Yesterday, TheBlaze reported the story of a California woman, Jo Anna Davis, who refused to provide an Ulta beauty store with her zip code while making a return. What happened next was truly insane: the store manager got involved, demanding Davis provide her zip code, and even briefly locking the doors to the store.
Davis explained what happened in an interview:
REPORTER 1: Joanna Davis says the situation was so absurd, she laughed out loud in her car afterward. She tried to return an item at an Alta beauty store near Sacramento. They asked for her zip code, which she didn’t want to give them.
REPORTER 2: What happened when you refused to give them your zip code?
DAVIS: When I refused to give them my zip code, they called the manager, she wanted it and then said that she couldn’t go forward with providing me with a refund or a store credit or whatever.
REPORTER 1: Davis says it led to an ugly confrontation in the store. For many of us, it doesn’t get that far. We’re often asked for our zip codes when we make a purchase and think nothing of giving it. But if a sales clerk sees your name while swiping your card, then gets your zip code… Stores can take this information to a data broker and ask them to match up the name with the zip code in order to get the person’s home address. And they can get other information too. They might be able to get e mail address or phone number as well.
“And it’s gotten so bad, everybody does this now. Well, not everybody, but there’s a bunch of stores who want either your zip code, which seemingly harmless to a lot of people. I know, what can they get from a zip code? A lot, as we just found out,” Pat said. “They want your phone number sometimes. Sometimes they want your address. I never tell them any of it.”
Beyond the obvious customer service issues at play, Glenn highlighted the ethical problems that arise when stores, companies, businesses, etc. have access to this kind of personal information.
“Here’s the amazing thing,” Glenn said. “There is nobody that talks about ethics anymore. I talk to people in business all the time, and there’s no one that talks about the ethics of how to treat their customers, their ethics of what to do with the information, their ethics of going and data mining.”
“The information on you is so valuable. But it won’t be very long because you know who will be the main provider of information? The government. They will have everything. Absolutely everything on you,” he continued. “And then they are the ones that are selling your information. How do you think they are doing this? This is a way for them to make money… They don’t actually care about you… Because once they gather the information through the government, you’re done. You’re done. You don’t have control of anything anymore.”