgod on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 05:12:58 PM EST

Is the ZIP code for SCHENECTADY NY.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
thank you (2.66 / 3) (#59)
by Ender Ryan on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 05:15:06 PM EST

I always wondered if there was something more "sinister" going on when they asked for you zip-code. Now I know, thanks.

Unfortuneately, it's probably too late for this information to do me any good, as I'm sure all the stores around here keep databases of credit-card numbers so they already know who I am anyway.

Time to change my name and get some new credit-cards ; )


-
Exposing vast conspiracies! Experts at everything even outside our expertise! Liberators of the world from the oppression of the evil USian Empire!

We are Kuro5hin!


[ Parent ]

Schenectady (4.00 / 4) (#64)
by bunsen on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 05:29:58 PM EST

According to the USPS zip code database, 12345 is associated with Schenectady, NY.

Too bad 31337 isn't a valid code. When the store I worked for asked for zip codes with every purchase for a month, the data gathered reported quite a number of customers with that zip code (I was one of two cashiers who used that as a default code). I was rather disappointed, though, by the tiny number of people who refused to give a zip code or made something up. Most of the 31337s entered were for null purchases, price checks and the like (damn software wouldn't let a transaction finish without a zip code entered, regardless of whether or not anything was purchased). I'm not positive what sort of data mining went on after the data was gathered, but I think it was something similar to yours. They used to send out weekly ads in the local newspaper, but after that month they quit that and went for direct mailing. My family, which never gave a zip code along with a credit purchase, doesn't get an ad mailed to our house. God knows what mountains of junk mail have accompanied the ads mailed to most of the customers.

---
Do you want your possessions identified? [ynq] (n)
[ Parent ]

A question or three (3.66 / 3) (#87)
by Lord13 on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 09:20:57 PM EST

Do you know what the success rate was for such a program? I assume names like Bob Jones would be hard to match up, so I'm curious just how much good data they can get from such a match up? I have a unique name, so I'm probably easy to get. Would having a unlisted phone number help? What did they use for sources?

Growing half a tree, water it everyday.
[ Parent ]
Are you saying.. (3.00 / 3) (#109)
by eightball on Tue Oct 09, 2001 at 08:35:45 AM EST

Because you know what one store does with the zip codes, you know what all stores are doing with zip codes?

Granted that it is a clever markteting tool, and eventually, if stores are not doing it now, they probably will once they are told about it.

[ Parent ]
Columbus OH 43201 (3.66 / 3) (#115)
by Karmakaze on Tue Oct 09, 2001 at 11:57:51 AM EST

I use Columbus, because 43201 is easy to remember, but not obviously a fake.

I do occasionally wonder if there is some poor person living at 101 A Street, Columbus OH, 43201 who is trying to figure out why he gets so much junk mail...


--
Karmakaze
[ Parent ]

Hey! (3.00 / 2) (#124)
by MicroBerto on Tue Oct 09, 2001 at 06:06:28 PM EST

I live in Columbus, 43201!! But last year was even better -- the Dorm Zip codes are 43210!

Berto
- GAIM: MicroBerto
Bertoline - My comic strip
[ Parent ]
12345 as a zip code (3.00 / 3) (#117)
by Armaphine on Tue Oct 09, 2001 at 12:08:21 PM EST

From the US Postal Service: 12345 is associated with Schenectady, NY

Question authority. Don't ask why, just do it.
[ Parent ]

i've got your zip code right here (4.33 / 12) (#6)
by thecabinet on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 12:53:16 PM EST

I'm a big fan of asking the clerk for his zip code, her address, its phone number... Most are smart enough to realize that I'm trying to be difficult and say that the information is optional, but every now and then you'll get someone special:

My favorite was this girl running a register at Circuit City (I don't know how she got there either) who asked for my phone number. I, in turn, asked for hers. She smiled, tore off a piece of register paper, and wrote it down for me.

She didn't think I was nearly so cute when I started reading it back to her...

There's more to the story, right? (3.83 / 6) (#54)
by tmoertel on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 04:55:57 PM EST

My favorite was this girl running a register at Circuit City (I don't know how she got there either) who asked for my phone number. I, in turn, asked for hers. She smiled, tore off a piece of register paper, and wrote it down for me.
Unbelivable! This is going to be cool . . .
She didn't think I was nearly so cute when I started reading it back to her...
What?! That's it? You're holding out on us, aren't you?

Are you sure it didn't go more like this?: She didn't think I was nearly so cute when I called her up and asked her out. But things worked out okay. Now we're married!

C'mon, tell it all!

;-)

--
My blog | LectroTest

[ Disagree? Reply. ]


[ Parent ]
Zip codes. (3.25 / 8) (#7)
by kwsNI on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 12:55:32 PM EST

There is a good reason that they ask for your zip code. They're interested in seeing how far people will drive to go to their store and how much demand there would be in other areas.

For example, in Albuquerque, the only Best Buy for years was on the far east side. For the people on the west side of Albuquerque, it was at least an hours drive without traffic to get there. Every time I went in, I made sure they had my zip code - being from the west side. Earlier this year, they finally realized that there was enough demand and put a Best Buy on the west side.

I'm not saying it's not annoying for them to ask for your zip code, but just that it can be beneficial sometimes.

kwsNI
I can picture in my mind a world without war, a world without hate. And I can picture us attacking that world, because they'd never expect it. -Jack Handy

That's what they tell you (4.00 / 5) (#8)
by ucblockhead on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 12:59:48 PM EST

But that's not the case, as I detail here.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
The only zip code we know in the UK.... (4.27 / 11) (#9)
by the trinidad kid on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 01:05:18 PM EST

...is Beverly Hills 90210. So whenever a web site asks for a registration that needs a zip code (and a lot of them do) down it goes...

I live there too... (3.50 / 4) (#80)
by Big Dave Diode on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 08:20:52 PM EST

Being Canadian, I have the same problem, and use the same solution. I wonder if some clever state-side marketroid has noticed the large blip in users from Beverly Hills?

[ Parent ]
My response (3.40 / 5) (#11)
by dbc001 on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 01:06:51 PM EST

I usually just say "no" or I give them "00000". I'd like to see some people post some other privacy tips that they've used successfully.

Slightly off topic but not too far off, I have a friend who says he would pay a monthly fee to some sort of anonymizer corporation so that he could have his credit cards, car, etc in the name of some generic corporate entity - the privacy benefits would be enormous. I dont think such a company exists yet though...

-dbc

Young America, MN 55555 (3.80 / 10) (#15)
by onyxruby on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 01:18:36 PM EST

I go to some of the same stores, and have the same problem. I like one of two answers to this question.

No

Would you like to make one up or would you like me to make one up?

If I am forced to register something like software to get drivers I have another solution. Young America, MN. It has the easy to remember zip code of 55555. It's a real city and zip code, and both are easy to remember. This is important as many registration process's actually verify a zip code against a city name. This was your bogus information is verified as real, and you can get on your merry way.

The moon is covered with the results of astronomical odds.

MOre 'Real' Addresses (4.00 / 4) (#53)
by ShawnD on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 04:39:52 PM EST

It's a real city and zip code, and both are easy to remember.
For the Canadians:
Santa Claus
North Pole
H0H 0H0
CANADA

This is an address Canada Post set up for kids to send their letters to Santa...

BTW Too many web sites are not allowing no@spam.please or postmaster@<sitename> as email addresses. But it is still fun to play 'pick a random country' with the drop lists they provide.

[ Parent ]

Hey! (3.50 / 4) (#72)
by ucblockhead on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 07:16:56 PM EST

I just realized a much better response for us USians: "I'm sorry, I'm Canadian, I don't have a zip code".
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
There is no such thing as a USian (2.00 / 1) (#143)
by labradore on Fri Oct 12, 2001 at 02:51:48 PM EST

You know the drill.

[ Parent ]
emails and countries (3.50 / 4) (#88)
by CrayDrygu on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 10:05:52 PM EST

"BTW Too many web sites are not allowing no@spam.please or postmaster@<sitename> as email addresses. But it is still fun to play 'pick a random country' with the drop lists they provide."

I usually enter "dont@mail.me", and lately I've been picking Uzbeckistan for a country.

I don't even know if Uzbeckistan has computers. Hell, I don't even know where it is. I just like the name.

[ Parent ]

Mail throwaways (3.66 / 3) (#125)
by kmself on Tue Oct 09, 2001 at 09:08:05 PM EST

My favorites include anon@emous.com, fuck@you.com, nobody@nowhere.com.

...most of which translate to legitimate domains. Not unusual these days, even 'localhost.com' is registered (as those who've fscked up their DNS can tell you). Was in a hypo with a lawyer one time when he posited "acrossthestreet.com". A check showed that it was registered.

--
Karsten M. Self
SCO -- backgrounder on Caldera/SCO vs IBM
Support the EFF!!
There is no K5 cabal.
[ Parent ]

My personal favorite (4.00 / 1) (#153)
by bgalehouse on Thu Oct 18, 2001 at 04:45:30 PM EST

Is to use the website's abuse mailbox, or at least where the abuse mailbox should be. For example, when dowloading quicktime one would use abuse@apple.com. I think this is particularly reasonable, especially if you uncheck all the 'spam me' boxes.

[ Parent ]
Blah@blah.blah (3.75 / 4) (#92)
by Elendale on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 10:35:04 PM EST

Always a favorite. I used to enjoy signing up (root|help|something)@(company name).com to their own spam whenever some site was disrespecting mah authoritah with popups, but that doesn't work much anymore either. Of course, many telemarketers either don't care or don't know that you are- in fact- signing up as the president (or a prominent member) of whatever company they're calling on behalf of.

Generally being a jackass and pulling immature pranks?
They started it!

-Elendale
---

When free speech is outlawed, only criminals will complain.


[ Parent ]
Young America (4.00 / 3) (#73)
by cryosis on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 07:40:38 PM EST

If I am forced to register something like software to get drivers I have another solution. Young America, MN.

Bonus to that is that the junk mail that they're going to send you probably is coming from Young America. Most of that city is populated by employees of junk mailers.

[ Parent ]
Digits of Pi (3.00 / 1) (#137)
by technik on Thu Oct 11, 2001 at 09:51:54 AM EST

31415 works out to somewhere in Savannah, GA.

And for a phone number (314)159-2653 which would be St. Louis, MO (I think) but it is unassigned.

Digits of Pi

- technik

[ Parent ]
I Wish My Phone Number Were Pi (4.50 / 2) (#144)
by Captain Derivative on Sat Oct 13, 2001 at 12:04:07 AM EST

And for a phone number (314)159-2653 which would be St. Louis, MO (I think) but it is unassigned.

Yes, 314 is the area code for St. Louis, MO. But no phone numbers start with 1, since that's the escape for long distance or toll free calls. So, sadly, there's no phone number (314) 159-2653 (or technically (314) 159-2654, if you round properly).

I wonder if (271) 828-1828 works though....


