My grocery store tells me my wife's cycle
September 15, 2000 12:26 AM   Subscribe

My grocery store tells me my wife's cycle - A few months of shopping after Kroger started its 'Plus' card and they know more about my wife than her children do. Yep, we have been using the Kroger card for a while now, but no more. For the last two months I have received a cupon for tampons only days before my wife needs them. Big Brother is not on TV, he is in the supermarket. Join the boycott at
posted by DragonBoy (19 comments total)
I never knew krogers had a card thingy.. I know that Tom Thumbs did..
posted by ellis at 1:10 AM on September 15, 2000

I don't understand the attitude towards these cards. Don't you like receiving discounts on things you're likely to buy? So they know your household buys an inordinate amount of Caffeine Free Diet Coke and Spam, so what?
posted by owillis at 1:35 AM on September 15, 2000

The problem (as I see it) isn't necessarily what said companies are doing with the information now, but what could be done with such databases in the future (sharing your lousy eating habits with insurance companies, for example). Let's face it -- big companies aren't exactly well-known for being scrupulous about selling personal information.Most consumers don't even understand that they're exchanging their much sought-after info for pennies off a can of Spam...
posted by jess at 3:08 AM on September 15, 2000

> Most consumers don't even understand that
>they're exchanging their much sought-after info

I don't believe this is true. I think most people understand how this system works. I'm sure there are people out there who just think the card is just designed to bring them back. But I think the majority of people know their buying is being tracked.

>for pennies off a can of Spam...

And free computers, Free Internet access, etc...

Privacy is a huge issue that is getting more difficult to get your hands around these days. In my opinion the battle is already over. Business owns the right to pry into your private life and use that info anyway they want.

Your credit report is a large compendium of information that you'd really expect to have some control over. But you don't. Your privacy has been for sale for decades.

But I don't have a real problem with that. I've heard all the scary stories about how bad it will be if everyone knows what I buy. Big deal. It's been that way for decades.

And the tampon ad issue just seems silly to me. Do you really think people don't know that your wife menstrates?
posted by y6y6y6 at 5:23 AM on September 15, 2000

The problem isn't that our information is for sale: it's that we only get a fraction of the return of those who collect it.
posted by holgate at 5:50 AM on September 15, 2000

Which is why whenever I go shopping with people I make them use my card.

Hmmm, looks like Alan P. Storm is about to start his menus . . .
posted by alana at 6:20 AM on September 15, 2000

All of the people who are so paranoid about their informatino being collected byt the supermarkets should consider this idea which I just came up with. If a website was set up where you could select your supermarket, and then send in the bonus card that you signed up for and received, and in return receive another bonus card for the same chain from some other random person around the country, that would throw off their tracking quite a bit. Then every once and a while, when you start to feel paranoid again, you can just send the new card in and get another one, over and over, as much as you like. That way you could still benefit from all the in-store discounts for cardholders, but not get any of the coupons.
posted by donkeymon at 6:30 AM on September 15, 2000

I think this is another case of the market giving the wrong people control of the resources. We should have ownership control of our information to the extent that we should get royalties whenever it changes hands.

I think what is more scary is that what people write in online forums like this will inevitably come back to haunt people. I predict that in a federal election cycle or two from now a big issue will be some email or post some candidate wrote in haste and he/she will be stuck with it -- I did an ego search last year and all I really found by myself is a weird post I wrote to a debate listserv back in about 1995 about how I thought a Moravecian artificial life state was entirely possible and maybe inevitable -- boy, when I run for president if I was wrong -- I'll hear about it then.
posted by norm at 6:31 AM on September 15, 2000

My grocery store tells me my wife's cycle.

There are some wags who would argue this is a valuable service to husands everywhere.

After all, if you run out and stock up when she needs it most, think of the brownie points you would accrue.
posted by mikewas at 7:03 AM on September 15, 2000

The truth of the matter is that we (you know "Them") are using this data to determine who gets sent to the Alaskan Labor Camps when the black helicopters descend and initiate the Revolution.

