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Stores Use Discount Cards To Notify Of Recall

michael posted more than 10 years ago | from the eat-fewer-twinkies-mr-smith dept.

Privacy 404

crazyj writes "USA Today is one of many sources running a story about how some supermarkets used their "discount" shopping cards to notify customers of a beef recall. Interestingly, some stores did not use the information because they felt it violated the customer's privacy. I always use a fake name and address when I sign up for those, but do others feel that the stores were justified in 'violating' their privacy agreement?"

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hahahaha (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8073507)

darrly loves my cock

CmdrKngroo dead at 76. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8073597)

Heard some sad news on the news this evening. Famed chomo Captain Kangaroo died today in the showers at San Quentin. Even if you were never molested by him, you can't deny his contributions to Wil Wheaton's anus. Truly an American icon.

Re:CmdrKngroo dead at 76. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8073661)

Do not ride the coattails of the wonderous new darryl troll with your mind numbing lameness.

sad news on the news

*shakes head and walks away*

fuckers (-1, Flamebait)

slashdotGhey (742847) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073508)


BEST... BAND... EVAR!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8073510)

There was a guy
An underwater guy who controlled the sea
Got killed by ten million pounds of sludge
From New York and New Jersey

This monkey's gone to heaven (x4)

The creature in the sky
Got sucked in a hole
Now there's a hole in the sky
And the ground's not cold
And if the ground's not cold
Everything is gonna burn
We'll all take turns
I'll get mine, too

This monkey's gone to haven (x4)

Rock me Joey! (Rock me Joseph Alberto Santiago!)

If man is 5 (x3)
Then the devil is 6 (x4)
And if the devil is six
Then god is 7 (x3)

This monkey's gone to heaven (x4)


Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8073519)

hang wire

I'll bossanova with ya!

is it invasion? (4, Insightful)

olorinpc (729849) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073512)

Is it really invasion if the store where they signed up for this card notifies them of various things?

Re:is it invasion? (3, Interesting)

Cali Thalen (627449) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073553)

Invasion of privacy? Well, only if you consider that they looked to see what you bought...but since you're volunteering to use the card, and volunteering to use correct contact information, I'd have to say no. Plus, they do see you when you check out, so it's not like you're keeping secrets anyway.

Now, is it a violation of their privacy agreement? Not having read it, it's hard to say. However, have you ever read one that says 'we promise never ever to contact you about anything'? Seems rather unlikely doesn't it?

Re:is it invasion? (1)

squarefish (561836) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073579)

Invasion of privacy? Well, only if you consider that they looked to see what you bought..

only if they actually tracked your purchases. I'm a veg-head and I personally would never get a card like that, but I don't think it's bad if they do a blanket broacast of a particular food product had I given them my info (I would personally not). As long as their not sharing the info beyond any agreement I have with them, then I don't see an issue.

Re:is it invasion? (5, Insightful)

questamor (653018) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073608)

Is it really invasion if the store where they signed up for this card notifies them of various things?

I don't think so. Honestly, if I'd bought what was, say, 100% certain BSE infected beef that WOULD kill me by a slow horrific painful death, and the supermarket only had my name, and they then used the phone book, online tracking agencies, a private investigator or phoning my relatives to get hold of me, I would be fucking glad.

I'd be pissed at the situation, but this is something that'd save my life.

What next, five people asleep in a burning house and firemen must phone twice and knock before entering? There's points where the line of privacy can and should be crossed, I see this as one of them

Re:is it invasion? (2, Interesting)

ron_ivi (607351) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073646)

In fact, they could take this to your health professional or insurance company to make sure you get the care you need!

Or is that going too far? It might save lives, though...

Re:is it invasion? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8073696)

How rediculous. I may have given my name to a store, but that does NOT give them the right to contact me for ANYTHING unless I give my explicit permission to. Without these kinds of checks and balances the whole system would collapse, and we'd end up with lifesaving "advertising specials" and constant harrassment from retailers.

No thanks. Keep their grubby hands off my info unless it is used explicitly as I command, as is my right.

Your Club Savings (2, Insightful)

nacturation (646836) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073627)

This Week's Club Specials:

Red Peppers:
Regular Price: $12.95/lb
Your Club Price: $.95/lb
You Save: $12.00/lb !!

Toilet Paper:
Regular Price: $172.99 for 12 rolls
Your Club Price: $2.99 for 12 rolls
You Save: $170.00 !!

The Sham Store -- see how much you save by shopping here?

Re:Your Club Savings (1)

Endive4Ever (742304) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073645)

All I see is how much I'd pay if I was a privacy-nut and refused on principle to make up fake info and get a card.

Re:Your Club Savings (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8073657)

make up fake info and get a card.

