Cashier in baker's shop posing with cash register

“Do I Need to Give Out My Zip Code?”


The short answer is “No.” The long answer is “Hell, no.” Do you value your privacy or at least what’s left of it? Don’t give your zip code to the clerk at a retail store. It’s comes down to crack marketing. You know how it is. Clerk asks for your zip code, you give them a look like  “Hmm….Why?” but then you think “Why not, what could come of it?” Plus, you don’t want to look bitchy difficult.

You think …“No big deal – they have my zip code, who cares?” Well, since your address is a matter of public record, all it takes is a reverse check of any two pieces of information to make a match.

Ever checked out the Pipl website? Just a gathering of personal information.. that happens to be public, matched up in a database. Yea…def no big deal. <that’s sarcasm btw>

After the match is made, cue the marketing materials! Meaning MORE junk mail. Retailers also sell your personal information to others, and if they are not selling it – they are sharing it with affiliates’.

Sidebar: you can opt-out of affiliate marketing through individual retailers. Although it can be complicated, the extra steps are worth keeping your information from being out there more than it has to be.

California has even upheld a law that prohibits retailers from recording a customer’s “personal identification information” during a credit card transaction and imposes a civil penalty of up to $1,000 per violation. The Supreme Court in California ruled that this includes your zip code.

It is also used it for demographics. Looking to find out your purchasing power, where you live or how far you traveled to come there. Retailers use that information for targeted advertising in a specific area.

Your phone number is used the same way. It can quickly be determined whether or not it’s a cell phone or landline. Area codes give easy access to zip codes, which leads to more matches, more marketing information.

So far the only exception is at the gas station. Gas station pumps will ask for your zip code to identify you and cut down on theft. If someone steals your credit card, it’s unlikely they will know your zip code. A thief likes to process a small transaction to see if the card is working. A gas station is perfect since they can do it undetected.

Listen, it can be awkward. Many times the clerk looks at me sideways when I won’t give my zip code. When they ask I respond with: “No thanks, I’m good.” That usually confuses them enough to move forward without saying anything or asking again.

Bottom line: Don’t give your zip code or phone numbers to retailers. It isn’t necessary to process your transaction. They are just gathering information about you, your family and your shopping habits.

Have you ever had a clerk look at you all weird when you tell them “no” to giving out personal information? I know I have!




Suburbia dweller, organizational nerd & ninja, lover of coffee & author of SuburbanCents~

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