Published on: February 3, 2005
Continuing discussion of whether or not – and under what circumstances – a retailer should be divulging frequent shopper information (a subject raised when police used Safeway’s database to gather evidence) in an arson case).
user wrote:Once a company chooses to purchase loyalty, and a consumer chooses to sell it, there are two paths for the ensuing result. One, the company wants to validate the consumer is part of the 'club' in order to receive some benefit; e.g., discounts. For this one, all the company needs to know is the person making a purchase is authorized to receive the benefit – no identification other than an approved token (card, number, etc.) is required. In this case privacy is not an issue since the customer doesn't have to reveal any personal information other than an interest in joining the program. This program is easy to set up with simple protocols, but it doesn't deliver the primary benefit the company seeks.
In the second path, the company is not concerned with validity, but rather with sales. Here the company desires a contact list they can 'pitch' deals to, regardless of the loyalty of the consumer. Obviously identity is important here to separate the contact from the unwashed masses. In this situation, which is how the vast majority of loyalty programs work, privacy should be a big deal, even in the face of legal conflicts. In the old days of the Republic there was 'innocent until proven guilty' which put all the weight of proof on the accuser to actively seek facts supporting their case. My concern about the porosity of databases now is the accused is more and more in the position of having to prove innocence as a result of details about their life being handed to anyone interested in fishing around for a case.
It may seem odd, but I am willing to be very loyal to any company that will deliver a benefit but really has no interest in knowing who I am. Isn't my business sufficient for them without opening my life to scrutiny?
It isn’t specific to this discussion, but we’re fascinated by the phrase “purchase loyalty.” You can’t purchase loyalty. We’re not even sure, in the final analysis, that you can earn a customer’s loyalty. What you can do, we think, is demonstrate to the customer that you are loyal to him or her…and trust that this continued loyalty will result in the habitual use of your store.
Now, when it comes to the use of the data…our honest reaction, if we found out that a store was giving out shopping data to any organization – governmental, law enforcement, or private – would be negative. That doesn’t mean we have something to hide…but it does mean that our business is our business.
Granted, there would be times when a subpoena might be used to get the data. And in a time when reporters are being sent to jail if they don’t divulge their confidential sources, it probably would be tough for a store to argue confidentiality. But we’d want to know that the store at least tried to protect its information, that it advocated for the customer in such a matter.
user wrote:Let’s see…all the local chains have program cards except one. Therefore if I am a criminal I will go to the one that doesn’t have a card program, I obviously don’t want law enforcement having access to my information. If a customer gets mugged in the parking lot, do they have cause against the retailer? After all, the retailer by not having a card program made it more likely that criminals would shop at their store. Welcome to America.MNB
user Brad Zemcik wrote: I think a clarification is needed here. The only reason we have "loyalty cards" is to take advantage of the reduced shelf price. I venture to guess that most "loyalty card" users do the same.
It is a shame that retailers are using manufacturer promotional monies, intended to reduce the shelf price for EVERY shopper, card or not, and turned it into a "loyalty card" issue.
In Southern California the "used to be" big chains are nothing more than big convenience stores anymore and this has been amplified since the strike last year. Most people I speak with now price shop, not loyalty shop.
Retailers are reaping huge profits on promoted items because they get the deal price whether or not it goes for the feature price to a "loyalty shopper" or a regular price to a shopper without a loyalty card.
Since there is no loyalty from the chains to their shoppers, "loyalty card" holders or not, how can they expect "loyalty" in return?
Wouldn't it be novel if retailer passed on manufacturers price reductions to ALL shoppers. Will history repeat itself?
user wrote:In the age of technology, you would think a smart individual would realize that this information can be accessed by law enforcement agencies. If they can access your pager, cell phone, "fast pass" toll plaza information in addition to credit card, email, home telephone, etc. why not your loyalty card? Do we hold these other companies in contempt for releasing of personal information when the data they provide leads to an arrest? It's not like we don't know this information isn't being stored in databases. Let's face it folks, big brother is watching and the more hi-tech we get, the easier it is for him to do so.