I'm sure one of the next steps is verification of the info before the card is activated.

violation of privacy (4, Insightful)

ajagci (737734) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073514)

The violation of privacy is that they collect and keep the personal information in the first place. Not using it to help consumers is then just a way of avoiding bad publicity and demonstrating to their customers that they actually have the data and can contact them. I.e., the concern is a PR concern, not a legal one. (Most likely, their agreement says that they can change it at any time anyway.)

Re:violation of privacy (1)

olorinpc (729849) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073526)

Yes, I personally wouldnt want my information collected... i guess the real question is whether or not the customer who signs up for this card is told that this information will be collected. If they are - then it isnt a violation of privacy... if not - then of course it is and is a problem.

Re:violation of privacy (5, Insightful)

plover (150551) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073551)

By signing up for the card, you are voluntarily giving them this info. You are giving it up. You wrote your name and address on the application. There should be no expectation of privacy between you and the store.

The only reasonable expectation of privacy you should have with the card would be that the store would not give or sell their mailing list to others. That's the only gray area I can see with these cards. But in this particular case, the store itself contacted the customers because of meat they bought in the store. There is no third-party involvement. Thus, there was no breach of privacy.

Re:violation of privacy (2, Informative)

grendel_x86 (659437) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073568)

Most people dont realize that the whole point of those cards is not to save you money, it is for data warhousing. You dont save anything if you have it, your just panalized if you dont.

Re:violation of privacy (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8073600)

Sorry, but this is just the funniest bunch of typos I've seen in awhile. "Data Warhousing" makes me think of a bunch of guys in a warehouse firing 12 gauge shotguns at one another. I guess the solution is to "panalize" them. I just hope the staples don't leave a scar after they attach the boxcar siding. :-D

Re:violation of privacy (1) troll (593289) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073604)

"You dont save anything if you have it, your just panalized if you dont."

Not always true, while yes they do jack the prices up when introducing card systems, a local store here offers coupons based on what you buy. decent use of user tracking.

Re:violation of privacy (2, Insightful)

DeepDarkSky (111382) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073585)

No, there is no violation of privacy, since you have to give up that information VOLUNTARILY if you wanted the discount card in the first place. Violation of privacy implies that it is being done against your will or without your knowledge.

And in this case, since they 'OWN' the data (that's right, you gave it to them, it's theirs now), and they are not selling it or giving it away to other parties, it is hardly a violation of privacy.

If you give false information, well, that's your problem.

Re:violation of privacy (1)

DavidBrown (177261) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073596)

The violation of privacy is that they collect and keep the personal information in the first place.

Sorry, but it's no invasion of privacy if the customer gives their contact information to the supermarket voluntarily. If you don't want them to have your contact info, then don't give it to them, and vote with your feet by taking your business elsewhere.


rollingcalf (605357) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073612)

Once you use the store card, they already know what you purchased. Notifying a customer doesn't violate any privacy unless they use a third party to print the notices.

If you gave me your email password, you should already assume that I can see whatever messages you have received. If I choose to use the information I saw in your email to warn you about something (without disclosing anything to a third party), the fact that I give you that warning isn't a violation of your privacy.

Strictly, no violation of privacy here (5, Insightful)

out_to_lunch (596942) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073666)

Having rtfm - unusual for /. I know - this is a complex example that neatly encapsulates the privacy dilemma.

QFC supermarkets posted a sign saying concerned shoppers could call to find out if they had bought suspect meat via their id.

Then, if and only if the customer called, QFC only told the shopper. Not any third parties.

I wouldn't want to catch the gruesome mad cow disease, so full ethical marks to QFC for offering customers an informed opportunity to consent.

As interesting are the dogs that didn't bark, bureaucracies hiding behind a privacy comfort blanket: giant Kroger, Safeway and Albertsons chains said they have no plans to take such a step. Perish the thought - publicise they have poisoned me ?

Katherine Albrecht, founder of Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering, hit the nail on the head at the end of the story. rtfm.

Well lets see... (3, Funny)

judicar (726669) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073521)

1.) You die horrible death.
2.) You're privacy is infringed on.

pick one.

Re:Well lets see... (1)

penguinstorm (575341) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073552)

1) Hundreds people die every day
2) It's legal for private citizens to carry a loaded weapon

the United States chose one side of this a long time ago; same argument, it's just the line that's in a different place.

(I personally choose the 49th parallel, north of which both my privacy and my life is protected.)

Re:Well lets see... (0)

Zero_K (606548) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073584)

I agree with parent. There is privacy, and there is corporate responsiability (rare, i know). I believe that using info to contact people about a harmful product is a good thing.

Re:Well lets see... (1)

MrLint (519792) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073653)

hehe indeed,

there are some reasonable uses of customer information. I believe a recall is one of those.