--
Hey! Why aren't you all dead yet?! Oh, that's right, it's only Tuesday. -- Zorak


[ Parent ]
My zip code is... (3.33 / 9) (#16)
by Rocky on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 01:26:38 PM EST

...31337

If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?
- Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)
At Radio Shack... (3.33 / 9) (#17)
by Ialdabaoth on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 01:27:02 PM EST

...they ask for name, phone, address, and zipcode -- even when paying cash!

I can say this based on personal experience; I went to Radio Shack to buy a pair of headphones (I don't go there otherwise), and the droid behind the counter (who looked like a 30 year old white guy) asked me for my bona fides despite me offering cash as payment. What do I do? I give them some info:

  • Name: Dev Null
  • Address: 666 Fascination Street
  • City/State/Zip:Los Diablos, Gehenna 00666
  • Phone:976-EVIL
When the droid balked at using this info and said, "This is an alias," I simply said, "No shit, Sherlock," put the money back in my pocket, and walked out, leaving the headphones on the counter. Radio Shack can kiss my ass.
*******
"Act upon thy thoughts shall be the whole of the Law."

--paraphrase of Aleister Crowley

The Future and other such things (2.85 / 7) (#18)
by Locus27 on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 01:29:09 PM EST

Just wait until it's

"Press your finger to the pad, please." *Cheerful fake smile*

Or

"Please look into the camera while we scan your retina."

Granted, I'm not so paranoid about my privacy. I could give a flying moose if I receive a pound and a half of junkmail daily. It gets chucked into the garbage on the way from the front door to the fridge.
Infact, I look forward to the day my shopper profile is readily accessable. I look forward to the day cash is replaced by an entirely electronic system. It'll make my life so much easier. I can't wait for the day that I can log on to bestbuy.com and have the latest dvd and ps2 releases waiting for me to review and potentially buy.

Then again, I'm also of the oppinion that if you have nothing to be ashamed of, you have nothing to hide. I don't mind marketing gimps knowing that I like to buy movies where lots of shit blows up and lots of people die, that I like to buy games with single level death tolls rivalling the black death, that I like to spend my money on good a/v equipment and bad plots.

You do realize that by making yourself a thorn in the collective side, by being vocal about your right to privacy, and by being a total jackass in an inconsequential electronics store, you're making yourself more of a target than the rest of the sheep that subconsciously spew out their personal information.

How many times has it been said that the best place to hide is right out in the open?

"You're one fucked up cookie."
-Shawn R. Fitzgerald

But what about.... (4.00 / 4) (#23)
by DesiredUsername on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 01:37:27 PM EST

...when some well-meaning but idiotic law gets passed rounding up FPS players to be "psychologically evaluated" for likelyhood of shooting up a school?

I'm not paranoid, it's too much trouble. But neither am I as blase as you about the possibility of my now-legal lifestyle having nothing worth hiding over a period of 50 years.

Play 囲碁
[ Parent ]
FSP players (3.00 / 4) (#28)
by Locus27 on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 02:01:45 PM EST

Psychological profiling isn't as voodoo as everyone makes it out to be. If profiling those who prefer FPS games weeds out a few nutjobs before they have a chance to do some real damage, I'm all for it. If someone can't make the reasonable distinction between clicking a mouse and blowing up a few pixels and squeezing the trigger and splattering grey matter all over a wall, then that is a very dangerous person. If consumer profiling and psychological evaluations lead to his preventative detainment, then who am I to complain about having to sit through a short session with a shrink? What if I were one of the ones he emptied a clip into? What if you were?

And it extends beyond gaming preferences. It goes into everything you buy, everything you rent, everything you borrow from the library. Don't think you aren't being watched. Actively or passively, information about you is piling up out there, and there's nothing you can do to stop it. I'm not worried because I know I'm doing nothing wrong. Sure, I pirate games, I rip, download, and distribute MP3s, I do all kinds of stuff like that. Most usually, it's on a trial basis. If a game's really good, and I deem it worthy of my support, I buy it. A game's gotta be really kickass for me to buy it though. In my mind, that should serve as incentive for game developing companies to put more effort into the stuff they produce. I download whole albums of mp3s. I listen to the whole cd's worth. If the cd is good, and I like the band, I'll buy the cd. If it's got a good song or two on it, but the other 13 are complete shit, there's no way in hell I'm gonna spend 16 bucks on it. I'd also buy more cds if the actual artists got more money from them. As it stands, the artist gets an actual... what... 4% of the total sale? 64 cents on a $16 cd. MP3s are my way of saying "Fuck You" to record company fatcats that are getting rich off of other people's work. I'd also like to add a "Fuck You" to RIAA, just incase they're reading this.

But I'm small time. I pirate games and MP3s. I like buying dvds (of good quality) and have an interest in guns. I'm not out there hacking into a such and such company's system and screwing with things (granted, I couldn't hack my way out of a paperbag). I'm not out on a ranch in Montana saying that I'm going to blow up Washington. I'm not shooting up schools. I'm not worth the bother, because I'm not making myself a target, I'm not a threat. I have no reason to hide, so I'm not. In not hiding, and not making myself conspicuous, I'm hiding all the better.

"You're one fucked up cookie."
-Shawn R. Fitzgerald

[ Parent ]

And what about... (3.00 / 4) (#49)
by greyrat on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 04:03:41 PM EST

...when I buy my new car on your credit. Gee thanks mister!
~ ~ ~
Did I actually read the article? No. No I didn't.
"Watch out for me nobbystyles, Gromit!"

[ Parent ]
if you could (3.75 / 4) (#50)
by Locus27 on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 04:10:02 PM EST

buy a new car on my measly credit, it can't be worth the gas you're putting in it.

"You're one fucked up cookie."
-Shawn R. Fitzgerald

[ Parent ]

Only criminals care about privacy! (4.50 / 6) (#93)
by phliar on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 10:56:46 PM EST

Granted, I'm not so paranoid about my privacy. I could give a flying moose if I receive a pound and a half of junkmail daily. It gets chucked into the garbage on the way from the front door to the fridge. Infact, I look forward to the day my shopper profile is readily accessable. I look forward to the day cash is replaced by an entirely electronic system. It'll make my life so much easier.
I lead a blameless life, of course. If my mother knew of all my purchases I wouldn't mind.

However...

Let's say I go into a Radio Shack and buy an AC adaptor and an RCA audio cable. They know everything about me, it's so cool! Happy with how convenient my purchase was, I walk out of the store with a bounce in my step.

Unbeknownst to me, the next customer was a co-conspirator of Mohamed Atta. He bought an alarm clock and some electronic stuff to help with the hijacking they've got planned for Sept. 11. <later...> Going through the wreckage, the FBI finds a fragment of a detonator or something and find a Radio Shack serial number - finally! A breakthrough! They go to Radio Shack and look at the database. Unfortunately the clueless moron (or overworked college student) mistyped some stuff and mixed up the two entries. The FBI come and take me away.

Far-fetched? Perhaps. However, a happier version of something similar has happened to me - I have received packages of stuff that I didn't order, from places like Amazon and Lands' End.

I don't trust [the people who work on] databases.


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

Just say "No". (4.35 / 14) (#19)
by chipuni on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 01:32:28 PM EST

Try to think of it from the perspective of the salesperson. You're seventeen. You're still in high school. You've got a boss that yells at you, and a job that pays minimum wage. And the computer has been set up to ask, at every purchase, for the customer's zip code.

How would you want to be treated?
--
Perfection is not reached when nothing more can be added, but only when nothing more can be taken away.
Wisdom for short attention spans.

Screw the company. (4.25 / 4) (#68)
by Ialdabaoth on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 06:37:47 PM EST

I was stuck in a job like that for about three months (Just before college and I needed money for textbooks). I worked a register that demanded a ZIP code. I stuck in 99999 every time. Eventually the boss wised up and asked me why I punched in 99999 instead of asking customers for their ZIP code. I told him that if one of my coworkers asked me for my ZIP code I'd ask them to get fucked. That being the case, I explained, I couldn't allow myself to demand information from others that I wouldn't give up myself. He fired me on the spot, but I didn't need the job anymore anyway. It was only a second part-time job for book money.
*******
"Act upon thy thoughts shall be the whole of the Law."

--paraphrase of Aleister Crowley
[ Parent ]

Running the checkout gauntlet (4.45 / 11) (#21)
by tmoertel on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 01:33:57 PM EST

I generally run the gauntlet of checkout questions with polite yet firm denials:
Would you like to purchase an extended warranty?
No, thank you.

May I have your zip code, please?
No, I would prefer to keep my personal information private.

Could you sign for your credit card on the electronic pad?
No, I would prefer to sign on paper.

[ and so on ]

It seems that checkout personnel are trained how to take your information but not how not to take your information. For example, I have never encountered a checkout person who knew how to handle my "No, I would prefer to sign on paper" response without having to call a manager. Then the fun begins. We wait. Where could the manager be? The line backs up. I tap my fingers. I exchange polite stares with the people behind me. The long-awaited manager finally appears. The checkout person whispers "he won't sign on the pad" while making this-guy-must-be-crazy hand gestures. The manager looks me over, scratches his head, and gingerly performs some obscure rite with the cash register to cause a paper credit-card slip to spew forth. I sign. The World resumes rotating about its axis.

I don't know whether it's incompetence that explains this lack of preparedness or whether the stores are trying to use the threat of inconvenience as motivation to just fork over the requested personal information when asked. My guess is that it's the former, but the cynic in me wonders if the latter doesn't play a part.

--
My blog | LectroTest

[ Disagree? Reply. ]


Pad vs Paper? (4.00 / 1) (#26)
by dennis on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 01:49:52 PM EST

Why won't you sign on the electronic pad? I'm a privacy nut myself, so I'm genuinely interested.

[ Parent ]
The Reason is Your .Sig Becomes Digitized (4.00 / 4) (#32)
by truth versus death on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 02:14:31 PM EST

Now a computer can replicate your signature, even down to the nuance of the motions you make with the pen as you sign.

Though, I've never thought not to sign them since if someone misuses my signature - it's the system of law's job to deal with it, not mine. Plus I track all my purchases and trust my credit card company to believe me when I tell them this is not my purchase, kindly charge-back.

If I had a significant amount of capital I might be more hesitant.

As for privacy, the unalterable features of your body (such as DNA samples and iris pictures) are more of a concern since they can't be altered (very easily) in response to theft.

"any erection implies consent"-fae
[ Trim your Bush ]
[ Parent ]
Your credit is your responsibility (4.66 / 3) (#48)
by tmoertel on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 03:52:11 PM EST

Though, I've never thought not to sign them since if someone misuses my signature - it's the system of law's job to deal with it, not mine.
Unfortunately, it just doesn't work that way. If someone misuses your signature and you find out about it after it's on your credit record, it's your problem. You have to convince the credit reporting agencies to remove the offending information, and many times the best you can do is get your version of the story included along side of the this-guy-doesn't-pay-his-bills information.

