Why it isn’t a good idea to give a store your zip code

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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.”

  • landofaahs

    Since I always give them a fake one, I don’t care.

  • landofaahs

    I use cash and give out no personal; info.  If you have clothing with RFID chips in them, pop them in the microwave for 15 seconds.  El fryo de chip.

  • Anonymous

    20004 is a good one to use.

  • Anonymous

    Got one even better…I went to Target and purchased some goods, and a package of BIC lighters (2 in a pack).  The cashier asked for my license…why?  because  the lighters could be bought by minors)  I am over 50 and I showed her the license (still in my wallet) – she asked to have it handed to her….why?? I asked..she “HAS” to scan it. It’s their policy.  I  said NO WAY…and left everything on the counter.  I mean REALLY!!  I have purchased lighters in drugstores, WalMart and the supermarkets and never had to show any ID.  Needless to say, I have blackballed the Target stores ever since and I told my friends and associates they were equally astonished.

  • DungeonMaster68

    Just give everyone a fake zip code….problem solved.

  • Anonymous

    That is such a good idea to give a fake zip code.  There is always two ways to skin a cat.(Don’t mean literally) just a saying before everyone freaks out.  I will have to try the fake zip.

    • Mike Nelson

      I recently saw a program on HIstory Channel that claimed the phrase “more than one way to skin a cat” was coined in reference to catfish, not cats.

      I can’t vouch for the validity of this claim, but it’s fascinating how the origins of words get lost over time.

  • Maxi

    June and everyone else, don’t freak out.  The original phrase was “skin a cat*fish*.”  Often stores also ask for the last four of your social security number.  Give them a fake one of those, too.  To make it easy, just use the same fake zip and fake SSN each time.

  • Joe Robertson

    I think this woman should have taken this further and gone to the police and had the store manager arrested for being held kidnapping and being held hostage. I am serious. The manager closed and LOCKED the door so that this woman could not leave unless she provided her zip code. For the time that the doors were locked she was being held against her will. It does not matter if a kidnapper only has you for 10 seconds before you get away they are still charged with the crime. She should have this manager charged for the same crime.

  • Anonymous

    Business and Ethics are incompatible by their very definition.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=588258905 Cheryl Lynn Elliott

    You are not the only persons who refuse to give out the list. What comes into our establishment stays there. Our eyes only and even then only qualified eyes.  

  • ken.

    i never give anyone any of my personal information ever. if they won’t take no then i give them fake information. i don’t use or even have any checks or credit cards, only cash.

    • Anonymous

      Good for you Ken, but you might find that harder to maintain looking forward.  Notice they’re trying to get us all paying for small value items electronically with mobile devices ?  They certainly are in the UK.

  • pogo46

    zip code is what the credit card machine will ask for to verify the card holder sometimes.

  • A Freespeechzone

    I’d call 911—the resulting lawsuit for ‘kidnapping’ would be sensational and result in damages that would no doubt change corporate policy.

  • wushi


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