Re:Well lets see... (1)

King_TJ (85913) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073665)

That's over simplification to the extreme.... Nobody would argue against picking option #1 in your scenario, but we're really just debating the proper way for stores to handle their discount cards here.

What I think would make sense is for the store to give you the ability to select whether you'd like to be notified of product recalls via your discount card signup information at the time you apply for the card. (Existing cardholders should be given a method to select their preference too.)

There are plenty of good reasons why people might opt not to be notified in this manner. Perhaps they signed up for their discount card using an address that's not the best place to really get ahold of them, for example? Maybe the items they buy at that particular store aren't things they're concerned about (EG. paper towels, toilet paper or light bulbs)?

IMHO, it would really suck if a store falsely believed they notified me of a dangerous food item I just bought - when in reality, they contacted some fake address (or maybe a previous address) I had on my discount card signup info.

It's when they recall the KY Jelly.... (1)

bangular (736791) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073691)

or the dildos, or the anal beads, or the chocolate flavored condoms....

Should be opt-in (5, Insightful)

BobaFett (93158) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073522)

When I sign up for a supermarket card, I should be able to check a box which says "contact me if I bought a product under recall". Then they can call me or send me a postcard.

Re:Should be opt-in (5, Funny)

penguinstorm (575341) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073561)

Perhaps there should also be a check box that says:

"Contact me if I buy too many products with trans-fatty acids",

"Contact my doctor if I buy too many Tylenol pills", or

"Contact my mother if I don't buy enough vegetables."

Re:Should be opt-in (1)

ron_ivi (607351) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073662)

How about:
  • Contact my health insurance company if I do *NOT* buy cheetos, etc. -- I might be eligible for a discount.
This example seems to follow the same principal as the savings card to begin with -- opt in to get a discount, but some fear of using the privacy-invasion to raise the prices for others.

Re:Should be opt-in (1)

Famanoran (568910) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073569)

Frankly, I'd prefer an opt-out tick-box for those kind of warnings. I don't mind snail-mail thaat much. :)

Lets see... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8073524)

Violating privacy by sending a health warning to someone and commiting no other serious violation. Oh I'm absolutely furious.

MODS ON CRACK (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8073651)

No, the parent hasn't been modded as a troll/flamebait as of this posting...I'm just prognosticating (while drunk.) Think of it as drawing fire perhaps.

Absolutely they did the right thing (4, Informative)

plover (150551) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073527)

The "frequent shopper" cards are no more than an undisguised marketing tool. You should expect no privacy, since you are, in fact, giving up your privacy in exchange for a few cents off.

Given that there is no moral reason for them not to contact the purchasers of the tainted beef, they would have been held liable had they not used every means at their disposal to contact the purchasers.

Re:Absolutely they did the right thing (1)

DAldredge (2353) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073542)

Two things. One, it is more than just a few cents off, they jack the price up 25% or more (on some/most items) if you don't have the card. Two, just sign up for the card with fake info, they never check.

Re:Absolutely they did the right thing (2, Insightful)

plover (150551) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073562)

I wouldn't know, I shop at a store that advertises that they don't play those stupid card games. Even if it wasn't the closest grocery store to me, I'd shop there for that reason alone.

Re:Absolutely they did the right thing (2, Insightful)

frob2600 (309047) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073566)

Dude, the Albertsons in my area makes you display a driver's license when you fill one of those out. I was going to fill one out but when they demanded my ID I had second thoughts and decided to take my business elsewhere.

I know it is dumb, but I am so tired of every move I make being tracked.

go to Food Lion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8073614)

Just smile nice and say you left your card at home and they'll pull a card from under the counter and run it for you. Yeah, Food Lion is ghetto, but it's cheap.

Re:Absolutely they did the right thing (1)

chrispycreeme (550607) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073669)

It is NOT dumb.

I am sick of it too.
But, then again I always use fake nfo.
It's like i tell people who complain about computer viruses and spyware, i say: "nobody can do anything to your computer that you dont give them permission to do." and it's true.
Dont give them permission to screw you.

Re:Absolutely they did the right thing (1)

cubicledrone (681598) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073704)

Up to SIXTY percent on numerous items.

I think... (4, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073528)'s perfectly fine. You voluntarily gave your contact information to establish a beneficial business relationship with your store. They already use that info to target you with coupons and special offers, so why shouldn't they use it to warn you of major health concerns?

