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Why Does Toys R Us Want My Phone Number?

No“Your phone number?”
“No, thank you.”

“And your zip code please?”
“No, thanks.”

“Can I get your email to complete the transaction?”

“And would you like to save an extra 5% today by signing up…”
“No…GAAAAWWWW, can I just give you my money and go home!?”

I don’t ever say the last one…out loud. But at the checkout line, I’m usually thinking it and feeling just like this screen shot of David Tennant from Doctor Who.

Is it just me, or is it getting harder and harder to complete a simple transaction anymore? Why can’t I just pay and leave with my stuff? Why does Party City want my zip code? My email I get…they just want me for their mailing list…but my zip code? And what’s up with asking for my phone number? Toys R Us does that ALL…THE…TIME.

Am I just being too sensitive? Maybe I’m turning into a cranky old curmudgeon.  “Hey kids, get off my lawn.”

Turns out, stores can learn quite a bit by the extra piece of information that you volunteer at the checkout line.  I’ll admit — my initial motivation for not giving this information was just to get out the door faster, but now that I’ve read about it, I’m not going to be giving personal information at all anymore.

Why Stores Want Your Personal Information

When stores ask for your ZIP code, they can easily match this with your name (from your credit or debit card) and then use this information to get your address. According to this Forbes article, a company called Harte-Hanks has a service they’ve aptly named GeoCapture which will give a retailer a customer’s address if they are provided with just a name and a ZIP code. Boom — you’re on a mailing list and all you’ve provided was a ZIP code.

A phone number can get the retailer even more information. If you think about it, that makes sense since a phone number is a unique identifier. According to ABC News, a phone number can get the retailer personal information like addresses, interests, hobbies, and even the number of children in the home. Have you ever filled out a survey online where they ask for your phone number at the end? This is where you may have voluntarily given a marketing company personal information about you that ended up being sold at a later date.

Now, to be fair, many stores will ask for your phone number so that they can look up your receipt later on when you want to return an item.  This comes in handy if you’ve lost your receipt. But, I have decided to just keep my phone number to myself and take that risk.

I have made a small little commitment to not unnecessarily add any complications to my life, no matter how tempting. This makes it easy to say no to any and all offers at the checkout line — even the ones that will save me money. I won’t sign up for any more rewards cards, loyalty cards, or anything else like that. It is adding complication to my life, and to me, that is not worth a couple of extra dollars.

I prefer to just pay for my stuff and go.

What about you?  Do you give out your ZIP code at the checkout?  How about your phone number? Do you feel obligated at the checkout to give them this information? 

Author Bio: Kim Fourman is a licensed CPA, working at Loggins, Kern & McCombs, CPAs. Her kids love Toys R Us merchandise.

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  1. I don’t give out my phone number, but I do give out my zip code, mainly to get the transaction over with! I realize this is probably exactly how they want you to think…honestly most people are in such a rush they could care less what information they have to give up as long as they could get the heck out of there.

  2. Student Debt Survivor says

    I don’t like the idea of everyone having my information, but truthfully I’ve sort of given up/given in. I give my phone number and I give my e-mail address (well a “fake” one I made for just junk offers).

  3. This is good to know, thanks for sharing. Things are getting creepier and creepier! Most of the time, I tell them I already receive emails from them and they stop there. I’ve been a cashier in the past, and while I didn’t have to ask for personal information, asking anything extra always bothered me.

  4. Done by Forty says

    I’ve given up on fighting for my information privacy. There’s no putting the pooh back in the donkey, you know?

  5. Ugh, I hate always getting asked for my personal information. That zip code factoid is great to know.

    Growing up, I lived overseas so when we came back to America it was really fun to respond, “Sorry, I live in Japan (or China depending on the year).” It always left the cashier dumbfounded for a second and then they would try to use another tactic like, “well if you give us your email…”

  6. It annoys me when they ask for this stuff and try to say no, but like Holly there are times when they say they need it. I don’t fight it because in the end I don’t care THAT much and I don’t feel like causing a scene. But I do think you SHOULD be able to pay for things without giving out your personal information.

  7. Holly Johnson says

    I would prefer to pay for my stuff anonymously so I usually just say “no thanks!” But I have had people tell me that they have to put a phone number or zip code in to get their cash register to process the transaction which I think is creepy.

  8. With your zip code, your transaction data is clustered and used by marketing firms to build market segmentation profiles. Using multiple sources of data, these segment profiles are used by companies to determine which areas get marketing material and even where they locate retail sites. Loyalty programs are just a clever way of getting that data without asking you each time. I always decline that information because my spending weakness is bad enough, I don’t want retailers having even more of an advantage on me! People worry about big brother – but government can’t even get a budget passed. I worry about big data – it’s always watching and it’s effective.

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