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Data is everywhere (that's indisputable). What I didn't realize was how often--and how subtly--personal big trails get created every day.
Case in point, I went to Kohl's to use up a free $10 rewards coupon card last weekend. While I was checking out, the cashier asked me for my phone number. I paused. I didn't understand why he needed my phone number for this transaction, so instead of passively reciting my number for him, I politely declined and told him I didn't want to give him my number. He didn't say anything and the transaction continued as normal. The alarms didn't go off and managers weren't called over because I didn't give him my phone number. So, what was the point of that inane question?
This was a case of sneaky retail marketing analytics at work! I was "lucky" enough to catch it and did not surrender my personal data for their marketing purposes. Retailers try to gather different kinds of personal customer data whenever possible to get new intel--new business intelligence--about their patrons. The Kohl's $10 rewards card was just a retail tactic to get shoppers to come shop--that's obvious. But, the twist this time was that Kohl's wanted something out of their customers this time. (Note: this has never happened to me before at Kohl's and I have been shopping there for years.) Kohl's figured it was worth giving out a $10 gift card if it resulted in a new collection of customer data! Retailers used to ask customers what their zip codes were so they could get geospatial data about their patrons, but now, it seems they have moved onto a more powerful channel: phone numbers. With my phone number, Kohl's could effectively track my shopping behavior and monitor my movements throughout their store if my smartphone had its Wi-fi activated. Some retailers have been known to send text coupons in real time to customers while they are shopping to entice them to purchase something they would otherwise not buy. Clever marketing? Or does this infringe on shoppers' personal space and privacy?
Personally, I avoid handing out my number whenever possible. Who knows what kind of database my personal information would land in?
Would you have handed over your phone number blindly? I'm glad I wasn't on auto-pilot that day because otherwise, I would have spit out my number without even thinking twice (as I suspect a lot of people tend to do!). Why else would a cashier ask that question if it weren't absolutely "necessary" to have that information? It seems innocuous enough... However, consumers need to wake up and stop handing over their personal big data because who knows where those data trails will lead.
My phone number is more than just ten digits--it's just the beginning of a trail of my personal big data...and I refuse to release that information indiscriminately.