If I receive a form letter in the mail saying "Such and such beef is tainted, please check your package before eating. If you are concerned, return the beef to the store for a free refund", I'm not going to think, "Those f***ers used my personal info to send me a form letter!" I'm actually going to go check my beef and hope like hell I haven't eaten it yet. I probably wouldn't give a second thought as to why or how I got the letter. It is sufficient that I received it and was properly warned.

because people are stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8073638)

Because people don't actually realize how much information they are actually giving away. Most people think in terms of "why would they remember all the stuff I bought in the last six months anyway, that's nonsense".

A warning like this will be a cold shower to them when they will suddenly comprehend how detailed and accurate the information kept is.

Re:because people are stupid (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073644)

A warning like this will be a cold shower to them when they will suddenly comprehend how detailed and accurate the information kept is.

That's why every other piece of mail I get has my name misspelled or my last name replaced with my wife's maiden name? Sure. No offense, but I'll start worrying when they can spell.

Re:because people are stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8073687)

Have you considered that they come from different sources ? Do you have any idea how many times your address exchanged hands ? And that doesn't change the fact that the store knows way too much about you, don't kid yourself into thinking that because the list distributors are inaccurate, that their data is too.

Unsolicited Commercial Mail (5, Insightful)

Ray Radlein (711289) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073529)

In terms of justification, I must admit that "By the way, we thought you might like to avoid an agonizing death" is a somewhat better reason to invade my privacy than "Here's a coupon for 50 cents off your next purchase of adult incontinence control products."

Let's see... (5, Insightful)

Fnkmaster (89084) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073530)

Die miserable painful death from bovine spongiform encephalopathy... or have my privacy invaded. For once, I think the invasion is justified. When it comes to my health and well-being, I'd prefer they let me know - my right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness definitely trumps whatever the hell I said when I signed up for that grocery store card.

Re:Let's see... (3, Insightful)

targo (409974) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073634)

Die miserable painful death from bovine spongiform encephalopathy... or have my privacy invaded.

Or, die a miserable painful death caused by a terrorist act... or have your privacy invaded. At least following the government logic.
Both of these events have ridiculously low probabilities (mad cow being somewhat lower in my opinion) but somehow one is OK and the other isn't? Although I guess that most people think both are OK.
It always amazes me how easily people lose any common sense when whipped up by sensationalism and fearmongering (compare with the ridiculous hassles that people have to put up with because of terrorism fears). Have some perspective, for God's sake. Thousands of people die in traffic accidents all the time but no one thinks it's OK for traffic cops to search me every time when I drive (compare to airports) or come to my home to lecture me about traffic dangers (compare to this article).

Miserable Death? (1)

UPAAntilles (693635) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073655)

This BSD crap is going too far. We might know what causes it (these protein fragments labeled 'prions'), but then again, we're not really sure. Prions could be a symptom, not a cause (though they are more than likely the culprit thus far). The only way to find out if someone has this is either wait for them to start exibiting symptoms and make an educated guess, but the only true way to know is to kill them and analyze the brain and spinal tissue. We also know that the incubation period is probably somewhere between 5 years and a few decades. Fact remains that I can't donate blood because I lived on Zaragoza AFB, in Spain, for 3 and a half years because of the BSD scare. (And yes, I ate at British Burger Kings a couple of times when I was in England) That was over a decade ago, I'm not exibiting any symptoms, we don't even know if it can be transmitted by blood alone, so why the restrictions? Because the media has blown everything out of proportion and scared everybody.

So, in my opinion, the violation of privacy is not qualified because the threat is not proven. (Then again, the grocery store isn't going through a 3rd party or handing the info over to the government, but you asked not to be contacted at all, you shouldn't be contacted at all...what if you already ate the hamburger? Then you're just being scared out of your wits 'cause you wouldn't know better) Now, if it was something else, something with a better foundation in science, by all means, save me from certain death...but BSD is not one of those things.

Re:Let's see... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8073701)

You wouldn't die from Bovine Spongiform Encaphalopathy, you'd die of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease instead.

Fake Information (5, Funny)

radicalskeptic (644346) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073531)

I'm not the only one who uses fake information on some of these cards, am I?

Does this mean Monday my cat's going to get a call from Safeway?

postcard: (0, Offtopic)

ongeboren (734626) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073533)

what you just ate wasn't chicken!

Avoid the problem. (-1, Offtopic)

mlc (16290) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073534)

If you don't eat meat [] , then you can't get mad cow, and don't have to worry about recalls and associated privacy violations.

Re:Avoid the problem. (3, Insightful)

andreMA (643885) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073639)

Remember that cluster of e. coli cases in Pennsylvania last year? Contaminated green onions from Mexico supplied to a restaurant chain, but could have just as easily been supplied to a supermarket.

