Saturday, November 10, 2007

Tam over at View from the Porch has a post up from Friday about how the authorities in California are tracking grocery store sales to pinpoint out spikes in the sales of falafel in an attempt to ferret out possible hotbeds of ne'er-do-wells in what must be the first-ever dietary-profiling attempt to counteract terrorism. No doubt, al-cruddies will be stocking up on Moon Pies and RC Cola in attempts to thwart that effort.

I've always been annoyed by those "club" cards with stores. Annoyed, at best, and paranoid, at worst. I mean, isn't it creepy that they browbeat you with potential savings into trading your personal information? Yeah, I know that retailers like to track groupings of particular products purchased and record trends, but their computers can tell them that without my personal information, thank you very much. Frankly, I don't even fool with those, since when I'm cooking I'm buying primarily fresh produce and meat, anyhoo, and there's rarely additional savings on that stuff. Still, it's something that's always bugged me. I figure if someday when healthcare is completely rationed, who-knows-how the dietary (for example) purchases of a lifetime at food stores can negatively impact ones candidacy for life-saving surgery or treatments? I mean, yeah, it's nutty to consider, but in a climate in which we are increasingly harangued by a hall-monitor society, it doesn't seem like that much of a stretch to imagine that one day you may be passed over for treatment for heart-disease because of your Twinkie habit, in favor of a granola-munching Metamucil-entoosiast. Consider how many people lie about their alcohol addiction and are on the donor list for liver transplants? I mean, obviously, those folks are getting away with it, but if the doctors had access to purchase information from the local liquor sto', then they might sing another tune.

Well, the falafel thingie reminded me of a favorite prank of mine from Rob Cockerham over at (you can spend hours there giggling at his projects, pranks and costumes, btw - you have been warned.)

Anyway, this whole issue about stores tracking personal information and keeping records of purchases apparently bugged Rob Cockerham, too, and so much so that he decided to try a little prank which he called his Clone Army(click for details). This was about 5 years ago.

What Rob did was sign up for and acquire one of those Safeway sales tracking cards. Then he used his hi-tone printer to print out a sheet of identical sticky labels all with the same club card number with the bars for scanning. Then lots of folks who frequent his site sent him their address and he sent them each one of the little barcode thingies. The recipients plastered the clone barcodes over their own Safeway cards so that dozens (or hundreds?) of folks all had the same card membership number recording purchases. Right away on his club card, he'd be having simultaneous purchases in Safeway stores from all over the country.

True, it's no ends-with-a-bang story, but it's still one that had immense appeal, to me. Perhaps we should set up a huge number sharing consortium to addle the stores-that-be? I mean, sure, there are alleged "benefits" to these memberships. However, I've yet to see one, and I've no doubt the dividend they pay is merely an increase in junk mail.

Below is an eye-opening segment from 20/20 which details Rob's prank in which he tears up a credit card offer, tapes it back together and writes another address on it, sends it off to Visa, and then gets a credit card in the mail, no questions asked. Amazing stuff. Clever guy.


none said...

I try not to fill out anything these days out of fear of junk mail, spam an those places that call saying you've won 3 nights in a resort if you listen to their "presentation"

Anonymous said...

I gots me a Kroger card when they first issued them several years ago. One immediate benefit was a card holder had a higher limit on checks for over the amount of purchase. And they always have shit on sale for the card price. And since I'm an ol' pharte, I get 10% discount on Kroger brand. And Mrs Bairds bakes their bread. And salt and pepper is salt and pepper. And I don't get any more junk mail than I ever did.

And the Best Buy Reward zone card has gotten me a bunch of CDs. I get one of the cards when I make a major purchase so I've had 2 of them. When I bought computers.

Lin said...

Delighted that we have the same savings card peeves. I read where it could be possible in the future to pinpoint bottom feeders like Mark and I who buy and stock up on genuinely GOOD sales (or 'how we could eventually afford our dream place') and then they could manipulate prices upwards on the regular items as we encounter them in the aisle by means of more sophisticated cards. For the time being, I have noticed that some chains have dropped this card program ... but how long will that last?

Anonymous said...

It's to bad we live in a world where we can no longer put our trash out with shredding it first.Just another chore for us to do besides enjoying our free time.

I say catch all those scammer's and cut off all of their fingers.

DBA Dude said...

That's an interesting/paranoid observation on healthcare.

The stores would be delighted to sell personal inforamation to the healthcare providers (and the insurance peeps as well).

1984 will arrive - just a few decades later than predicted.

phlegmfatale said...

hammer - yup - major time-wasters

myron - well there had to be some benefit -I suppose I don't shop in those stores enough to see a return

lin - I doubt it will last long *sigh*

lainy - I'm okay with the cutting off the fingers ideer.

dba dude - yeah, I suppose it is paranoid, but apropos, I think. Yup, it's getting here...

Meg said...

Oh, darn, the vid is no longer available!!! Darn, darn, darn...