Anyone that has purchased Tofu will be arrested. Anyone that buys Tempeh on a regular basis will be shot on sight. Only the Pure Chemical Elite will be admitted to the New Regime. Eat preservatives while you can, lest ye be found lacking!
posted by aramaic at 7:24 AM on September 15, 2000

oh, come on, have you actually looked at the so-called "discounts" you get? i was working at a randall's in houston when they started having people sign up for the cards to get discounts, and they weren't (and still aren't) discounts at all. what they do is up the prices on certain items and tell you you can save money with the card, but all that the "discount" does is put that item back at regular price. maybe it's just a thing with randall's, but either way i don't want to be a registered chump.
posted by bluishorange at 9:15 AM on September 15, 2000

When my personal information is asked for on a form, I always lie, unless it's in _my_ interest that they know the truth (e.g. a shipment arrives at my real address, the paycheck goes to my account, or truth is required by law).

As far as $LOCAL_FOOD_CHAIN is concerned, I'm famous Penn State football coach Joe Paterno. In PA, I couldn't get away with that, but on the West Coast, no one cares. In a few months, I'll "lose" my card, get a new one, and be someone else.

If the cashiers try to act overly familiar ("Enjoy your food, Mr. Paterno") use a name with ambiguous pronunciation. For a while I was Ben Feldstein, and the "Stine" or "Steen" varied. Or (I'm European) Stephan Grzyzlsch, which is pronounced "Shuh-shef-ski."

If the store is really just tracking "trends", the fact that your personal info is faked won't hurt anyone.
posted by kurumi at 9:46 AM on September 15, 2000

Problem easily solved: Set-up a card swapping network and swap regularly. The information that they would gather is useless and they still spend the time and money to analyse it all.
posted by dithered at 9:59 AM on September 15, 2000

Has anyone considered that maybe the card wasn't being tracked, but that maybe the supermarket is run by witches?

If people don't like the cards, I say don't use them. By using them in a weird card swapping cabal you're still supporting the idea that these cards, and consumer trackin in general, is a success.

I mean, I'm assuming the people who are so afraid of these cards are also the ones who don't use credit cards for anything, and only use cash, in person, in disguise.
posted by Doug at 10:59 AM on September 15, 2000

great idea, donkeymon.. i think i'll forgo the overhead and just start trying to swap cards with random strangers each time i shop.

if i had some time it would be fun to sign up for a couple dozen cards under bogus identities and then stand out in the parking lot giving them away.

posted by sudama at 11:13 AM on September 15, 2000

I'd rather keep track of my own life, thanks. I don't need a legion of helpful computers trying to do so for me. And while I haven't yet declared all-out war on marketers, I sure don't want to give them any help achieving their nefarious ends. So I don't use those coupon cards, I lie about my name/age/address/income on forms whenever possible, etc. Yeah, it's all statistically insignificant, and no matter what I do, the marketing machine will continue to ooze its blob-like way across civic life, absorbing everything into its advertising-plastered maw. But at least they leave me alone...

posted by Mars Saxman at 12:08 PM on September 15, 2000

So how many unsuspecting people are getting monthly tampon coupons, "Thank you for being a member" mail, and countless amounts of snail spam from all the dummy accounts out there?
posted by cCranium at 12:51 PM on September 15, 2000

I wonder if the IRS uses this info in their formula to figure out who gets audited? scary....
posted by Jeremy at 1:37 PM on September 15, 2000

They (well, Revenue Canada at least) already use Credit Card information.

Never having signed up for such a card, is there any documentation provided to prospective users on how the information is going to be used?

If so, how detailed is said information? Is it "We'll give you discounts on lots of neat things!" or is does it include the fact that they'll be selling the information for marketing purposes?

I have no problems with companies gathering info on me, for the most part it makes my life easier - it's like my own army of software agents. Unfortunately, I don't have direct control of the agents, therefore I want to know exactly what they're going to do. If a company isn't willing to give me at least that in return for my demographic data, my theory is "Buh-bye."
posted by cCranium at 2:25 PM on September 15, 2000

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