Could your savings be from stalking?

Just the other day I received a number of coupons in the mail from Kroger’s.  This isn’t an unusual circumstance as several of the stores I frequent usually send me some coupons in the mail, email or even a text message.   It never fails to surprise me how well the coupons are targeted towards my purchasing habits.  Some of them are right on target, while others are just tempting enough to make me want to add them to the cart, after all I have a coupon.  But have you ever wondered at what cost you are paying for your savings?

I know that my coupons are geared towards my buying habits. After all, why else would their be a Kroger card, CVS or any of the other so called savings cards available at many grocery and department stores.   I’m not naive, I know that those cards are used to track my habits and yes, it bothers me some but a recent report from makes me wonder even more; “Can my savings come from stalking?”

Here are some ways that retailers are “stalking”  (data mining) information about you:

Wal-Mart began placing RFID chips on all of its clothes.  You have probably heard about RFID chips used on your credit card.  It’s the same thing.

“There are two things you really don’t want to tag, clothing and identity documents, and ironically that’s where we are seeing adoption,” said Katherine Albrecht, founder of a group called Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering. “The inventory guys may be in the dark about this, but there are a lot of corporate marketers who are interested in tracking people as they walk sales floors.”

One very frightening story comes from a father who thanks to Target, found out his teenage daughter was pregnant.

“A Target store in Minnesota was called out by a father who demanded to know why the retailer was sending his teenage daughter coupons for maternity clothing and furniture. He was convinced the store was encouraging high school girls to get pregnant in order to raise profits. As it turned out, Target knew something that the girl’s father didn’t. Thanks to advanced data mining techniques, the store’s marketing computer was able to study the girl’s purchases and determine that there was an 87% percent chance that she was in her second trimester of pregnancy.”

By analyzing the data that comes in through the use of savings cards, coupons, and purchases (unless you don’t use any savings and pay cash) retailers can find out your age, gender, the number of kids you have, how you spend your free time.  It is possible that companies could even predict, by monitoring buying patterns an expectant mother’s due date and gender of her baby.

Have you signed up for text messages or emails from businesses like CVS, Redbox, Walgreen’s or grocery stores like Walmart, Kroger’s, and Safeway?  The terms of service are long, and many of us don’t read them in their entirety, what we see is a money saving offer, coupon or “freebie.”  But those savings come at a price, our privacy.

Bill Hazelton shares,

“I don’t think I’m the only one who’s creeped out,” he says. “There’s no legislation in place to tell these stores when they’ve gone too far. They can even monitor your cell phone through an app, as long as you accept the service agreement. Except nobody reads the long legalese service agreements. We need to set boundaries.”

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg states in a 2010 interview that the “age of privacy is over.”    He unfortunately, may have been far too right.

Do you think retailers have gone too far to “personalize” your shopping experience?


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