We accept the notion that because of technology’s role in the way we live, our lives are more an open book than ever before. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do our best to carve out niches of privacy where possible.
Otherwise, you end up living as a number in a society without privacy called The Village.
user wrote:Have we moved so far left in this country as to have reached the point of defending the "right" of someone to commit a crime anonymously? If someone buys enough fertilizer to make a bomb to blow up a building and that is traceable through whatever means, that is what should happen. Whoever cooperates with the police should have done so.
However, I do not want my loyalty information sold or given to another company to allow them to "harass" me with advertising through the mail or via email. Some customers may be willing to allow this. I am not.
Police and the FBI should have different, more sweeping power than people trying to make money off of information.
The phrase “sweeping power” makes us nervous. Very nervous. Because once you go down that road, sometimes what ends up being swept away are people’s rights.
By the way, when did the preservation of individual privacy rights become a priority of the left?
We also got a number of emails in response to yesterday’s essay about values in retailing.MNB
user Kerley LeBoeuf wrote: Too many business leaders get confused among mission, vision and values.
_ Mission is why the organization exists – should be short and sweet.
_ Vision is what the organization aspires to be – shorter and sweeter.
_ Values are the basis for our decisions – only need a few and “focus on the long term” must be one.
Values are where some business leaders trip and fall. Too many leaders make decisions based on earnings per share or other short-term needs or trends – instead of relying on their core values to guide judgments. Values lead to proactive – not reactionary behaviors.MNB
user Paul Schlossberg wrote:There are companies walking the talk. HEB's Central Market is one...a place we loved to shop (when we lived in Dallas). Ditto for Whole Foods. As customers, we felt like they really valued our business. Every employee interaction we ever had was positive, even when we had a problem or complaint about a purchase. Costco is another example where we have always (100% of the time) been satisfied as customers. They handle problems in very positive ways.
In retail these days there is no middle. Wal-Mart is the clear leader in the low-price and low-service segment. For more high-end service and higher prices, there are specialized retail stores (many mentioned frequently and with positive references in MNB). Call it mass versus class marketing if you will.
Is it seen as "values" by the customer? Or is it the expectations created by delivering on those values?
Those selling to us must create expectations for shoppers. We walk in and shop with those expectations. The experience reinforces or changes those expectations (for better or worse). If we are not expecting much, the price should be low. If we are expecting a lot, the price will probably be high(er). Failing to meet those expectations will cause brands (retailers, restaurants, manufacturers and services) to lose customer loyalty.
And, we got a number of emails about the proposal down in Texas to have children’s body mass index included on report cards as a way of combating childhood obesity…which is similar to a proposal made in New York.
user wrote:Who was that diet and fitness lady whose catch phrase was "Stop the insanity!"? That certainly applies here. There are school districts in this country that are eliminating physical education programs due to budget constraints, but watch out! They can always find the funds to administer yet another level of bureaucratic BS. Schools should stick to what they can barely do in the first place: educate our kids (and that should include physical education). You need to know if your kids are fat? Have a look at them when they're planted in front of their Play Station.
We wrote yesterday that “it is worth noting that these kinds of initiatives are taking place in both blue states and red states...cutting across some of the kinds of demographic divides that often separate them.”
To which one MNB
user responded:Actually, the issue is pretty specific to a single demographic. The Texas legislator and the New York legislator who introduced these bills are both on the leadership board of the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators. President and Vice President respectively. Which is in no way suggesting some sort of conspiracy theory. Just pointing out that these ideas are not being independently generated.