Search on "credit report" and "credit theft" for nightmare stories.

--
My blog | LectroTest

[ Disagree? Reply. ]


[ Parent ]
Responsibility (4.00 / 3) (#129)
by PresJPolk on Wed Oct 10, 2001 at 02:24:41 AM EST

It's the responsibility of the law to only enforce valid transactions.

It's the responsibility of an information dealer to make sure its information is valid.

It's the responsibility of citizens to get the laws changed to enforce both of the above.

[ Parent ]
Problems with digitized signatures (5.00 / 7) (#42)
by tmoertel on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 03:25:04 PM EST

My problem with signing on the pad is that it results in a digitized signature, which is many times more likely to be abused than a genuine pen-on-paper signature:
  • Whereas a pen-on-paper signature provides a reasonable assurance that it authorizes only the intended document -- the one with my pen's ink on it -- a digitized signature lives inside of a database, independent of any physical document, and appears to be equally valid when printed on any document. (This is why true digital signatures rely on one-way hashing and other mathematical techniques to bind the signature to a specific document.)
  • Pen-and-paper signatures are thousands of years old and well understood by accounting, management, security, and law-enforcement personnel. The policies and laws that have grown up around real signatures provide real protection. Digitized signatures, by contrast, are often so misunderstood as to be considered an acceptable substitute for the real thing, despite how little assurance they provide of their legitimacy or applicability to a particular document. Not surprisingly, the policies and laws that relate to digitized signatures offer consumers only dubious protection.
  • Finally, while I am confident that an underpaid, incompetent salesperson won't walk off with 100,000 signed credit-card charge authorizations, I am not confident that the underpaid, incompetent programmers who the retail chains hire to save them big bucks by "going digital" won't leave the digitized signatures on a poorly secured database, run its administrative interface on an unpached version of Microsoft IIS, and then connect it to the Internet for the convenience of remote administration.
That's my reasoning, in a nutshell.

--
My blog | LectroTest

[ Disagree? Reply. ]


[ Parent ]
What!? (4.14 / 7) (#47)
by ucblockhead on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 03:45:27 PM EST

...I am not confident that the underpaid, incompetent programmers who the retail chains hire...

I was underpaid!?!?
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

Problems with digitized signatures (3.00 / 3) (#70)
by juju2112 on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 07:09:27 PM EST

It seems to me that the digitized signature would only be kept in memory for however long it takes for it to be printed out to the credit card receipt. Do you really think they're keeping it in a database?

-- juju

[ Parent ]
Yes, the sigs are stored in databases (5.00 / 6) (#82)
by tmoertel on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 08:33:34 PM EST

It seems to me that the digitized signature would only be kept in memory for however long it takes for it to be printed out to the credit card receipt. Do you really think they're keeping it in a database?
The point of digitizing signatures is to avoid paperwork. And, if the signatures aren't on paper, where are they? Think about it. If the merchants only wanted my signature on a receipt, why would they go through the trouble of digitizing it and loading it into a computer? Wouldn't they simply ask me to sign the receipt? The reason they go through the hassle of digitizing signatures is to get them into databases. Then they can do away with the paper.

As far back as 1994, Sears has been digitizing and storing credit-card signatures, according to this letter in the Risks Digest. More generally, from the "What are signature capture devices" section of Paying by Credit Card or Check: What Can Merchants Ask?, on www.privacyrights.org:

Signature capture devices have recently been introduced by merchants. They are usually located at the cash register and are used when consumers pay by credit card. The signature capture device records the individual's signature and stores it in a computer system.

According to merchants, signature capture devices streamline their operations by saving them time and reducing the amount of paper generated. When there is a purchase dispute, it easier for the merchant to locate the receipt by transaction number, using a computer, than locating the paper copy. [...]

However, many consumers feel uncomfortable using signature capture devices. They are concerned about the security of having their signatures stored electronically in a computer system. Would it be possible, for example, for someone to break into the company's computer system, obtain customers' digitized signatures, and then copy them for forgery purposes?

Make no mistake, if your signature is being digitized, it's being saved in a database.

--
My blog | LectroTest

[ Disagree? Reply. ]


[ Parent ]
I don't worry much (3.33 / 3) (#100)
by Verminator on Tue Oct 09, 2001 at 02:59:54 AM EST

The digital signature pads are so lousy, and my handwriting so large, that I usually get about half of my first name scrawled illegibly on there before the "pen" hits the edge of the pad. The resulting mess in no way resembles my legitimate signature. Not that this is really a deterrant to false charges, but I deal with those if and when they happen.

Even with a paper credit card slip I usually don't sign with my "official" signature. Depending on what mood I'm in I'll sign it John V________, J. Vermin, or a long string of illegible loops and slashes.

Am I the only one who gets strange looks when I sign with my oversized and excessively stylized and unreadable "real" signature?
If the whole country is gonna play 'Behind The Iron Curtain,' there better be some fine fucking state subsidized alcohol! And our powerlifting team better kick ass!
[ Parent ]

I'm not worried. (4.00 / 2) (#141)
by madajb on Fri Oct 12, 2001 at 09:20:04 AM EST

Mainly, because my signature is so variable, whatever I sign on the electronic pad bears no resemblance to the one on the back of the card, which in turn bears no resemblance to anything I might sign on paper.
Out of curiousity, if you are that worried, why not just use cash? It makes the world go round.
-ajb

[ Parent ]
Well, well (2.00 / 4) (#40)
by itsbruce on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 03:11:03 PM EST

[ Disagree? Then don't rate, Reply. ]

How hypocricital is your sig, on a scale of one to ten?


--I unfortunately do not know how to turn cheese into gold.
[ Parent ]

This must be a mistake (3.00 / 2) (#43)
by tmoertel on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 03:38:14 PM EST

I have, to my knowledge, never rated any comment as a zero. Your comment, certainly, didn't deserve it, and I've just now re-rated it accordingly. I'm sorry for any inconvenience you may have been caused.

I'm hoping that this was just a mistake. Maybe I mis-tabbed into the rating box, and a down-arrow keypress (which I often use to scroll the screen) knocked it to zero.

In any case, I think it's time to change my password.

Thanks for bringing this to my attention (if in a somewhat inflammatory way. ;-)

--
My blog | LectroTest

[ Disagree? Reply. ]


[ Parent ]
Mumble, mumble, apology, mumble (nt) (1.00 / 1) (#105)
by itsbruce on Tue Oct 09, 2001 at 06:57:04 AM EST


--I unfortunately do not know how to turn cheese into gold.
[ Parent ]
Remember what they do (4.00 / 3) (#41)
by mwa on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 03:13:10 PM EST

Since I consistently find myself faced with the unknowing clerk's when I say "I'd like to sign paper, please", I've started asking, and noting what they do. At Best Buy, for example, they hit the "Abort" key. That way, I don't have to wait for a manager.

I also take the time to explain to the clerks and managers that a) having my signature "on file" can be used as authorization for charges, and b) regardless of how secure their "secure internal network" is, over 90% of computer crime is committed by "authorized" employees. Then throw in that they should never give out their SSN #'s either, since there is (last time I checked) one identity theft per second committed in the US.

Generally, they get very interested and swear they will start doing likewise. If they do, eventually the stores will give up on this crap.

[ Parent ]

You were a jackass. (3.50 / 12) (#22)
by dash2 on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 01:35:33 PM EST

It's great that you are concerned about privacy, but it was rude of you to put some overworked and underpaid employee through typing out a fake address, just to make a point. You could just as easily have said "No".

Giving hassle to shop assistants is unkind. It's also an abuse of power, because they are not in a position to answer back: they might get sacked, you won't.

Interesting issue, though.


------------------------
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal.

I'm a Natural Born Jackass (3.33 / 3) (#27)
by Lord13 on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 01:54:42 PM EST

I disagree with the annoying practice period. I know it's not fair to put the employee through crap cause he works for a shite company. However, my transactions are memoirable and, hopefully, the employee will remark to his boss that one customer was really ticked at the zip code question. In my oh-so-idealistic-world this would prompt management to change policy. If I just say no, I didn't give management anything to react to. Just saying no, in my opinion, does nothing to get rid of the annoying practice all together.

Growing half a tree, water it everyday.
[ Parent ]
not a jackass (3.60 / 5) (#61)
by senjiro on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 05:19:43 PM EST

I have to come to the defence of our kind contributer. How else will this kind of nonsense stop, other than by making it MORE TROUBLE THAN IT IS WORTH. dash, call best buy and ask them to stop asking you for MSN. Call Radio Shack and ask them to stop asking you for your address. Your call will be politely thanked, then dumped. NOW, if every fourth person that is asked in best buy pretends to be interested, fills out the form then changes their mind at the last minute, Best Buy has a compelling business reason to stop: there are less sales being made. Some bright young exec will say, 'hey half of our cashier time is spent on this stupid MSN gig which we are only getting a pittance on risiduals from, let's can it!' Think about it and you'll see how right I am. Passive resistance.
it is by will alone that i set my mind in motion
[ Parent ]
You Were Lucky @ Best Buy (3.55 / 9) (#24)
by Fenian on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 01:42:14 PM EST

I am absolutely shocked that they didn't ask you about the service plan AGAIN at the register. And then look at you like you're some sort of moron when you refuse. That's one of the most annoying things about Best Buy and CompUSA. Yes, I'm aware of the service plan. If I want it, I'll say something. Otherwise, get off my ass about it. It's not so much that the question pisses me off so much as the way they look at you when you refuse. Ugh.

"oh well"?? (3.40 / 5) (#51)
by aluminumaloi on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 04:12:33 PM EST

It's not so much that the question pisses me off so much as the way they look at you when you refuse. Ugh.

What, you don't like when people have a look of resigned apathy? Seriously, I don't remember a single time when I had a salesperson at Best Buy or CompUSA, or anywhere else for that matter, give any kind of abnormal look whatsoever. Most of these people are teenagers who don't give a damn one way or another.

[ Parent ]

Sales... (4.00 / 5) (#67)
by BlckKnght on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 06:22:58 PM EST

I don't know about Best Buy or CompUSA, but at Circuit City (where a former roommate works) most of the sales people are on commision. There's a reason they want you to buy an extra service contract: they get a bonus for it. They might get 1% or less of the rest of the sale, but they get as much as 25% of the value of the extra services in commisions. About those they do care.

-- 
Error: .signature: No such file or directory


[ Parent ]
Best Buy (4.57 / 7) (#81)
by juju2112 on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 08:28:05 PM EST

The interesting thing about Best Buy is that the salespeople aren't on commission. However, they are all expected to behave as though they ARE on commision. Each employee's life revolves around his or her departments "numbers" (i.e., how the store is ranking with regard to other stores on accessory sales, which get 300% markup). Employees are expected to care about the profit of company, even though they don't get any commision. This is mostly reinforced through peer pressure, and management treating you like a reject if you don't push push push those accessory sales on customers.