Customer Privacy need not be violated to warn them (5, Insightful)

jamonterrell (517500) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073535)

I think the first thing you have to acknowledge is that the warning that you could have received tainted (mad cow) beef is more important than being trivially bothered with a notification of such. As long as the information was only used for this purpose, and the whole scenario is clearly documented and an explanation was sent with the notification, I see no problem with it. It's sometimes necessary to remove one's tin foil hat from their covering their eyes.


thin line (2, Insightful)

SinaSa (709393) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073536)

I think there is a thin line you cross between invading privacy and simple concern for your customers. As far as I can tell in this case, the supermarkets are merely looking out for their customers health. It is cheaper for them to only the mention the recall information at the store than sending letters out to hundreds of customers.
I don't really see this as crossing that line.

trojan horse (1)

ir0b0t (727703) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073543)

Leaving consumer protection to the market always seems to run the risk that serious problems will get viewed primarily as an opportunity to push through a new avenue for marketing.

There are less invasive ways and more effective ways to warn consumers about bad meat than junk mail based on spending surveillance.

Privacy in exchange for what ? (2, Funny)

Lupulack (3988) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073545)

One of our local supermarkets changed it's name and had a big facelift , with the result of raising prices across the board and SURPRISE ! Introducing a customer card that replaces coupons with swiping your card.

I don't think I'm getting anything in exchange for my information, since they raised prices at the same time they did this. So as far as they know , I'm a black mother of two.

Specific Agreements Required (2, Interesting)

calmdude (605711) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073554)

I believe that for reasons such as public health, using readily accessible information to provide valuable notifications to those who need it should not only be done every once in a while, but should be routine.

The only thing I fear is a slippery slope...a few months from now, it's not just tainted meat or a toy recall, but a sale on your favorite brand of foot fungicide.

One solution would be a simple declaration of accepted usages for customer cards upon signup. For example,

[ ] I want to receive promotional notices
[ ] I want to know when my cow is mad
[ ] I want no notifications of any sort

We already see this regularly on the web, but I haven't seen it on those customer loyalty card applications. Perhaps it's time for this idea to be implemented. Instead of deciding what's best for the customer, let's try the novel idea of letting the customer decide what's best for themselves.

Choices (5, Insightful)

lakmiseiru (635364) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073558)

Well, when it comes down to it, you have two options:
  1. Fill in a fake name and address on the card, and don't worry about being contacted.
  2. Fill in your real name and address on the card, and get warnings such as this one.
The form I filled out for my supermarket card had the usual "Check this box if you do not wish your name and information given out to qualified vendors, etc," but lacked a "Please do not contact me with further offers" box. However, I have yet to receive any mail from said business, including flyers.

Truthfully, if they have your address, it was your decision, and you should be happy you received the warning. If they don't, that's just the price you pay for privacy. I'm certain somebody in the office or the neighborhood got the warning and would be perfectly willing to alert you in the future.

Re:Choices (1)

hawaiian717 (559933) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073617)

When I signed up for the Albertsons [] card, there was a box you could check and they would give you the card without giving them any personal information.

BUT!!! (2, Funny)

azcoffeehabit (533327) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073563)

But I ate that last night....

read the fine print (3, Informative)

six11 (579) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073574)

When you sign up for one of those things, there's always fine print saying what they can and can't do regarding your information. This isn't rocket science--rtfm [] and your questions will be answered. Safeway (to pick the grocery store that I tend to go to) states:
Safeway may use this information to give you personally-tailored coupons, offers or other information
And then further down, they essentially say that at any point they can amend the terms of the agreement at will:
We reserve the right at our discretion to change, modify, add, or remove portions of this Statement at any time.
In any event, they make it clear that they will contact you for whatever reason they see fit. I'm a little bit confused as to why anybody would feel that a grocery card entitles you to privacy, when you voluntarily agree to give them your information even while they state that they will essentially do whatever they please with it. If you aren't comfortable with Grocery X tracking your purchasing habits, do what everybody else on the planet does--provide incorrect information and forget about it. Not everything is a constitutional issue.

What should you do? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8073577)

Choose one!

(1) Die from a brain disease.
(2) Let the store know where you live.

Complaining is about as silly as saying that: "the fire service violated my privacy when they crashed through the window and dragged my unconcious body away from the smoke and flames of my burning home."

Using the discount card information to recall a possibly fatal product is a very responsible and ethical use of that information - provided, of course - they don't use it as an excuse to start mailing advertising to the customers.

The real purpose of those cards is to track buying patterns - every item you buy is a data point in a trend. For example: If you always buy two of something, it would indicate that a larger packet would be more appropriate product to offer. If you often prefer a certain brand of food - you're more likely to be interested in other products in that brand's range - or that you might be interested in them discounting a competitor's version of the same product.

