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Your Take: Providing ZIP Codes at Stores

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The Supreme Court of California recently ruled that retailers do not have the right to ask for a customer’s ZIP code because a 1971 state law prohibits a business from asking credit cardholders for personal identifying information.

I’ve personally never minded when the cashier asks me for a ZIP code but I know a few people who don’t like it. They are concerned that it invades their privacy and they don’t see the purpose of providing it, I agree with them on both counts. That said, if push ever came to shove and I didn’t want to give my real ZIP code, I’d just make one up. I doubt my credit card would be declined though I’ve never put it to the test.

Is this something that concerns you or do you think the privacy issues are overblown?

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78 Responses to “Your Take: Providing ZIP Codes at Stores”

  1. govenar says:

    I’m surprised that more stores don’t ask for zip code for credit cards as a security measure, like the gas pumps do. But, it is kind of a pain to type it in, so I guess I’m glad that most places don’t.

  2. jeremy says:

    I think you re all missing one key point. Why should i give my ZIP code to them and HELP them with marketing? Am I getting paid to help them with market research? Do they plan on giving me a discount for the help with market research. Many many companies pay thousands of dollars for the very same type market research, the stores that ask for your ZIP code are trying to get that very same type research for free. I’m not in the business of helping business try to help me better for free. My two cents….

    • Ryan says:

      Do you need to make an incentive for everything? No, you do not! It’s not how a free market economy works.

    • uclalien says:

      “I’m not in the business of helping business try to help me better for free.”

      Umm…in other words, you see no incentive in helping businesses provide YOU better service. That’s some well though out reasoning.

      “Am I getting paid to help them with market research? Do they plan on giving me a discount for the help with market research.”

      Short answer: Yes.
      Long answer: The cost of marketing is, at least partially, reflected in the price of products you buy. Lower marketing costs result in lower prices.

    • Frugal says:

      If you provide your zipcode and your store opens in a closer location, isn’t that a service/reward to you?

      You are helping them help you.

      Is this the case, all the time? No. Is it possible, you bet. You decide and live with your choices.

  3. I highly resent these incremental invasions of my privacy. My phone number, my address, my name, and even my zip code are NONE OF THEIR BUSINESS.

    When asked for a zip code, I either lie or simply say I won’t tell them.

    And around here, the only credit card company that uses zip codes as a security gimmick is AMEX, and only Walgreen’s asks for it. No other retailers have ever asked me for my zip code when I’ve used my AMEX. Walgreen’s actually is using it to check your identity, though: first time I gave a Walgreen’s cashier a fake zip code, AMEX rejected it.

  4. eric says:

    I never really had a problem but I read that retailers use it to track down your address to send you mailings. I rather not have more spam…

  5. I found it mildly annoying when asked for my zip code. I wasn’t worried about personal information, it’s just another silly step delaying my checkout. Here in Michigan we had a auto parts store, just like Radio Shack, that wouldn’t even sell you anything, cash or charge, if you didn’t provide a zip code. It was a little obnoxious.

  6. Rumple Stiltskin says:

    People, please do a little research. The plaintiff in the Supreme Court case gave her zip code to the store, and the store matched that to her name & found out her address, and started sending her things in the mail.

    No one mentioned this in the comments so far.

  7. zapeta says:

    It doesn’t bother me. I figure a store is trying to decide if they should open a new location near me and that usually means I won’t have to drive as far to get there. That will save me a lot of time and money in the future so the possible benefit of providing a zip code outweighs the annoyance for me.

    • Strebkr says:

      What about the store that is already 2 miles down the road from where you are?

      • tbork84 says:

        Then that store may not be closed if there are enough local people going to it if the company ever needs to close some locations. So in that backwards way it helps even if it is nearby.

        • Strebkr says:

          If their sales are high enough, the store will stay open. If not enough people are giving closest ZIP code, I just can’t see that as a reason to move the store closer. Too many people give bad ZIP codes for that to be the only reason to close a store.

          Yes, it does help with marketing, but I doubt serious decisions are being made with this data.

  8. Steven says:

    Jim, you should re-read the article again.

    “… though it does state that its objection is not over a retailer seeing a person’s ZIP code, but rather recording and using it for marketing purposes.”

    If they are using it JUST for security purposes, they are fine.

  9. Santos says:

    This is a non issue. Another example of California sweating the small stuff ;-)

  10. Your mother says:

    People need to stop being so gosh darn paranoid. It’s a zip code, belonging to at least 1,000 people in the vicinity. It’s not YOUR zip code to begin with so don’t make it a big deal when asked for it. I’ve seen a lot of people when in line they refuse to give a zip code but then give a phone number for a membership/rewards card. How is it that they can willingly give a number that is more personal than a zip code?

    Annoyed shopper :D

  11. Joe Dub says:

    Simple task – try a different zip code at the gas pump. I’ve screwed up a few times on mine and it has declined my card. I think it’s a security measure similar to a PIN for a debit card.

  12. Rob C says:

    I work in a marketing department. I’ve never had a problem with a retailer asking for my zip because it typically has nothing to do with how you paid for your products. As others have said, customer zip codes are typically requested so the store can better serve the customer, and so the marketing department knows where to better promote their brand.

  13. Orlando C says:

    The stores ask for Zipcodes for the following:
    They keep on their systems a database with the customer info. The zipcode is used to be able to perfom a reverse lookup and acquire the address of the customer. Once they have that info, they can start sending correspondence and/or selling their database to other companies for marketing. The zipcode needed at the gas pump is different, thats for security purposes. There is no way for the gas pump to identify you as the cardholder.

  14. Anonymous says:

    can u tell me zip code please because this is first time

  15. Christina says:

    Having gas stations or red box locations require your zipcode instead of your pin number does absolutely nothing to increase security. In fact it decreases it quite a bit. If a thief steals your card and there is a reasonably good chance you both live in the same area, they could easily guess the zipcode, whereas they would not be able to know your pin unless you told them. I’m surprised no one has mentioned this.

    As for me, my card’s billing address is my now separated husband’s address (until I get a new account) and he likes to change the billing zipcode on me without letting me know. So I hate that redbox and gas stations do this. Why not just ask me the pin number, which only I know??

    • Barb says:

      My CC zip code and my zip code are different. My CC goes to where one of my parents live. it is convenient if I lose my card where I live, they won’t be able to track where I live. Also, the tax rate is cheaper at the CC address rather than my home address.

  16. Pete says:

    The hidden reason is that you are admitting that you live in a FEDERAL ZONE and not a state, which is a big difference when it comes to commerce law.

  17. Ted says:

    I never give my real zip code. I give the zip of the city adjacent to mine. When asked for my phone number I give them the number of City Hall.
    Never had a marketing call or snail mail.

  18. Mike McElhone says:

    As a Canadian I do not have a zip code….I have a postal codes (N7A3X9). When travelling through the USA we find this requirement very irritating. I am unwilling to leave my credit card with a gas station clerk while I am filling up.


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