I bet most of you have at least one customer loyalty card in your wallet or on your keyring, one that gives you points or discounts or whatever for using it. I have one for CVS because they discount milk a lot, and I think one for Borders, but I’ve thrown most of the rest out for two reasons. One is that I’m not inclined to carry many of the things around with me, and the other is that being a data guy I’m not thrilled with giving vendors more data points about me.
On the first part of that my local newspaper had an article recently that mentioned some alternatives (which I have not tried); JustOneClubCard.com, CardStar.com, and KeyRingThing.com. I guess that’s an obvious fix to consolidate all those bar codes in one place and if you’re going to use them, why not? I guess it’s giving up a little more privacy because they know that I use CVS & Borders (and hey, so do you!), but aside from assessing which programs work well I don’t see much downside. I suppose they might even suggest others that I would find useful based on what I use right now.
So the other part is privacy. I use a credit card for about 98% of my purchases, so it’s not like there isn’t tracking data out there for me if someone is authorized (or gains) access to it. Credit card companies have been decent if not great on privacy and security, and I make the trade because I like the convenience of the credit cards and the consumer protection that comes with it. Why not let Vendor X give me discounts for buying stuff I’d probably buy anyway? I’m not sure I can make a great argument for that position as what is the worst that can happen? One might be that they sell or lose the data to someone that might use it for evil, more likely they get me to buy more by selecting advertising/discounting (not all bad I guess), or they could even start charging more for things that they know I buy all the time.
I guess I also wonder why the credit card companies don’t handle it there, let consumers opt-in to provide the same point of sale info to vendors via the credit card companies. That would be one size fits all, and they could probably even charge the vendors a fee for accessing the data.
Many people seem to ignore privacy issues because doing otherwise is inconvenient, and because they think ‘what bad thing could happen because of it’ and assess it as little. I take the general stance of wanting to share as little as possible when it comes to personal data, but where do you draw the line? Only the loyalty cards that use use weekly or more? That give you free air miles?