I don't know for sure that they do this, but it's what I would if I ran a supermarket chain - and over the past few years of grocery shopping I've noticed enough coincidences in new items, discounts and level of stock that would indicate that they do indeed play the trends.

Fake name (0, Offtopic)

bucketoftruth (583696) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073578)

My friend won the H2 Hummer for using their card. They wouldn't have had it if they didn't use thier real name and address. Personally, I just don't go to stores that have *the card*.

Re:Fake name (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8073697)

That's probably the non-sequitur of the day. Lots of people win at lottery, and obviously if they didn't they wouldn't have won. That doesn't make the lottery any less of a tax for the poor...

If they have to invade your privacy, (1)

Lord Kano (13027) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073581)

I can't think of a better reason to do it.

Don't bother me to let me know about your newest sale on face cream. But by all means if you discover that I have bought something that may KILL ME, please violate my privacy and tell me about the recall.

BTW, I never sign up for those cards.


They've done worse... (1)

orthancstone (665890) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073583)

Considering some of these companies sold out (well, not for money) all your information to the government back when the Patriot Act got passed, you really are behind on the times in terms of whining about their invasion of your privacy.

How does sending you a msg violate your privacy? (5, Insightful)

serutan (259622) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073588)

Simply sending a message to the owner of the card doesn't qualify as an invasion of privacy in my book. It would be a violation of privacy had these stores sent people's address information to a third party, but they didn't do that. Privacy means, "Keep my information confidential." It doesn't mean, "Never contact me."

Re:How does sending you a msg violate your privacy (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073658)

Say you are a regular non-denominational guy who married a devout Hindu woman. Say you promised her to go vegan in a big way. Say she was out of town for a week and you got the beef cravings bad. So you bought some meat, with your discount card, and since it has been like two years since you've had any beef, you used it to make yourself the best damn tasting hamburger you've ever had.

Now, your wifey is back in town and she gets a phone call from the market telling her that the meat you bought might be contaminated. You are going to be in the dog house, if not a motel, when you get home from work that day.

Just an example...

Re:How does sending you a msg violate your privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8073660)

No it is not. But would make people realize just how well the store knows them, probably better than they know themselves (anways in terms of when they are going to buy stuff and what).

Big Brother is watching what size condoms you buy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8073593)

I can vouch for the fact that supermarkets who use the loyalty cards can trace back your purchases up to when you signed up for the card. Most modern chains store a digital "copy" of the recipts of ALL orders indefinatly. The could even contact you via such information as your credit card.

vegetarian (2, Funny)

gyratedotorg (545872) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073599)

im a vegetarian, you insensitive clod!

Chopper Shopper Card (3, Insightful)

LlamaRama (561817) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073602)

i worked as a checker-bot for a year at a local grocery chain, and i can safely say that maybe only a fraction of a percent of shoppers appreciate those stupid ass cards. i actively encouraged customers to just lie on the applications, and often if they were complaining i would just hand them a card and throw away the accompanying application. i think it is definitely an invasion of privacy if they are tracking what you are buying for any reason, and it is way beyond what they should be allowed to do.

baseball bats and the usda inspectors (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8073603)

we need to start beating the shit out of these lazy retarded fux because they are to stupid or lazy to do their jobs, hence, they are completely worthless.
I'm not paying taxes this year, the government isn't doing the fuxing job i've been paying them to do.You clueless wimpy sheep go ahead and pay them, i'm not, i'm not stupid enough to give my money away to a bunch of fat-assed crack smoking thugs who haven't worked an honest day in their lives. (politicians).

Re:baseball bats and the usda inspectors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8073611)

yeah, they are no more than foodstamp recipients.
Pull the fuxers off the citizens cox, they have sukked us dry enough.

Re:baseball bats and the usda inspectors -NO-BALLS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8073631)

you are right, americans have no balls, they like to be abused by their intellectual inferiors, maybe the have no spine?
Na, just S-T-U-P-I-D, or chicken-shit.

I can't believe you people! (4, Funny)

teamhasnoi (554944) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073609)

I can't believe that Slashdotters *of all people* would go along with this! These store cards are the next step to the chip in the head! Either you're for Privacy or against it! There are no grey areas!

Except in this hamburger here... urp.


Got kids? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8073613)

Imagine if you were a customer of a store whom did not notify you of the recall, and you later fed that recalled food to your children.

Yeah, I'd say I would be pissed. It's against the law to kill someone too - but under certain circumstances it's ok. I most certainly would say when someone's life is in jeopardy that privacy concerns would be of little interest.

I couldn't possibly imagine a more horrible way to die then mad-cow disease.

I would certainly say they were justified in contacting their customers. I can't beleive anyone would put their personal interests in front of the well-being of another - especially when the only potential loss would be money.