Yet another member of the MNB
community wrote:This is perhaps the most ridiculous idea I have heard lately. I cannot imagine a better way to make kids feel even worse about their weight. Not to mention the increase in anorexia/bulimia we will see from girls at an even earlier age. It is absolutely unfair to place a child's weight on their grade card and then compare it to other children's in their age/class. All children develop at different levels at different ages. If you have a very tall person in the 5th grade, they may weigh just as much as a shorter but overweight child, yet feel just as bad. I happen to be a tall, thin woman and have always felt the need to hide my weight because it is higher than average, although I do not look overweight. Because I'm just a bigger person, I've always been sensitive about my weight number, not the actual weight. And it certainly didn't take putting it in a percentile on my grade card to do it.
We do not place people's weights/BMI on their performance assessments. We do not compare the teachers' weights to their peers. Why should we subject our children to it?
user wrote:These kinds of programs disturb me. What is the purpose of measuring the child's height, weight, and BMI? Is this something that is going to be "nice to know" or will there be actionable results taken? Who is going to determine which children are overweight and what measures will be taken? Who will follow up to ensure the corrective measures are being followed? Isn't this the job of the family pediatrician? I fear this will simply become another way to stigmatize children who do not fit someone's definition of being in shape. The psychological damage could far outweigh (pun intended) the physical risks. What's the next step, instead of sending it home on the report card they make the children wear a big yellow F on their lapel for being fat like Hester Pryne? Just another example of people not being responsible for themselves.MNB
user Anna Bliss wrote:After reading MNB off and on for awhile now (and enjoying it quite a bit), I find that it is time for me to add my two cents to the discussion...
As a one-time pudgy kid (I still bear ill-will towards retailers who branded their larger girls' clothes with phrases like "Pretty Plus" while boys just got to be "Husky"), I worry a lot about the sorts of initiatives being proposed like those in Texas. While I think they may be well intentioned, they don't seem to address two things: the first being kids like I was who ate the same foods (and perhaps even fewer sweets) as my friends and played kickball and jump rope and hopscotch as much as my peers, but was still heavier than they were. I slimmed down without dieting or drastic measures simply by hitting puberty. I was just a big kid - and I think if I had been forced to diet at the
age of 7 or 8, it would only have lead to a bad relationship for life with food and lower self esteem than I already had because of my larger size.
Second, these initiatives also don't say what, if anything, they are going to do along with sending home this weight information to talk with parents about helping their children make healthy food choices. I'm guessing the kids with a larger body mass index that are that way because they get fed Twinkies, french fries and soda for dinner rather than broccoli, baked chicken and milk aren't likely to have parents that will do much about changing their child's diet because of a school report card. Maybe a few will, but a lot won't.
It seems like all this will do is provide playground bullies another piece of ammunition for teasing other kids - and what playground or kid needs that?
And yet another MNB
user wrote: Often kid will mimic their parents. Good, bad or different. Our kids don’t need the pressure but would benefit from parents that take them out and show them how to enjoy exercise instead. If it’s made into a job sooner or later they will resent it and probably stop doing it. It might be interesting to note that the parents may need a report card on their own general health as well.
Regarding ongoing mad cow concerns, MNB
user Andy Casey wrote:Here is my favorite part: "USDA maintains that the fact that the mad cow cases have been found speaks to the effectiveness of Canada‚s detection procedures." Since we haven't found any in the U.S. what does that say about our detection procedures?
Could we be looking in all the wrong places?
And, in response our story about the liberal leave policies offered by Wal-Mart’s Asda Group in the UK, one MNB
user wrote:The irony, of course, to this wonderful leave policy package offered by Asda is that the firm's parent is Wal-Mart, a company chastised, sued and demonized in part for its employee policies (or non-policies as some would say). I've never worked at or dealt with Wal-Mart, so I cannot speak for how accurate these reports are. Nonetheless, there are certainly MANY of them. Maybe Wal-Mart has the right idea with Asda, which is to seemingly distance itself from the company's own programs. Then again, maybe if Wal-Mart were to do the cutting-edge things Asda has done, people would view Wal-Mart with a much less critical eye.