Questions in retail … something I am coming to despise.

RANT ALERT…I am going to vent a bit of steam here.

I am becoming increasingly annoyed with unnecessary questions during my retail experience. Why is it that I cannot make a $10 cash purchase without enduring the following dialogue, as I did recently at Sears:

“Will you be paying with a Sears charge today?”

“No, I am paying with cash.”

“Would you like to sign-up for a Sears card today and get a $15 rebate?”

“No, thank you, I am paying with cash.”

“May I have your phone number so you can earn rewards points?”

“No, I am paying with cash.”

“But it is free and you may already be a member. I am not asking for a credit card number.”

“I know. You are asking for other personal information, which I don’t want to give you. I would just like to pay with cash please.”

“But it…”

(At this point, any patience I had with the situation had evaporated.)

“Look. I am either going to pay for this purchase with cash and then leave, or I will just leave. The choice is yours.”

I didn’t raise my voice, but I did let it be known that I was irritated with the 5 questions, or attempted questions, to make a cash purchase. Sears is certainly not the only place where I am peppered with questions. I can’t make a purchase at CVS without their questions. Almost every retail experience now includes some attempt to get more and more of my personal information.

Earlier that same day, I was at Home Depot and counted three attempts to get additional, personal information from me that I just didn’t want to give. The most clever, and newest one is “Would you like an email copy of your receipt?”. I smiled and told the cashier that since I had the receipt in my hand, I didn’t need an email copy, and it was just an attempt to get my email address. When the hard-copy receipt printed, she pointed out there was a survey, and I could win $5,000. I smiled again, and said thank you. I won’t be completing the survey because I have no intention of giving them all the information they seek (name, address, phone number and email address) in the faint hope of winning cash (does anyone know anyone who has actually ever won money from completing a receipt survey?).

For me, this all started in the 1990s. I distinctly remember being in a Radio Shack. I wanted to purchase some small item, for which I was about to pay about $3.00. I had my $5 bill in my hand, in plain view, when the dude at the register asked me for my name, address and phone number. I laughed, and said, politely, “No”. He didn’t know what to do. He had no idea how to complete my purchase without the intervention of a perturbed manager who had to come over and punch what seemed to be about 100 keys on the register, and give me a dirty look. All because I had the audacity to want to pay in cash, and not hand over all my personal information. I can count on one hand the number of times I have been back to Radio Shack since then, and always when I had exhausted all other options for my purchase.

Some will say I am just a crabby old man, and I won’t argue (I tend to wear that badge of honor proudly), but here is the thing. In a never-ending attempt to get more and more of my information, so that personal profiles about my spending habits can be kept, I can no longer just make a simple purchase anymore.

I understand that in this competitive environment businesses are doing everything they can to gain an edge. Rewards programs, loyalty points and the like are here to stay. And, in the spirit of full disclosure, I am an active participant in gaining and using points at Office Max (because of which my son has deemed me a Maxinista). But, I think there has to be some kind of a line. When I have answered the question twice, please stop asking (honestly, I would prefer only once, but again…not realistic). And, don’t ask me for personal information when I am making a cash purchase.

Because of some projects I have been on at work over the years, I have come to understand that the US has some of the most lax privacy laws in the world. Data about Americans are regularly shared with companies and organizations trying to gain some kind of advantage. I think most of us would be appalled if we know how much of our data is mined on a daily basis by companies and governments alike. I am not trying to be an alarmist, or a black-helicopter-conspiracy theorist. I am, though, saying that there needs to be more attention paid to privacy. And that attention starts with us as individuals. I am under no obligation to give up any more information to your business than is required to complete the transaction. If I chose to give you more, that’s up to me, but please stop peppering me with the constant questions.

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One Response to Questions in retail … something I am coming to despise.

  1. notkalvin says:

    When asked for a phone number, I like giving them obviously fake numbers. Aardvark is also a favorite answer of mine for a variety of questions. And just like I enjoy telling window companies that I have boarded over all of the windows on my house, I have told cashiers that I have no phone number. None at all. Talk about strange looks. I’m with you, Bob. Another pet peeve of mine about the “instant store credit card for a 15% discount” ploy, is the damage the credit application does to your credit score.

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