If a customer leaves without buying an accessory, the employee in that deparment is blamed. And don't just pass that last sentence over. Management really does come over to the employee and blame them for not getting the customer to buy an accessory.

They also blame the employees at the end of the day when the sales figures aren't what they would have hoped(e.g., "Why are your numbers so bad, Sue?" "What could we have done different to make our numbers better, Sue?").

This is why, when you walk into a Best Buy, the employees won't leave you the fsck alone. An environment of intense peer pressure is created amoungst the employees to MAKE every customer buy accessories. They're trained to act like they would if they were on commisson, told to tell every customer that they aren't on commission, and they lie just like car salesman or insurance saleman would just to get that extra sale. In case you have doubts, next time you go into Best Buy pay close attention to their pitches. Notice how the least expensive item is always "crap", and how the most expensive item has the minimum acceptable features. "I only have $100", just doesn't seem to get through them. "Oh, you don't want that model..", they'll say. "You need this $300 model. I personally use it at home and I love it."

This may seem like kind of a rant, and I guess it is. But it's just AMAZING to me, the power of a single corporation to create a small subculture of drones to do their bidding, to the point of changing the way their drones think and feel. Another common saying at my local Best Buy is, "We don't have room for anyone who's not interested in being promoted". What this really means is, "If this job isn't your life, you need to just quit now".

I don't work at Best Buy, but my girlfriend does, so this is where I get all this info from. :]

-- juju

[ Parent ]
Don't doubt it, but... (3.33 / 3) (#83)
by aluminumaloi on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 08:44:28 PM EST

I don't doubt all that, but...

I have never, ever, EVER been harrassed when going into a Best Buy. And I go a lot. And I've been to several of them, in different cities. And if I ever need help with anything, I always, ALWAYS have to search for someone to help me, and ALWAYS have to work to get their attention. And even once I do, as soon as they've answered my question to their satisfaction (not, mind you, mine), they go back to what they were doing as if I wasn't even there.

Now, Circuit City, on the other hand, I have to fight 'em off with a stick. I understand they DO make commission there.



[ Parent ]
Circuit City (3.00 / 4) (#85)
by Lord13 on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 09:00:25 PM EST

I went in to a Circuit City once out of curosity. I beat off two sales reps immediatly, took one look at their PC components section, laughed and walked out. Haven't been back in years, but looked completly worthless for geeks who build their own.

Growing half a tree, water it everyday.
[ Parent ]
Changes. (3.50 / 4) (#113)
by shumacher on Tue Oct 09, 2001 at 10:30:17 AM EST

I went in to a Circuit City once out of curosity. I beat off two sales reps immediatly, took one look at their PC components section, laughed and walked out. Haven't been back in years, but looked completly worthless for geeks who build their own.
They replaced their appliances with more computer stuff, and staffed the area with non-commissioned people (not to say that there's no commission on the product, or that the commissioned don't watch that area). I used to hate the PC accessories, but I bought my last NIC there. I'd put them on roughly equal footing with Office Depot, but with better gaming stuff, and fewer printers.

When you can balance a tack hammer on your head, you can head off your foes with a balanced attack.
[ Parent ]
Best Buy (3.50 / 4) (#86)
by juju2112 on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 09:15:31 PM EST

Lol.. well, maybe it's just my local store. Heck, I consider it a personal victory if i can leave my local store without being harrased. :] Techniques that I have mastered include looking down and never, EVER making eye contact. If I absolutely must make eye contact, I make sure it is a glare. :] If happen upon a conversation with a drone, I'm never rude, just short with them.

-- juju

[ Parent ]
Agressive Managers (3.00 / 3) (#120)
by aluminumaloi on Tue Oct 09, 2001 at 02:47:47 PM EST

Perhaps your local store has more aggressive managers. Who knows. I sure am glad I don't have to shop at that one, though! :)

[ Parent ]
OT but it is another angle (3.75 / 4) (#84)
by Lord13 on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 08:49:32 PM EST

I have a couple former friends that worked there and they pretty much say the same thing. As a customer I have heard managers tell employees that 'it's noon and we only have 35 sells, we need to pick it up'.

I live in a small town and if I don't get it from the web, I have to go to Best Buy. Being a geek means I'm there pretty regularly. It is always worth hanging out in the PC section for a awhile because I always hear something memorable.

Sales Rep: "What kind of processor do you currently have?"

Older Customer: "I think I have a Pentium 266"

Sales Rep: "Yep, that's just a Pentium. You see these machines all have Pentium 2 processors which is a far superior processor."

For the ungeek: The 266mhz speed was the first Pentium 2 processor.

Sometimes I really have to control myself and not interrupt to save the poor unknowing customers. One time I did have to step in on a guy pushing a printer. He nearly had them sold on, what was then, a new bubble jet color printer. The thing was horribly expensive and from the conversation it was pretty clear these people wanted to print letters and not much more. The sales guy walked away and it gave me a chance to quickly recommend they ask how much replacement cartages cost and how long they last before walking away. I didn't stick around, but I hope they did.

Growing half a tree, water it everyday.
[ Parent ]
Re: OT but it is another angle (4.00 / 4) (#96)
by mjg on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 11:49:36 PM EST

For the ungeek: The 266mhz speed was the first Pentium 2 processor.
For the pedantic: The 233MHz model was the first Pentium II. The 266MHz Pentium II was the first that could not be confused with a Pentium. Intel never released a Pentium running at 266MHz.

[ Parent ]
Actually... (3.00 / 1) (#146)
by mikael_j on Sat Oct 13, 2001 at 06:10:21 AM EST

A friend of mine had a DEC laptop with a 266MHz Pentium CPU (not PII), but afaik the 266MHz pentium was for laptops only (no "desktop-model")

/Mikael Jacobson
We give a bad name to the internet in general. - Rusty
[ Parent ]
Upselling (3.00 / 2) (#126)
by kmself on Tue Oct 09, 2001 at 09:31:36 PM EST

Was looking for a video card for a salvaged GNU/Linux system I was helping a friend set up.

"What do you have for video cards?"

Droid trots out upmarket $300 card.

"Got anything less upscale?"

Droid trots out baseline $100 card.

"What about your store brand?"

Droid: "What!?"

The SiS 6326 is a bit funky to set up, but the performance for text is absolutely acceptable. $35.

--
Karsten M. Self
SCO -- backgrounder on Caldera/SCO vs IBM
Support the EFF!!
There is no K5 cabal.
[ Parent ]

Service Plans (3.50 / 4) (#122)
by Bad Harmony on Tue Oct 09, 2001 at 04:59:04 PM EST

I bought a laptop at CompUSA and the sales droid must have spent half an hour trying to sell me a service plan. I half-expected this before I entered the store so I decided to enjoy myself by seeing how long he would last before giving up. I've received a similar song and dance when buying cars. I just say "no" and smile at them.

I've found that saying "No, Thank You" works well when shopping at Radio Shack.

5440' or Fight!
[ Parent ]

Let's all use . . . (2.33 / 3) (#31)
by Estragon on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 02:12:40 PM EST

1600 W. Addison St. Chicago, IL 60613

Well... (3.00 / 3) (#36)
by RareHeintz on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 02:27:10 PM EST

Personally, I'm a fan of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, Washington, DC. The really fun part there is watching how few people get the joke.

OK,
- B
--
http://www.bradheintz.com/ - updated kind of daily
[ Parent ]

Perhaps you meant this (4.00 / 3) (#52)
by Nater on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 04:17:18 PM EST

If you're looking for the Friendly Confines of Wriggley Field, Home of the Chicago Cubs, that's at 1060 W. Addison.

Oddly enough, that's actually in my zip code. I live a short walk from there and can see the bleachers if I walk out into the middle of my street.

Also popular are addresses that resolve to locations just offshore in Lake Michigan. For example, 138 W. Fullerton, which would be in 60614 or 744 E. Monroe, in 60604. The shoreline curves and people generally aren't aware of what the actual last address is on any given east-west street.

You could also put a Chicago address just outside city limits, a la 7921 N. Sheridan Road.

"You must have a great view of the Lake from there. How far off is Evanston?"

"Oh, it's just up the street a block or two."


i heard someone suggest that we should help the US, just like they helped us in WWII. By waiting three years, then going over there, flashing our money around, shagging all the women and acting like we owned the place. --Seen in #tron


[ Parent ]
Wrigley Field was (3.66 / 3) (#101)
by Verminator on Tue Oct 09, 2001 at 03:08:47 AM EST

my address on the fake ID I used for several years. The amusing thing was that, while the city clearly said Chicago, it was a Washington state ID.

As long as I knew the address whoever was asking me really didn't care.
If the whole country is gonna play 'Behind The Iron Curtain,' there better be some fine fucking state subsidized alcohol! And our powerlifting team better kick ass!
[ Parent ]

Use rig (4.25 / 4) (#34)
by Neuromancer on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 02:25:52 PM EST

Get the debian package (or other form of installer) for "rig," random identity generator. The IDs check out over most basic checks, but are completely falsified.

Use rig (3.60 / 5) (#35)
by Neuromancer on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 02:26:22 PM EST

Get the debian package (or other form of installer) for "rig," random identity generator. The IDs check out over most basic checks, but are completely falsified.

Link to Debian page for rig (4.00 / 3) (#37)
by xriso on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 02:34:32 PM EST

here
--
*** Quits: xriso:#kuro5hin (Forever)
[ Parent ]
What gets me... (3.16 / 6) (#39)
by enry on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 02:57:22 PM EST

When you get a membership at Blockbuster. They ask for all the regular information (major credit card, etc), *then* ask for your SSN. A few years ago I went to get a membership there and left the line blank. The clerk said I left it blank and I replied with "Yes. You have my credit card information, which is more than enough to cover a $25 DVD I want to rent from you." After some hesitation, she called the manager, who replied that this happens every now and then and just use all 9s for the SSN.

Fast forward to last night, where I'm in California for a week and want to rent some DVDs to play on my PC. Went to "Hollywood Video", went through the same process (major credit card, drivers license, etc). At the SSN, I gave all 9s and the clerk didn't say a thing.

Getting back to your situation. You are being a jackass. Radio Shack doesn't get my address, and if I say "I'd rather not give that out" is sufficient. I'll give out my zip code if asked for. I'm not opposed to information about me (so long as it is not specific to me) is given out. Thus, I don't mind if Williams-Sonoma finds out that someone or some group of people from 01821 are purchasing high-quality cookware. Maybe it will bring a best buy closer to my area.

SSN's and credit cards (4.00 / 2) (#60)
by nstenz on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 05:15:37 PM EST

A couple years back, a credit card company called me up early in the morning and threw a pitch at me... I didn't have any credit at that point and figured I should probably get some sort of credit history, so I figured what the hell... They got a bunch of my info (which they already had, otherwise they wouldn't have been able to call me), and then they asked for my social security number. I said I didn't want to give it to them. Moreover, I didn't want the stupid card if they were going to get my SSN. Don't ask me how, but I got the card anyway. Said bank also has online banking, and I signed up for that as well. It also asked for my social security number to verify who I was. I punched in all 0's. It worked. Either they ignore it for verification and are just assholes about personal info, or that's what they put in when I refused to give mine out. Don't ask me what they did, but that's how things turned out...

