It’s an increasingly common experience for shoppers. You get to the checkout register and the clerk asks for your home zip code.
While some businesses use the data for benign purposes — like figuring out where to open new stores — zip code information can also be used to ferret out much more personal information that many customers would be willing to provide, Forbes notes.
Direct marketers are touting tools that offer retailers access to massive databases of personal data that can been tapped with just a customer’s name with their zip code. Included in that database are addresses and telephone numbers.
That data can then be used to target consumers in direct marketing campaigns. While most retailers will not object if customers decline to provide their zip code, others can be more persistent in obtaining the information.
Williams-Sonoma (WSM) was sued by a customer who claimed that she thought providing her zip code was mandatory for credit card transactions, only to learn the company used it to obtain direct marketing information. The California Supreme Court ultimately ruled that retailers cannot force customers to divulge their zip codes during transactions.
Earlier this month, Urban Outfitters (URBN) was sued for collecting shopper’s zip codes in the District of Columbia, which bans the practice. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which is seeking class action status, say that the retailer implied to customers that providing the zip code was a requirement for credit card transactions, LegalTimes notes.