Contacting those people shows there are real people running those establishments. What kind of creaton would deny their customers the knowledge that they purchased 'povably' infected beef.

That's like asking, if a girl was screaming rape from a car parked on a private lot - would you violate trespassing laws to help her... WTF.



hillbilly1980 (137340) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073619)

Privacy concerns be damned, what really steams me about this article, not discount cards could be an invasion of privacy, but that the convience of the information allows retail chains to use fear as a marketing tool.

Any scientist/expert will tell you the chance of any american/japanese/human contracting mad cow diesease because of these two cases of BSE are so astronmically small a 22 year old gym instructer is more likely to die of the flu in the middle of july.

The most shocking revelation is that this retail chain for all intensive purposes, intentional or not, used this oppertunity to falsely re-enforce the fears of a hypertensive public. To foster a more comforting branding in the public conscience.

And the public buys it. Information is becoming so readily avaliable uninformed neofites are weighing in on topics they known little about, passed off as learned experts to general populous.

This retail chain can easily notify customners of a "risk" that has been inflated by the media distortion field, when the customer recieves the notice they react with out thinking. They precieve that the effort is extensive on the store's part, and therefore the risk must be very great to warrent such actions. Which take a normally small local concern and expands it beyond anything imaginable.

Farmers are loseing their homes, over steers who were born before feed regulation was implemented years agao (97's in canada, 2003 US). There are an estimated 12-15 active cases of bse somewhere in north america. If the hype about bse is to believed people should be in sheer panic and there should be at least 2 - 3 deaths already. But its not and no expert is concerned because bse just happens to have the lucky distition of having public profile.

But depsite it the border remains closed,canadian farmers kill off entire herds,but ground beef costs the same and the front counter now sell a little post bse "security" plan.

I don't know about you but... (1)

abertoll (460221) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073625)

I always considered what information I give someone or a company to be "public" information. If I didn't want them knowing what I bought, I wouldn't have taken the card. But you know, that's your payment to them for the discount. And if you think they haven't been traking your purchases all along you're very naive.

think! (1)

abertoll (460221) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073632)

Interestingly, some stores did not use the information because they felt it violated the customer's privacy. ... and it would cost them more money to do so.

False Information on these things. (3, Interesting)

Artifakt (700173) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073635)

Recently, I've been helping clean up the legal mess left behind by a woman who was leading a 'criminal lifestyle" (Crack whore), until she OD'ed. (Ive been helping with this on behalf of her daughter, whom a close relative is adopting). What does this have to do with the story?
We found that this woman gave obviously false information to everyone she ever got a card from. In a small town of about 10,000 people, where all the streets are named according to an obvious pattern, she still listed made up addresses such as "anytime place" or "1313 Mockingbird lane" on every grocery discount card, blockbuster type movie rental or whatever she got, going back 8 or 9 years. In a town with only one set of numbers for the first three digits of the local phone number, she entered what are apparently completely random strings, and sometimes mixxed letters and numbers, again without anyone apparently looking at them. On one, she listed her work address as 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, Washington DC. Guess what her job description was?
Not a single business evidently looked at the information she filled in on those forms, and she had over 30 such cards, literally including one for every grocery store in town. She ripped off several of the movie rental places for tapes, was wanted for bad checks and other crimes where an address might particularly matter at various times, and still, no one noticed any of this.
We weren't too surprised that some pharmacies had ignored forged perscriptions and fraudulent signatures, or that she had pawned things with tickets in obviously false names (Her favorites when buying drugs seemed to be astronaut's names, and David Bowman). What we are surprised by is how many business that DIDNT have an incentive to look the other way obviously did so. Many of these lost money from their unconcern rather than made any.
At first glance, it's like this whole system is built to work only for criminals. Still, if only the crooks were doing this, stores are not going to be dumb enough to keep getting stung with bad checks and such. Ergo, lots of otherwise honest people must be filling these things out with just as spurious information.

Re:False Information on these things. (1)

Teddy Beartuzzi (727169) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073650)

On one, she listed her work address as 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, Washington DC.

Well, at least she was an educated crack whore.

Re:False Information on these things. (1, Funny)

britneys 9th husband (741556) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073686)

Recently, I've been helping clean up the legal mess left behind by a woman who was leading a 'criminal lifestyle" (Crack whore),


On one, she listed her work address as 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, Washington DC. Guess what her job description was?

If this was during the Clinton administration, this was probably the one and only form she filled out with accurate information.

Sorry, but someone had to say it.

Are you kidding? No-brainer! (3, Insightful)

rbrome (175029) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073641)

If I voluntarily hand over my real contact information (customer-initiated opt-in) to a business, I would EXPECT them to notify me of product recalls, regardless of their privacy policy. I would be upset if they didn't.