[ Parent ]
SSNs (3.33 / 3) (#71)
by ucblockhead on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 07:13:17 PM EST

Of of the prime reasons SSNs should never be used is that they cannot be verified. Any nine digit number is a potentially valid SSN, and the US Social Security Administration is barred from telling anyone (well, except the IRS, etc.) whether or not a given SSN is in use.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
SSN FAQ (4.50 / 4) (#75)
by juju2112 on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 07:48:46 PM EST

I came across the SSN FAQ just last night, when I was looking for info on identify theft. Apparently, if any field in the SSN is all 0's, then you can be assured that it is an invalid number. So, if you wanted to lie to a store about it, just say something like, '431-00-1263'.

Check it out here and here.

-- juju

[ Parent ]
SSN Validation (4.00 / 2) (#127)
by kmself on Tue Oct 09, 2001 at 10:18:32 PM EST

Another twist is a first "digit" of 'R'. The older RRA (Railroad Retirement Act) numbers used these. Many a data input system has been tripped up by these -- not common, but valid.

As someone who's done extensive work in data analysis with SSNs (under SAS), I can vouch for the references above. ucblockhead's claim that any nine-digit string is valid is false. Many invalid values are present in corporate datasystems, largely as test, deliberately bogus, or system values, so there's always the possibility that you're going to hit some system code if you go out-of-range.

Other useful values are test accounts such as "System Account", "Betty Test", "Fred Flintstone" (etc., COBOL programmers don't follow the foo bar baz qux metasyntactic values from Unix), "Emergency Account".

Data crapflooding is strongly recommended.

--
Karsten M. Self
SCO -- backgrounder on Caldera/SCO vs IBM
Support the EFF!!
There is no K5 cabal.
[ Parent ]

Gotta love Flintstones test variables... (3.50 / 2) (#139)
by nstenz on Thu Oct 11, 2001 at 07:31:28 PM EST

I write accounting/inventory/etc. software... Fred, Wilma, Barney, and Betty are all personnel entered into the system, with crap SSN's to boot.

Of course, we don't use SSN's for anything in one of our programs- just to identify the personnel. We don't allow duplicates though, so all 9's is out- and 0 won't validate at all because 0=empty() the way we do things. Our advertising management software actually does use SSN to identify employees (instead of an internal ID#). It's a bad idea, but we've learned...

You have to get crap data from somewhere. =)

[ Parent ]

re: what gets me... (3.66 / 3) (#62)
by grandpa jive on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 05:22:47 PM EST

I worked at 3 radio shacks in the Milwaukee area. I had quite a few customers who did not want to give out their information so we could put it in our database [hint: information is not shared between certain zones of states. At least, not 3 years ago]. Generally, if you give out the name 'Cash', you'll be ok. There's a simple bypass to everything. Best Buy's zip code isn't too bad... its not asking for everything. But, coming up with a name of 'cash' [as in, you paid for cash, you don't want to me logged when you buy something etc] is still a valid answer. Give it a try at the various Rat Shacks.

[ Parent ]
SSN (4.00 / 3) (#76)
by bored on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 07:49:08 PM EST

INAL. (hehehe) but I think you aren't required (and you cannot be denied anything for refusal) to give anyone except the Social Security Administration, a couple other federal agencies, and your employer your social security number. I remember this all coming up a few years ago when I was in school where your SSN=Student number, one semester they sent everyone a notice saying that because of new government regulations anyone who wished to change their student ID could have one automatically allocated for them.

Similarly, a number of states passed laws saying that companies could not require more than a drivers license to cash a personal check. That is why they don't ask for credit cards anymore. I remember them asking for credit cards because my mother refuses to own a credit card, and it was always a big deal when they used to ask for one. When they passed the law in FL my mother also got in a couple arguments with managers at some stores about it. Eventually, I assume the commandment to stop requesting credit cards came down from corporate HQ and they stopped.



[ Parent ]
A Perspective From Canada... (3.66 / 3) (#45)
by BlueGlass on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 03:39:54 PM EST

Like many people, I often drive down to the States to go shopping. (Not sure why, given the value of the Canadian dollar...). When they ask me for my zip code, I dumbly inquire if they want my "postal code". They nearly always give me an annoyed affirmative (while thinking "damn Canucks," no doubt). Then I give it to them... for those who don't know, Canadian postal codes are a sequence of six letters and numbers, i.e. A3B 4C5 or such... most US cash registers choke on that. I guess the turnover of clerks is high enough that they never catch on.

Of course, in Canada I give them my sister's zip code in California, so I'm not completely honest. :)

In New Zealand... (4.50 / 6) (#56)
by admcg on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 05:01:54 PM EST

it's illegal to ask those questions without disclosing exactly what is going to be done with it. Ever. And if whoever collected the information does something else with it, they are suddenly in very hot water legally (like, a class action suit with a many thousand dollar fine per data point!). Every form you ever see has the disclosure on it. I really appreciate that when I travel.

Truth in the checkout line (4.00 / 4) (#57)
by senjiro on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 05:08:02 PM EST

I am routinely harassed by our local stores for information ranging from zip codes to full address and phone number. A typical conversation at Micro-Center while purchasing a magazine: "Hi, can i have your address and phone number?" "Why?" "for your warranty" "for a magazine?!" This is the mentatlity that ultimately makes me consider moving to Batswana. If you want to get the information from the customer fine. If you insist on doing it in such an annoying way, fine. Don't LIE to us! Most people will stupidly think that MicroCenter requires that information (they don't, just a receipt) and give it out, never knowing what kind of third-party spam hell they are exposing themselves to. Ultimately this kind of behaviour is a sign of the greater erosion or personal privacy, and therefore individual liberty that has been going on in this country steadily since the inception of e-commerce. The really sucky thing is that e-commerce (in all its forms) brings some great things to the table. It's just that one of it's downsides is a destruction of our fundamental beliefs and downsides. Where is the balance?!
it is by will alone that i set my mind in motion
What's wrong with e-commerce ? (2.00 / 2) (#112)
by CaptainZapp on Tue Oct 09, 2001 at 10:16:44 AM EST

Mate, when the worlds largest E Feng-Shui consultancy web site goes up, we sure need your address. How else do you think we can offer our services for a low, low fee ?

Er, not that it exists yet, but we have a business plan on a bar napkin...

[ Parent ]

This happens in the UK too (3.66 / 3) (#63)
by steve m on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 05:27:22 PM EST

No matter how I pay for things I get generally get asked to provide a name and address on 'big' purchases (e.g. for a new CD player I paid cash for a few weeks back), and I've noticed an increase in the amount of junk mail I get, as I buy more stuff.

I'm assuming that one way the store makes money is selling it's list of names vs. purchases to direct marketing companies.

One way to test this (if i could be bothered) is to slightly mis-spell my name, and see if it finds it's way into the daily dose of junk mail...

YASAR - Yet Another Smart-Ass Remark (3.00 / 6) (#65)
by bADlOGIN on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 05:43:36 PM EST

"Sure! The zip code I like to use is from bzip2. It's available under a BSD style license at http://sources.redhat.com/bzip2/ Say, would you like a kernel to go with that?" :)
***
Sigs are stupid and waste bandwidth.
Legal implications and "sheepish" behavi (4.14 / 7) (#69)
by Lexx on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 06:47:20 PM EST

I was compelled by admcg's comment that asking for such personal information without disclosing how it will be used is illegal in New Zealand. It makes me wonder what laws may be applicable in the U.S. and in my home state of Michigan (does anyone know?). Being raised in a "don't rock the boat" household, I am embarrassed to admit that I never considered the fact that I could simply refuse to divulge such information. I am also unnerved by the fact that not once has a clerk explained to me how my information was going to be used after it was obtained. A company's failure to explain (or to have its employees explain) up front the reasoning behind asking for addresses, zip codes, etc. makes me wonder what that company has to hide. I admit this may be a paranoid view. At any rate, I would like to see such companies post signs in their checkout lanes explaining the reasons for asking for personal information. In addition, there should be a line stating customers are free to refuse. This would allow customers to make an informed decision before they are hit up for information. Thanks to Lord13 for bringing this issue to my attention. In the future, I will certainly think twice before automatically blurting out my information, and I may even go so far as to ask some questions. I'll stop short, however, at being a jackass. : )

Few laws in US (4.60 / 5) (#78)
by Hizonner on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 07:58:14 PM EST

Unless things have changed drastically since I was a professional worrier-about-privacy-rules around a year ago, there are no US Federal or state laws that apply to retail information collection. You have a choice: you can either give the information, or refuse to perform the transaction. Of course, if you ask how they'll use the information, and they actually answer you, they can't lie about it in any substantive way; that would be fraud. Not that it matters, because the average retail clerk has no clue anyway, and not many people ask.

The general rule in the US is that anybody can ask you for any piece of information, and can refuse to do business with you if you don't provide it. If you do provide it, the information can be used for any purpose whatsoever, or shared with anybody at all. The theory is that, if you really care, you'll negotiate privacy into your contract. Right...

There are a few rules for special cases. Credit bureaus can only disclose information for "legitimate business purposes" (Fair Credit Reporting Act, 1970s sometime). Web sites in the US cannot collect any personal information from anybody under the age of 13 without parental permission (I believe the act was COPPA: Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, or some such name... 1999 or 2000). Banks and other financial institutions have to do a lot of disclosure about who they share your information with and how they use it under the Graham-Leech-Bliley Act (2000?), but I think they can still refuse to do business with you if you don't agree to their terms.

I believe there are special laws (if not laws, certainly strong policies) about things like medical information... but note that the medical insurance industry is based on your medical information being passed around to lots of insurance companies, who use it for all kinds of purposes. This is a hot area, and there may be changes soon. I think there are also laws affecting the government's use of information, but they're pretty weak... things like having to tell you why they're asking you for a social security number (the private sector can ask for an SSN without telling you anything).

There are probably other special cases I've forgotten about.

US privacy laws don't really tend to drive at the question of the purpose of the information, but in a practical sense they end up requiring a good deal of disclosure... in the areas where they operate at all.

In much of the rest of the world, especially in Europe, there are sharp limitations on what you can do with information. Most of the limitations come into play as soon as the information gets typed into a computer, and they include not using the information for purposes other than those agreed to by the subject. There's an EU directive that requires all the member states to have certain legal protections. In late 2000 or early 2001, Canada got a law similar to the EU ones (PIPEDA, can't remember what it stands for). Note, however, that European compliance has apparently been pretty poor, and it's not clear that people really think through the implications of what's disclosed to them about how their information will be used, anyway.

The lack of privacy laws in the US caused a bit of a tiff with the EU, because US Web sites collect a lot of information that you couldn't collect in the EU without all kinds of disclosure and procedural safeguards. They came out with a "safe harbor" compromise, where the US companies would promise to follow Europe-like rules. As I recall, not that many US companies actually enrolled; I think they still mostly ignore the issue.

[ Parent ]

Do not allow people to mistreat you! (4.80 / 5) (#121)
by jet_silver on Tue Oct 09, 2001 at 03:25:52 PM EST

USians have to control their own information. This can be done without rancor.

There isn't any need to feel you're a jerk when you are clear and firm about what you want. Attempts to make you feel jerkish about your own rights are cynical and deliberate departures from good manners and it is important that you not let people get away with them.

When asked for -any information you want to control- ask why. Say, for example, "That is my personal information and it is of value. You need to convince me that I want you to have it." This throws seven in ten sales people since they are usually 'just following orders', and can't deliver a sensible story in support of the question. These will simply mutter "never mind, then." One of the remaining three will deliver a clear lie, to which you simply say no. One will give you a cogent argument, with plausible content, that you won't accept (these people deserve your continuing patience and kindness), and the remaining one will deliver an argument with which you might be able to agree.

Sales people are trained to try to get the information quickly. Do not allow their body language, delivery speed or urgent tone to hurry you. They, not you, are playing a game -to their benefit-. You have no obligation to play too. It is not -your- moment of unpleasantness, it is theirs. Keep the unpleasantness where it belongs.

To digress a little for the sake of examples, telemarketers are especially trained to use your good manners against you to get what they want. Our own good manners lead us to try and keep communication "in-band". If you must pick up the telephone in real time, and haven't figured out how to screen your calls with a machine, first try to confuse telemarketers' machinery. When you say "Hello", say it once and wait. Do you hear a hiss? If you do, wait. In a few seconds, you may hear a faint click and someone will -then- say "Hello?" That's your clue, this is a machine monitoring a large number of circuits to see who will answer. This is ill-mannered, out-of-band communication. Who -do you know- would call you, ignore your greeting, then at -his convenience- try to determine if you are on the line? When you call someone -you- await the convenience of the person you called, right? Simply hang up if this scenario plays out, or be prepared to speak for a short time to a telemarketer.

When speaking to a telemarketer, get through the social niceties if you must, then -insist- on being placed on their "do not call" list. A very good script for this can be found at Junkbusters.

Engaging in social niceties (how are you, I'm well, bla bla) is an attempt to convince you the communication is in-band, and at the same time to lead you into a script. Do not let it go there; a mannerly person will announce his name first then state his business. Inverting this script is out of band in the first place, and you -know the drill-. Without compromising your own manners, you need to defeat that. The telemarketer will say "Hello Mr. Hovnbg, how are you tonight?" Say -nothing-. The script will play out like this:

(T)"Hello, Mr. Hovnbg, how are you tonight?"

(You) (embarrassed silence in recognition of caller's faux pas)

(T)"Hello?"

(You) Hello.

(T)"Mr. Hovnbg?"

(You)"This is Mr. Hovnbg. With whom am I speaking?" (Now you control the conversation.)

(T)"How are you tonight, Mr. Hovnbg?"

(You)"With whom am I speaking?"

By not responding to an out of band question, one which a mannerly person would never ask, you retain control over the conversation. You are going to get an answer about who's calling, or the person on the other end will ask tiresomely "How are you?" to which you can now answer, in band and truthfully, "I am cross with you. State your name and business, please."

You can now go to the Junkbusters script and get rid of this person.

If your own manners are not an issue, you can make your own out-of-band response at any point. Talking about 'turnips, half-crowns or pocketwatches' worked a hundred years ago and it works today.
"What they really fear is machine-gunning politicians becoming a popular sport, like skate-boarding." -Nicolas Freeling
[ Parent ]

blah (4.00 / 1) (#152)
by beckyann on Tue Oct 16, 2001 at 05:18:27 PM EST

the mythical 'do-not-call' list is perhaps the most comical and annoying thing to telemarketers-- well, at least to my brand of telecommunications.

i work for a group that handles political-based questionnaires for other groups around the country. i also belong to the sparsely-populated sector of fast-thinking empathists. i don't like to take up a caller's time-- and i understand that receiveing an anonymous call is more aggravating than not-- but the fact is that there was never a 'do-not-call' list in my dealings with telecommunication.

there was only the 'call-back' list.

there are many of you that think you are protected by state and federal laws barring solicitations of the telephone type-- that is a misconception. the truth of the matter is that companies, whose business is to contact consumers/voters/etc, are hired out by other companies. so where does the telemarketer get your phone number from?

how do you give out your phone number? who has it in the first place?

telephone companies. credit card companies. any company that provides a service/product that requires personal information is liable to provide phone numbers at reasonable cost to whomever wishes to pay it.
it's like telephone spam. you have to be aware of whom you are giving away your information to.

refusing to give out zip codes and frustrating service personnel is not the way to go about privatizing your information and records. start at whatever company you feel most comfortable in giving your information to. if they do not state specifically that your information 'will not be disclosed to other parties,' chances are that you have found the source of all the annoying phone calls.

so when you get another anonymous call, do not hassle the caller. decline as you may. but stop the problem at it's root before slack-jawing another one of the hapless underpaid workers we 'care' so dearly about.

[ Parent ]
How to take a NOT A COW stand! (4.62 / 8) (#74)
by Blarney on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 07:45:08 PM EST

I don't mind the requests for information in and of themselves. Usually, refusing the information is not a problem and the store allows me to purchase the goods and services anyway. In the worst case I end up making up fake info, but I've gotten quite good at that, used the same fake person for years, so it isn't a problem. Rather, I mind the way that they turn what should be a short, polite interaction into a rude interrogation.

Cashiers often talk to me like I'm not really a human being, and this is due to the way that their managers train them. A lot of stores tell their employees that their job is to get customers to do certain things, much as a rancher would tell his new cowboys and cowgirls that their job is to get animals to do certain things, ignoring the fact that the customers are in fact human beings and that the same rules of courtesy and respect apply in a retail store as in other places.

At Radio Shack, the staff is trained to sell the customer a cell phone. Always the same phone, no matter who the customer is, or what they actually came to the store to buy. Even if I've been to the store 10 times the past 2 weeks, they still give me the same pitch! In real life, for instance if you ask a girl out for a date 10 times in 2 weeks, you'd expect to be smacked in the face - but in Radio Shack Land, somehow persistant nagging is a polite way to behave. Also such things as "Hi, my name's Fred. Fred Smith. How are you?" are left behind in a blur as the clerk cheerfully calls out "FullnameZipcode". In real life, do you walk up to people and greet them with "Fullnamezipcode"? You'd get your ass kicked!

It would be very easy for the store owners to end this. For instance, they could keep records so when I put in my credit card, the machine brings up the fact that I've already said "No" to extended warranty, cell phone, credit card, MSN subscription, and the Red Cross. Then they wouldn't have to ask me repeatedly and rudely! They could also teach their employees to say "Hi, I'm Mary" and accept any offered name, but move on if none is given. This would be much better than the current system, where I often find myself talking to some high school kid who considers my refusal to apply for a Beezer Express a fun challenge, like roping an especially belligerent bull.

Until then, whenever they treat me rudely I let out a loud MOOOOOOOOOOOOO. So should you. I dream of a revolutionary day when the manager of Best Buy notices that his store sounds like a cattleyard, and actually decides to do something about it. Keep the faith! You are not a cow.

"Eet moor chickin." -The cows. (4.50 / 2) (#111)
by shumacher on Tue Oct 09, 2001 at 10:01:32 AM EST

Cashiers often talk to me like I'm not really a human being, and this is due to the way that their managers train them. A lot of stores tell their employees that their job is to get customers to do certain things, much as a rancher would tell his new cowboys and cowgirls that their job is to get animals to do certain things, ignoring the fact that the customers are in fact human beings and that the same rules of courtesy and respect apply in a retail store as in other places.
I can tell you that the attitude you're getting from the clerk is wrong. If the clerk can't back up their request for information with a reason, then they shouldn't ask. If they can't explain why you'd want a product, then they shouldn't recommend it. If they can't demonstrate it, they can't possibly know of a reason you'd want to buy it.

My job makes me very sensitive to the indifference or outright rudeness prevalent in most businesses. I've had great luck with Planetfeedback.com for getting results to consumer problems. I'd suggest the website to anyone that wants to send feedback to the people in the company that really matter. Most of the time, a manager is useless with a problem, the regional staff will just defer to the store management. Planetfeedback sends your letter to the top - free. (No, no commercial ties, just really like their service.)

I sell electronics for a living. It's how I pay my rent, DSL, and ill-conceived Apple loan. I'm not a mindless retail drone, and my job pays me quite nicely. When I sell a product, it's because I understand what my customer needs, what the product does, and how the product benefits that customer (note that a benefit isn't the same as a feature). As such, I often recommend products that match with customers needs. One of the hardest things I have to deal with is the clueless that come into the store with the idea that they're talking to a minimum-wage flunkie that has been on the job two weeks. These people treat me like I'm not "human." If I recommend an accessory a customer needs, (let's say speaker wire, when it's not included with a speaker) and the customer refuses, I'll want to know why. Half the time, they think it's really in the package. The rest of the time, they're using crap. (Say what you will. It really sounds better.) It's the 25% of those customers that think I'm the electronic equivalent of a fast-food clerk doing a hard sell on a hot apple pie that make my life difficult. Think of what I do when I try to dig deeper after a "no" as being like a mechanic who just had a customer tell him that oil changes are "Just a way for you mechanic types to make money."

I polite to my customers. I recognize that they are human. That they have a reason for coming to see me, and if I can't take care of that, I'm not doing my job. That's why I treat my customers well. I'm polite, but firm. The people that you talked to were obviously clerks, not true salespeople.

Of course, as a professional, treating you with respect, I expect the same in return. I ask for only the information I need. I ask politely, and deal with you in a friendly manner. I am honest. All I expect from my customers is that they try to behave as adults. If you were to start mooing, I would do something else those drones elsewhere don't do - walk away. Why? Because the same rules of courtesy and respect apply in a retail store as in other places.

When you can balance a tack hammer on your head, you can head off your foes with a balanced attack.
[ Parent ]

Confessions of a Lamp Cord user (4.00 / 3) (#119)
by Blarney on Tue Oct 09, 2001 at 02:16:38 PM EST

My theory is, if the speaker cable isn't actually getting physically warm to the touch, it's perfectly good! Somebody has to be the other side of the bell curve from the green marker guys.



[ Parent ]

ZIP codes (3.75 / 4) (#77)
by eann on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 07:56:03 PM EST

12345, for anyone that cares, is the General Electric office complex in Schenectady, NY.

Someone below suggested 31337. I thought it was funny enough to look up. It's not a real ZIP, but if it were, it'd be in southeastern Georgia.

I generally make it a point to have a fake but realistic address and ZIP code handy, usually from the immediate area. If you can find a bank or newspaper that still has a number you can call for the current time, that's an excellent phone number, too.

