A few years ago, I started getting a ridiculous amount of spam phone calls. Automatic machines offering cruises, credit card companies trying to offer the Har-JAW-LAAAAAAAHS a new lower-interest VISA, and several calls from foreigners that I couldn’t understand (and that I hung up on). I was getting several phone calls to my cell phone everyday, all day. First thing in the morning, before my alarm went off, while in class, and just before bed.
Not only that, I started getting catalogs and credit card offers through the mail.
It took a while for me to put the pieces together and answer the question, “What did I do?”
I know I had opened a Maurices store card, but that’s it. Nothing out of the ordinary, no browsing on website and entering into travel sweepstakes. No signing up for any special offers… So I googled something along the lines of “Suddenly getting a lot of telemarketers calling my cell phone.” I quickly found the only plausible reason–I had given out my phone number at Maurices, and most likely every store in my area.
Gamestop for sure, JC Penney, Shopko and all of the grocery stores around. Whenever I’d got to Marquette, nearly everyone asked, and I gave it. In the UP, it’s common for cashiers to hear your number and ask where you’re from. And if you’re local, or they recognize the first three numbers, they’ll ask you about your area. The entire UP is area code 906, the cities of Houghton/Hancock are 487, 482, 483… If you’re from Chassell, 523. If you have Verizon, 281. So it’s habit for everyone to just give their number. Chances are, the cashier will say “I have a cousin from Calumet!” and a conversation will spur from there.
But my research showed that when you give your zip code, email address, or phone number to a store for “demographics” or “newsletters,” it’s really going into a pool of information that merchants can take advantage of. That zip code you just gave them with your name is like handing them your entire address and life history in a portfolio, with instructions on how to exploit your information. Yes, please call my phone at all hours. I’d love to get junk mail from your friends.
(See the article, “Should you tell stores your zip code?” via NBCNews.com)
So I stopped giving out information. A semi-polite “no, thank you” and I’d be on my way.
This past weekend, I went to Cabela’s in Tulalip, WA with my husband to spend some of his birthday money. I’d gone there several times in the past few months to get a few gifts, and my “no, thank you” worked just fine. It’s just for demographics, they say. I’d rather not, I say.
But on Saturday, my husband had found nearly $100 worth of feathers and hooks and fly line that he had to have, even after doing the same thing only a few days prior. (Too much money spent at Cabela’s!). The girl rang up the total, and asked for my phone number, and I said “Oh, no” while trying to swipe my card. She stopped me from sliding my card and said that she had to have the number.
I told her that it’s just for demographics, and I’d rather not give out that information. She told me that it’s just a phone number, and that she couldn’t let me buy anything without it. I started to explain that a phone number attached to a name and credit card is like handing over my identity, and she interrupted me to say again that I wouldn’t not be able to buy anything unless I gave her the info. She then started pushing buttons on the intercom, trying to get a manger to come over. I told her that I’d come to this store many times without any problems, have a Cabela’s card, have spent a ridiculous amount of money there… And she spoke over me to instruct me that those cashiers must have been new hires and it’s required. By this time, she looked to be shaking with annoyance and wouldn’t even make eye contact. She kept repeating, “Just give me the number!”
My husband is not one to stand up for things. He doesn’t like petty arguments and is really forgiving. I’m not like that.
He didn’t want to cause a scene and gave this woman MY PHONE NUMBER so that we could escape. She had just turned to face me, looking about ready to beat me in the face if I didn’t give her the number and he caved. Of course then, I couldn’t believe he’d do that after my persistence, and wanted to SHAKE HIM (among other things).
Minutes later, I called the store and got in touch with Customer Service. I told them what happened, that this woman (by name) refused to let me spend money without my phone number. She wouldn’t let me slide my card. She wouldn’t let me leave the store. Of course they apologized, told me I was right, asked for her name, etc.
But I’ve never felt so humiliated, so mistreated, and so shocked while shopping before. I spent my Saturday to enjoy Ladies Day Out at Cabela’s, entered sweepstakes and won a few things, only to get talked down to by a cashier who would rather rip my hair out than let me leave the store without my personal information.
I need to come up with a fake identity.