Why Do Stores Keep Asking for Your ZIP Code?
They're compiling a secret marketing database on you
By Ruth Brown, Newser Staff
Posted Jun 26, 2013 12:04 PM CDT
Updated Jun 29, 2013 7:00 PM CDT
The Visa logo on a card holder's credit card is shown.   (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, file)

(Newser) – When store clerks ask for your ZIP code at the end of a transaction, it's not always to validate your credit card or keep track of where customers are coming from. Several "direct marketing" software services require only your name—gleaned from your card—and ZIP to figure out your address, phone number, and purchasing history, reports Forbes. With that kind of info, they know exactly what kind of marketing to target personally to you—and exactly where to mail it.

And now stores are becoming pushier about getting you to hand over that ZIP info. One woman was locked out of a store and refused a refund when she wouldn't give hers. In California, Williams-Sonoma was sued after a woman gave hers for their marketing database, thinking it was needed for a credit card purchase. The state's Supreme Court ultimately banned stores from requiring the codes. But not all ZIP requests are worth pulling out your tin foil hat over. One museum that asked Forbes' Adam Tanner for his digits says it's purely about knowing where customers are coming from. "We strictly utilize the information we receive to better understand the demographics of the market of those specific ZIP codes," says a spokesperson from Las Vegas' Mob Museum.

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Showing 3 of 88 comments
Tory63
Jul 23, 2013 9:50 PM CDT
For those who believe this trash...try again. Yes, there are some stores that ask for zipcode, so they can track where their customers are from and where they should send their ads/fliers, but most don't. I work for a grocery store and we ask for zipcode for the purpose of credit card protection. Further more the cashier does not ask, the message will pop up on your pin pad, so only you see it. If you don't believe this I have run into multiple issues when the person does not put in the right zip code. The credit card gets flagged and they have to use a different card. THIS IS FOR CREDIT CARD PROTECTION. Also, do you have a loyalty card with the store? Do you get coupons/advertisements mailed to you from the store? Do you get emails from the store? Then the store already has your address, email, and all that information that you (because you read this article) are scared that the companies will get. So please, next time you read an article use a little common sense before reading all the trash that is out there.
Mike.357
Jul 1, 2013 9:45 AM CDT
if asked for my zip I tell the clerk that they don't need it. I have not been denied service for doing so. but I suppose if push came to shove I would decide if it is easier to lie or to walk out.
bej20A90
Jun 30, 2013 4:45 PM CDT
"What is your zip code?" ********************************************** You mean the zip code where I am just NOW? That's the one I usually give to them! LOL! Years ago, some stores like Sears used to ask for a driver's license and credit card when you gave a check to them. That was illegal and someone finally sued and got the practice stopped. A lot of retailers and other people expect us to be ever so complacent. I refuse.