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Don't give away your ZIP code to retailers. Sell it!

Posting in Technology

Don't get angry. Get capitalistic. If a retailer asks for your data, offer it for a fee. If they're cold callers, try selling THEM something, like this vintage Angry Fan button.

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Forbes Magazine is running a new article headlined Never Give Stores Your ZIP Code. Here's Why. It reveals that retailers that ask for your ZIP code ("postcode" to some of you) use the number to build up a bigger profile of who you are and where you live.

The editor might as well have just called the article D'oh! A retailer is grabbing personal details from you to construct a more thorough picture for targeted marketing purposes? Never!

My sarcasm aside, I applaud the writer for getting this practice on the record. And he does so by relating a disturbing episode in which a shopper's anger escalated into a veritable case of hostage taking. It's worth a read.

But the author missed a trick, which I will now provide with a modest proposal. The next time Radio Shack or whoever asks for your ZIP code, for the name of your first born or whatever, remember this: Don't get angry. Get Capitalistic! Offer to provide it for a fee only. Try to sell it.

Your personal details are, after all, assets with great value in the brave new digital economy, which is increasingly infested by parasitic data suckers who thrive off the free lifeblood of your birth date.

If the retailer doesn't bite at your offer to sell, then the ZIP code deal is off. No tickee, no ZIP code.

I do this all the time, including with cold-callers. A typical example:

Q: "Hello, is that Mr. Halper?"

A: "Ah. I will release that information for a starting price of $100."

By not even confirming that I exist at the database's ascribed phone number, I am hopefully throwing an iota of doubt and unreliability into the system. It's my own little self-amusing attempt at quiet guerrilla warfare against the scoundrels. One day it might even surprisingly put some coins directly into my pocket.

I also try to sell them stuff, such as the souvenir Angry Fan buttons I once made during a baseball strike:

"Bob," I say (sales tactic - always use the person's name when you can; the callers often identify themselves first). "I'm so glad you called, because for the next 24 hours only, I have a special promotion going on Angry Fan buttons."

This really works well as a good natured way of getting them off the fricking phone, although I've never sold a button that way.

On a related note, just think if everyone started demanding payment from Facebook - one of the world's biggest sponges of free data -  in exchange for providing their street address. It would fell the social media giant overnight.

Shopping victims of the world unite! Stand up for your rights! Demand payment for your ZIP code!

Photo by Mark Halper. Button by Mark Halper and Angry Fan Enterprises.

— By on July 10, 2013, 10:00 PM PST

Mark Halper

Contributing Editor

Mark Halper has written for TIME, Fortune, Financial Times, the UK's Independent on Sunday, Forbes, New York Times, Wired, Variety and The Guardian. He is based in Bristol, U.K. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure