Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Big Data is not what you want in exchange for Christmas

Ask customer service about return/exchange policies before you buy this Holiday Season

UPDATE 11/23 - Correction - Liz at Spychips wants to do something with the idea, but can't officiate CASPIAN as spokesperson. 

UPDATE 2PM CST -  CASPIAN teaming up on the Greedy/Vice list. 

BTC Commentary --  Last Christmas it was Best Buy. This Summer it was Walgreens. This fall it was Target. Now pushing into this Christmas, Michael's Art Supply started scanning driver's licenses during retail exchanges at the register.  These businesses disclose demand for photo ID as consumer policy, typically on receipts after the shopping is done. Typically, there is no privacy protection offered to you for information you voluntarily give up to these stores.  They demand it and then they sell it to whomever they want.  That's a bad bargain.

In American shopping culture, where impulse is encouraged during holiday season, more people will be asked for a drivers license before, during or after during returns or exchanges gifts or purchases as POS policy.  I expect a third of shopping America to go along with it. However, if your reading this blog, that won't be you.

How can you beat Big Christmas when it's marketing the sales of drivers license information to 3rd party Big Data monitors?

1) Before serious shopping,  ask customer service
 about their Return/Exchange policies, especially if its a gift.
If they require photo ID to purchase or exchange a return, you have more options.  Remember, you can usually walk away from any business who wants photo ID or license information.

Signs may have been taken down since last Christmas,
but the policy still exists.
2) WE'RE MAKING A LIST, CHECKING IT TWICE...  Beat The Chip is finding out whose greedy and vice by data poaching from Holiday shoppers. We'll do our best to verify the policy of the naughty business and get an official list up.

We've already asked several organisations to help out on this .

Please send your story, a photo of receipts or copy of the photo ID policy contact [at]

In the meanttime we are working on an *unofficial* version where consumers can complain and self-advocate at a thread-ready site on Reddit. Please check back for updates.

We will do our best post it on a list so privacy watchful consumers can find it.

3) Shop Mom and Pop - Smaller family businesses want your money, not necessarily your information. The likelihood is higher you will be welcomed. In the meantime, you are providing quality competition to businesses demanding Photo ID policies. Those Church Bazzarre ladies know who you are anyway. They don't want ID. Buy the sweater scarf.

4) Know your limits.  Unless you want to haggle with that self-important retail management drone, you may consider eating that return if it's under $25.  If your return purchase is $50 or more, it might be time to draw your line in the sand.  Only you know your limits.

In a personal instance, I called the marketing department from Best Buy in response to their stubborn local customer service. They relented, saying we did not have to submit our drivers license information in order to complete a return on the malfunctioning TV we bought there costing over $250. So it's sometimes worth the haggle.  It is store policy and subject to change at any time.  That change may come in the instance as the price gets too high to sacrifice both your money and your identity.

The perfect holiday gift is usually something simple, challenging, but still within your power to attain.  So is the life of a modest, private citizen. It is going to take some effort to prevent yourself from being fleeced by the profiteering of this Information Society. That might require you to not inform Big Christmas.


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