The next time your return an item at a major retailer, your name is likely being added to a list.
A number of major store chains — including popular retailers like Home Depot (HD), Nike (NKE), JCPenney (JCP), Limited Brands’ (LTD) Victoria’s Secret and Best Buy (BBY) — are creating “return profiles” for customers who receive store credit for merchandise returns. The retailers argue that the tracking is meant to spot criminal activity or people who repeatedly return items, but consumer advocates call it an invasion of privacy, the Associated Press notes.
Americans return fully 9% of all retail purchases every year, roughly $264 billion worth of goods. Some of those returns are being tracked by outside companies like The Retail Equation. That company claims it doesn’t share data collected from one retailer with others.
Some retailers like Best Buy post warnings that returns will be tracked on receipts. Others do not.
Still, privacy advocates say retailers shouldn’t be compiling secret databases with customer data.