Then again, on something like a monitor, if you really *do* want the warranty at some point, giving them your personal info is easier than remembering where you filed the receipt.


Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men. —MLK

$email =~ s/0/o/; # The K5 cabal is out to get you.


Zip code + birthdate (3.33 / 3) (#79)
by bored on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 08:03:04 PM EST

I recently read somewhere that given those two things you can be accurately identified 97% of the time. I think it might have been this months DDJ or IEEE Spectrum.

Which is why..... (2.00 / 4) (#98)
by Blarney on Tue Oct 09, 2001 at 12:21:34 AM EST

This must be why hospitals don't have to put identity bracelets on the babies to tell them apart - because in most ZIP codes, only one person is born per day. If population growth is more then that, they have to create new ZIP codes which is why there are so many that they had to add another 4 digits and if you don't enter the +4 code your mail automatically goes in the trash.



[ Parent ]

Re: Zip code + birthdate (3.00 / 1) (#145)
by wik on Sat Oct 13, 2001 at 01:21:27 AM EST

I just filled out a renewal form for my IEEE membership yesterday. Interestingly enough, they did ask for both my birth date and zip code on the Computer Society membership form. Figures.

[ Parent ]
Best Buy (4.40 / 5) (#90)
by CrayDrygu on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 10:22:30 PM EST

"How do you feel about last minute sales pitches such as Best Buy's practice to ask about MSN subscriptions?"

Speaking as an employee there, I can offer a little insight into this.

We push the MSN subscriptions for the same reason we push the service plans. Well, aside from the "do it or lose your job" reason. They bring in money.

That's right, MSN gives Best Buy money for every customer we sign up with their service, the amount varying depending on the offer. I think the one-year-free offer that's given out with computers brings in $40, plus $2/mo for up to two years if they stay past the first.

And it should be obvious to almost everyone that the service/replacement plans are basically free money for the store, since most people will never use them.

Someone else down the page already posted why we're so pushy about it -- the pressure thing and whatnot. I hear all the time about our store's numbers, but since this isn't my only source of income (it's an "extra" -- I can easily live off my other job), I don't care as much. I'll push the service plan you, but I'm not gonna piss you off doing it. I can't be totally apathetic, though...I would like to keep the job.

How many complain? (3.50 / 2) (#97)
by Blarney on Tue Oct 09, 2001 at 12:07:07 AM EST

Maybe you can answer a question which I'm wondering about, particularly as I'd like the grand NOT A COW campaign to catch on.

What percentage of your customers actually object to the sales pitch? Not people who say "No, thanks", but people who say "I hate this stupid sales pitch" or something like.

[ Parent ]

Not many... (4.50 / 2) (#147)
by CrayDrygu on Sat Oct 13, 2001 at 01:08:50 PM EST

Sorry for the late reply, I've been rather busy lately.

Actually, I haven't heard a single person complain about the MSN or PSP sales pitch. Probably because most people realize we're just doing our job, and we do give up if you say no enough times (generally 2 or 3). Of course, I've only been working there about three weeks.

For what it's worth, though, I get the feeling that even if every single person to come into the store told us how much they hate hearing about MSN and PSPs, we'd still have to push them. Why? Big source of revenue.

On the other hand, people seem to complain an awful lot about other things, from the trivial (asking for an ID with your credit card or check) to the more understandable (oh, those computers in today's sales flyer? yeah, we're out).

(Oh, and while I'm on the subject...please don't complain about us not having things that are in the ads. We as a store have little to no control over our inventory. We get what HQ ships us, and when we run out, we have to wait until they send us more. Besides, you are not the only one who got that ad -- plenty of other people got there before you did. I've seen things advertised in a flyer dated for that very day that we weren't just sold out of, but they hadn't even shipped to us yet. We don't like it either.)

[ Parent ]

Demographic requests in Au. (4.00 / 3) (#91)
by static on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 10:23:39 PM EST

Radio Shack - known as Tandy in Australia - are notorious for asking for personal details at a point-of-sale. This is because it is an unusual request here. I always say "No", knowing that they cannot refuse to accept my transaction because they are in the minority.

But there are other places that ask and that I will give the information to: a progressive purchase (e.g. lay-by or hire/purchase). Also a HiFi store I regularly visit sets up the Warranty stuff for you and thus also needs it. They do say this up-front, of course.

Wade.



Being human (4.00 / 3) (#94)
by phliar on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 11:09:58 PM EST

I used to do similar things when asked for personal information. Then I realised that the interactions left me feeling bad, because it wasn't the poor droid's fault they had those policies. Just like telemarketers.

Now I play the "nice dumb guy" - something like your "What does MSN stand for". I ask them about exactly what they're offering me, allow them to tell me, ask for details, then after considering the plan carefully, (similing sweetly) refuse. This has the unfortunate [for them] effect that their "cash register throughput" goes down.

For telemarketers, I do the same "pleasant doofus" thing and show just a little interest. When the pitch starts, I put down the phone (not hang up) and walk away to continue to do what I was doing before I was interrupted. Sometimes, to spice it up, I ask, "Can you hold?" and then walk away.

Note: I'm not saying that you're being an asshole; just that when I was doing it, I felt like one because the other person probably had an unpleasant experience.


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...

Different School of Thought (4.33 / 3) (#108)
by Lord13 on Tue Oct 09, 2001 at 08:27:49 AM EST

I don't exactly enjoy being a jerk to the sales droids, but how else can I throw monkey wrenches into the works? Just calmly saying no gets passed the questions, but as I said in the article, I still create a 'moment of unpleasantness'. I would rather not have to answer the question in the first place. Once all the stores start asking for it, the only power I have left as a consumer is being a jackass about it. If the practice continues to create trouble hopefully the clueless management types will change policy.

Growing half a tree, water it everyday.
[ Parent ]
Sales pitch -> Human interaction (4.50 / 2) (#128)
by phliar on Tue Oct 09, 2001 at 10:21:33 PM EST

I don't exactly enjoy being a jerk to the sales droids, but how else can I throw monkey wrenches into the works? Just calmly saying no gets passed the questions, but as I said in the article, I still create a 'moment of unpleasantness'.
The way I think about it is: by asking them the "dumb but friendly" questions I have converted the high-pressure sales pitch (that the droid expects you to be annoyed by) into a human conversation; so now he/she is offering me something. Then I refuse; this is not unpleasant. If someone offered me a cup of coffee, I might refuse because I've already had too much caffeine, or something, right?

And at the same time, I have taken up the employee's time with no benefit to the store. Furthermore if there are people in line behind me, they might get annoyed at the store's stupid hard-sell policies.


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

I have the same problem! (3.00 / 4) (#99)
by SonOfSam on Tue Oct 09, 2001 at 01:10:07 AM EST

I live in the DFW area of North Texas, and I have the same problem. EVERY time I go to McDonalds, they ask me "Do you want frys with that?" Im not as think as you dumb I am.
...oops, was that my outside voice?
Same here in Germany (4.00 / 3) (#102)
by Tivoli on Tue Oct 09, 2001 at 04:15:22 AM EST

more and more stores are asking for your "Postleitzahl" (equivalent to zip-code in the US).

Since it isn't only annoying,the style the clerks are asking is more blackmailing than asking politely, my answer is "for 50 Marks (~20$) you can have it".



doesn't exist in Sweden (4.00 / 4) (#103)
by boxed on Tue Oct 09, 2001 at 05:23:42 AM EST

I was kinda chocked when I read this article actually. If someone were to ask that when I tried to purchase something would be something like "do you want the money or not?".

why get a zip code when you can get the full bio? (4.75 / 4) (#107)
by axafluff on Tue Oct 09, 2001 at 07:55:11 AM EST

In Sweden, all citizens are assigned a CPR number (roughly equivalent to a SSN in the U.S. but more widely used). This number is used for identifying you in circumstances ranging from health care (clinical care as well as research), police databases, bank accounts, legal documents (say on a contract for buying an apartment), your driver's license, almost all subscriptions and utilities (newspapers, phone, cable, internet, etc.) and many more. Whenever you buy something using a credit card you are often required (unless well-known by the seller) to produce your driver's license or other equivalent ID containing your CPR number. With this CPR number the seller can potentially get a lot more information than some averaged sociodemographic data based on you ZIP code. For instance, as a seller, from www.uc.se you can get the adress, the last 2 years of income, citizenship, marital status and marital clauses, real estate ownership, credit complaints, tax debt, unpaid debts to collectors. You can even get buyers photo from Vagverket (Gov. issue of drivers licenses) if you really want. You can get the persons income tax declaration, which is public, if you contact www.rsv.se (IRS-equivalent.) This number is also quite handy for the marketing information collection companies, for all their databasing needs. This differs from most other European countries where you signature on the bill must match the signature on the credit card, but no other means of ID is required. Of course this national ID number is practical for a lot of purposes which may or may not coincide with your individual interests, e.g. medical epidemiology, population statistics and censuses, proving you're credit-worthy without producing proof of employment or such, some safety of identity in private financial transactions and much more.

[ Parent ]
Credit Card Slip (3.00 / 3) (#135)
by amanset on Wed Oct 10, 2001 at 11:57:26 AM EST

Even worse, the little slip of paper you sign when making a credit card transaction has a space where the "personnummer" is to be filled in. When I first moved here I wa susing my british credit card and used my passport as ID - it confused th ehell out of the clerk when they asked for ID (which gets done with just about every credit card purchase). I still carry my UK driver's licence, I think I should try using it instead of my Swedish ID. Does anyoen knwo what happens if you refuse to show ID in Sweden when making a credit card purchase? They try to justify it by saying it reduces credit card fraud - hell, normal Swedes seem to think it is a goo didea becuase of that.

[ Parent ]
credit cards? (3.00 / 2) (#150)
by boxed on Mon Oct 15, 2001 at 06:03:09 PM EST

If you use your credit card to pay something you're gonna be tracked no matter if it's the US or Sweden. Just don't use it if you don't need to.

[ Parent ]
Adding insult to injury (3.60 / 5) (#118)
by Macrobat on Tue Oct 09, 2001 at 01:58:59 PM EST

I still shop at the retail outlet where I used to work. One time, I start chatting up a particularly cute former co-worker while she rings up my sale. Then she says, "Can I get your e-mail address?"

Well, of course you can, sweetie, thinks I. Things are looking up. She was never this interested in me when we worked together, but maybe now she realizes the wit and warm conversation she's been missing.

This reverie comes crashing headfirst into reality when I realize she's just entering it into the register. Dammit, she doesn't even care what my e-mail is, but now my former corporate masters have it!

