New Adventures in Casual Privacy Violations

Today I went to the grocery store and the nice guy at the door showed me the cool new thing that my loyalty card can do. Apparently, I can now log into the store website and browse through all of the coupons on offer and choose the ones that I would normally clip in order to have it automagically apply at the checkout when I use my store loyalty card. Neat?

Here’s the thing- I know that store loyalty cards are about marketing and data collection. The fact that I buy certain products, combined with my basic demographics and location are valuable to all kinds of people. This is sort of creepy, but discounted food is worth something to me and even if I’m getting ripped compared to the value of my data at least I’m getting something. There was a bit of a pact when first signed up for a loyalty card. I would use it and let them build up their data profile and it would at least free me from the inconvenience of worrying about what coupons to take to the store (not that I ever bothered). The idea was that all of the discounted stuff would be marked, using my card would take care of the paperwork. No more fucking coupons!

That state of affairs lasted for a few years. I got really good at browsing the shelves for marked-down food. “2 for 1 with card” was a selling point for me if the math worked out. Then coupons came back. People with obsessive compulsive disorders could now combine loyalty card discounts AND coupons. My refrigerator again started sprouting bits of clipped advertisements that I would set aside in the hope the I would actually plan ahead to buy cat food instead of randomly picking some up on the way home from the bar. This was one of those low-grade indignities that you deal with like when they put advertising back on cable tv.

Now, the grocery store wants even more information (my email? that won’t be spammed of course) as well as making me actively choose what discounts I want before I get to the store rather than letting me pick stuff off the shelf based on price. Not only is that a significant addition to their marketing data, but they also get the bonus of me forgetting which brand of canned tomatoes was on sale by the time I’m staring at the shelf.

Seriously, fuck those guys.

p.s. There’s another freaky feature that I found. I’ll have more once I’ve figured out how it works