Things aren't recalled just because they don't work - they are recalled for safety reasons. Recalls are always bad publicity, so no cpmpany in their right mind does one unless they are directed by the government, or feel they will be soon.

Clearly Ethics are on the Supermarkets' Side (5, Insightful)

blackwizard (62282) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073642)

... that is, if, and only if they do everything at their disposal to contant you immediately about the situation. I, for one, welcome our new supermarket-management overlords. *ducks*

Seriously, though, I think I'll take a very Kant-like view on this (if I remember my Philosophy class correctly). I'll argue that since the supermarkets have this information at their disposal, it is their duty to notify their customers. The article quotes Katherine Albrecht, the founder of an organization called the the "Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering", as saying "Sure it would be useful to have someone contact me if I bought something tainted, but at what cost? A total food-supply surveillance network?" The fatal flaw in this argument is that the supermarkets already have what she calls the "A total food-supply surveillance network". That's why you get the discounts; they are paying you for this data. Now, since they have this data, they can save your life by calling you on the phone and telling you not to eat a piece of meat you bought at their store. I believe that the ethical use of this customer data demands that at the very least they give you a call on the phone, and/or do whatever it takes to inform you that the product they sold you may put your life in danger.

Not that it would have helped me. I put a false name and number on the form when I signed up for my supermarket discount card(s). (Not that they care, as this still probably generates useful demographic data of some kind for them.) Good thing I don't eat meat.

Re:Clearly Ethics are on the Supermarkets' Side (1)

tuxedobob (582913) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073664)

Yeah, I liked the name of the organization too. Some people are just so desparate to be recognized for something....


What about the other guy? (0)

graveyardduckx (735761) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073649)

What about the guy without the frequent shopper card? Does he die the horrible painful death because he didn't sign up and therefore wasn't able to be warned? Where are his rights?

Re:What about the other guy? (1)

nertz_oi (596157) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073676)

I'm sure they also released a warning to the general public as well. This looks like it was to supplement that in trying to get most of the beef back as soon as possible.

Letter from a food store.. (4, Insightful)

tuxedobob (582913) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073652)

Dear Valued Customer,

Our records show that on 1/6/04 you purchased 2.5 pounds of beef at our store in Seattle. It has come to our attention that this beef may have come from a suspect supplier, and there's a chance it may have mad cow disease. You are welcome to return your purchase to the store for store credit, whereupon it will be destroyed.

We obtained your contact information from your "frequent shopper" card. If you feel this is a violation of privacy, please disregard this notice.


Some Supermarket Chain

A lot of people missing the point (3, Insightful)

abertoll (460221) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073668)

The point isn't that the store has your name and address. That isn't what the privacy issue is about. You gave them that information, of course they know! The issue is about the store tracking what you buy. Signing a card for discounts isn't an acknowledgement that they will be tracking your purchases. In fact, they don't need this at all. You're in their store, and they can watch what you buy if they like. I mean they've always done this with credit card numbers.

Is it an invasion of privacy because the bar tender remembers what drink you ordered last time? Isn't it the same thing?

what a fricken idiot (1)

Junkstyle (631165) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073674)

"i always use a fake name" so no way they can find you? Do you always use cash to pay for groceries?

um, yeah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8073698)

I use cash to pay for everything except my rent and other stuff the IRS already expects me to be paying. duh.

Hope you feel safe. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8073681)

I feel that all of the people that say this is justified, are the people envisioned when certain framers of the U.S. Constitution said "Those who would trade safety for freedom deserve neither." There are hundreds of ways for the producers and distributors to let people know of possible health issues that neither violate privacy concerns, or contract law. How many other peoples live and/or rights would you be willing to trade for your ability to make sure you dont get VCJD? That's right. No one is as important as you.

Sad state of humanity. (0)

Blue Eagle 26 (683113) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073688)

People these days will sell their souls for conveniance.

Thoughts on Privacy (3, Insightful)

DarkHelmet (120004) | more than 10 years ago | (#8073693)

To state the everlasting argument:

Law always is a weight between the Civil Liberties of an individual versus the safety of the public.

There are many scenarios where Civil Liberties being violated may or may not be justified:

  1. There's an airborn infection within an area, andromeda strain or Outbreak style. Here, does the liberties of confining one to his/her house outweigh the possibility of an entire nation or race being wiped out?
  2. There is an invasion from another country, and civilians are ordered to be searched / confined, and quartered. Does the imminent threat call for the curtailing of civil liberties?

To me, this is nowhere as serious and imminent a threat, as Mad Cow can't be transmitted from person to person (last I remember). Still, a customer has a right to know whether he or she may have bought infected meat. This right to know outweighs the loss of privacy that is at hand.

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