"Hardly used" will not fetch a better price for your brain.

you don't need to know (3.66 / 3) (#123)
by chale on Tue Oct 09, 2001 at 06:05:24 PM EST

is what i say to clerks who ask that question. i haven't had anyone say anything else to me after that.

as for as telemarketers and the like, i have an answering machine on the line. somedays, there are as many as a dozen or so hang-ups.

i think all that would be necessary for this type of harassment to go away is enough people to firmly and consistently refuse to cooperate with this type of information collection. knowing a little about my fellow beings, i have little hope that this would come to pass[sighs and all that].
When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. -John Muir

Start to collaborate (3.33 / 3) (#130)
by mesh on Wed Oct 10, 2001 at 07:14:48 AM EST

Just like the cypherpunks/cypherpunks login which sometimes works, perhaps we should start a similar fictional supershopper. Any good suggestions on something memorable and plausible?

Naturally, there's a software solution... (3.60 / 5) (#131)
by darthaggie on Wed Oct 10, 2001 at 10:44:15 AM EST

...called rig (Random Identity Generator). See http://rig.sourceforge.net/ for more details. It gives results like:

Albert Healy
88 Stonehedge Blvd
Aurora, IL 60507
(708) xxx-xxxx

I am BOFH. Resistance is futile. Your network will be assimilated.

A Palm Version... (2.50 / 2) (#132)
by Lord13 on Wed Oct 10, 2001 at 10:50:57 AM EST

...would be *really* nice. Actually it would be perfect. I did some seaching on www.palmgear.com but came up with nothing. Anyone have an idea if such a program exists in Palm format?

Growing half a tree, water it everyday.
[ Parent ]
Radio Shack info Nazi's (4.00 / 2) (#133)
by Hefty on Wed Oct 10, 2001 at 11:08:52 AM EST

I've worked retail sales on most every level: Cashier, sales floor (hourly and commission), and stocking. Everything short of management, I could just never bring myself to that. Believe me when I say cashiers/sales people are just as perturbed as to having to ask such questions as the customer. Cashiers get long lines and they just want to get people checked out and out of the way. Those silly info gathering question just slow the process and annoy both parties. The real clincher is when you go to a store and buy something large that needs to be delivered to your home. Well naturally they get the persons name address phone number to deliver the product. But I'm fairly certain that info is in turn entered into their sales survey databases and used for promotional use. You see there they have you in a catch 22 and there's really no way out.

No no-annoyance minimum wage jobs available? (2.66 / 3) (#134)
by jforan on Wed Oct 10, 2001 at 11:17:53 AM EST

In boston it is standard procedure for grocery stores to watch every single purchase you make by giving you reasonable savings (10%) for giving them your personal info and then carrying around their card and having it scanned in every time you buy groceries. I don't mind it as much - giving out the information is not as bad as the annoying questions and waste of time of having to do it over and over and over and over and...

Sometimes when I feel like being a helpful citizen, I start asking them why they took a job where they have to annoy people 8 hours a day. "Do you have no other marketable skills?" I ask. "Or are the jerks you are working for paying you so well that no other job is really worth it." "Or are you just to lazy to get another $8 per hour job?". This especially works for telemarketers, because they are told to stay on the line at all costs as long as somebody may still sign up (or take the quiz, or whatever). I've actually had somebody tell me they never looked at it that way, and said they would consider looking for a new job.

<rant><rave>

And don't give me that crap that "I have to work from home" cuz there are plenty of phone-answering jobs where you can work from home and not have to actually actively annoy people. You can annoy them even more if they need to talk to you (help desk, 411 service, etc.)

</rave></rant>

Jeff
I hops to be barley workin'.
The universal shopper: something memorable (3.00 / 1) (#136)
by Jonathan Walther on Thu Oct 11, 2001 at 09:35:09 AM EST

Joseph Bloggs
3141 Kuro Street
Walnut Creek, CA
31337

Sorry, couldn't think up something memorable, yet believable for the street, city, and state. The 3141 is the first few digits of pi. Kuro Street is a lame play on Kuro5hin. Couldn't think of a cool Georgian city to attach to "31337"

(Luke '22:36 '19:13) => ("Sell your coat and buy a gun." . "Occupy until I come.")


Hazzard (3.00 / 1) (#138)
by 0xdeadbeef on Thu Oct 11, 2001 at 01:02:05 PM EST

You know, where the Duke boys live.

[ Parent ]
I had an annoying experience with Bell recently (3.50 / 2) (#140)
by entranced on Thu Oct 11, 2001 at 09:27:38 PM EST

I had to create a new account with them since I had disconnected my old line 2 months previous. I had been debating giving them a fake name for the account but changed my mind.

Upon signing up for a line, one of the questions they insisted on was to give the name and phone number of a friend or family member. What is up with that? I couldn't think of anyone I know whom I would want to be hassled in any way. After about 3 long minutes of "I can't think of anyone" they finally skipped the question, but it hadn't looked like they would.

(What is the problem with mozilla, 2 characters appear per second when typing in text boxes :( - prolly just my slow celeron 400 200MB ram)


"You have not converted a man because you have silenced him." ~John Morley

12345 and the city (3.66 / 3) (#142)
by madajb on Fri Oct 12, 2001 at 09:23:57 AM EST

For the record: 12345 is the zip code for Schenectady, NY.
Must be a lot of consumers from that area in the marketers databases, if everyone uses 12345.
-ajb

The obvious name to use... (2.66 / 3) (#148)
by miah on Sun Oct 14, 2001 at 12:15:48 AM EST

How come nobody has mentioned that we use the name 'Winston Smith'?


Religion is not the opiate of the masses. It is the biker grade crystal meth of the masses.
SLAVEWAGE
Here comes the rain again. (4.75 / 4) (#149)
by kitten on Sun Oct 14, 2001 at 05:40:54 AM EST

As soon as I said `Privacyville' the cashier's shoulders slumped and was obviously quite annoyed. He paused for a few seconds before angrily and loudly whacking the backspace key on the keyboard.
"Is there a problem?" I inquire.
"If you didn't want to give me your address, why didn't you just say so?" he spits.
"I was annoyed that you asked, I just thought I would share."

Boy, you sure showed him. Raising the blood-pressure of some minimum-wage store clerk is really going to change things.

After getting the priceless `your-a-real-jackass' look for a couple seconds the cashier rung up my RCA cable post-haste. It was almost like he wanted me gone and out of the store as soon as possible.

And I don't blame him one bit. You were completely out of line.

I don't like giving out my personal information either, so when some clerk asks if they can have my phone number or address or whatever, I say "No." End of story.

These people are paid next to nothing, and they're only doing what they're told to do by higher-ups. Harrassing a store clerk will get you absolutley nowhere and change absolutely nothing. If you have that much of a problem with these questions being asked at the point of sale, then politely refuse to give the information, and then contact someone with authority at the company via phone or mail.

Even then, you're not likely to cause any alterations of policy, but at least you've gone to the right person.

People like you are an absolute menace, and part of the reason clerk/cashier jobs are so miserable. Many moons ago, I was a cashier at Wal Mart, and I was forced to ask some stupid questions or try to push extra products or warranties or whatever. I was often berated by the customer for this, as if I had anything to do with the policy. Same goes for idiots that hassled me about the price of some item or other, as though I'm the one that sets the price.

It got to the point where, shortly before I quit, my stockphrase response to anyone who copped an attitude with me when I was simply doing my job was:

"Hey, I just work here, okay?"
mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
Fair enough (4.00 / 1) (#151)
by Lord13 on Tue Oct 16, 2001 at 04:06:31 PM EST

And I don't blame him one bit. You were completely out of line.

I see this from the other side of the coin. I'm not saying your wrong, but in my opinion, he was out of line for asking me the question to begin with. I understand perfectly well he's not responsible for the policy. If I really wanted to raise his blood pressure, I could call him a few choice words before bluntly telling him to fuck off. I do have some restraint however.

I don't like giving out my personal information either, so when some clerk asks if they can have my phone number or address or whatever, I say "No." End of story.

The difference between us is that I don't like being asked in the first place.

People like you are an absolute menace, and part of the reason clerk/cashier jobs are so miserable. Many moons ago, I was a cashier at Wal Mart, and I was forced to ask some stupid questions or try to push extra products or warranties or whatever. I was often berated by the customer for this, as if I had anything to do with the policy. Same goes for idiots that hassled me about the price of some item or other, as though I'm the one that sets the price.

I'm *trying* to be a menace. I don't harass them purely for fun, it's intended to get them to do something about it. What I don't understand is why you didn't inform management that customers didn't like it when you asked them questions. If it pissed off customers and made your job harder to live with, why didn't you offer this nugget of wisdom to your superiors?

If I was in your shoes at Walmart, I would ask every customer that had a problem with what I asked to express their feelings to my manager. If fact, I would walk the customer over to the manager, point him out and say "Talk to him". I would do it every time that happened until I was fired or the policy was changed. If that type of behavior got me fired, obviously it wasn't a great job to begin with.

Me and people like me are not what make cashier jobs so miserable. It's the policy that management dictates. The customer is always right, remember? =)

Growing half a tree, water it everyday.
[ Parent ]
er. (4.00 / 1) (#155)
by kitten on Thu Nov 15, 2001 at 03:09:13 PM EST

I see this from the other side of the coin. I'm not saying your wrong, but in my opinion, he was out of line for asking me the question to begin with.

He wasn't out of line at all. The management may have been out of line for requiring him to ask, but he was just doing his job.

The difference between us is that I don't like being asked in the first place.

And harrassing the clerk is going to do what to solve that?

I'm *trying* to be a menace. I don't harass them purely for fun, it's intended to get them to do something about it.

News flash: The input of a cashier is worth absolutely nothing to store managers, and even less than that to corporate types. The cashier or clerk has zero influence or power to change anything.

Me and people like me are not what make cashier jobs so miserable. It's the policy that management dictates. The customer is always right, remember? =)

It's blindingly obvious you've never worked at that type of job before. If you had, not only would you not make ignorant statements like that, but you'd understand how wrong your entire rant is.

mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
[ Parent ]
My experiences in Germany and the Netherlands (4.50 / 2) (#154)
by nicovl on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 10:06:25 PM EST

I used to live in the Netherlands. They have a thing called PIN there... basically your bank card combined with a 4 digit code can be used in just about all the stores. In addition I know some supermarkets that have special discount cards, you use the card and get 10% discount on certain products. Both PIN and discount cards are used by the majority of the population as far as I know.

Now I live in Germany and here I have been asked for my postal code a number of times when purchasing something. When I was asked the first few times I was so surprised by the unexpected question that I answered truthfully. Now I just tell them I don't know my postal code... the faces the cashiers pull on that response always give me a good laugh!

Of course there are countless other experiences I have had where companies go out of their way to gain my personal information.

I think that a lot of people are very unaware of what is done or can be done with the information that they give out in these situations. I am also disgusted by the whole thing.

To protect consumer privacy. The way the questions are stated and the discount cards are advertised should be changed by law. Instead of asking "Can I have your postal code?" they should say: "Can I have your postal code so we can do this that and the other with it?" or "Would you like a discount card so we can analyze your buying/eating habbits?" I think people would respond in a different way.

Marketing = Manipulation.

Can I Have Your Zip Code? | 155 comments (154 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
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