“May I have your zip code please?” How many times have you been checking out at your favorite retail store and heard this request? If you are like me you hastily respond, wondering at the time why it is they need your zip code in order to complete the transaction. I leave the store never thinking about it again, until the next time I am asked. I mean it’s harmless, right?
Whether giving your zip code to a retail store is harmless or not, certainly depends on who you ask. On the one side, the consumer who, by giving their zip code to the retailer, gives that retailer the opportunity to locate his or her address and therefore put it into a marketing database. The retailer then has a way to continue contacting their customer and marketing their products or services. To some consumers this is a violation as they feel it should be their right to decide which stores they provide their information to and receive information from. On the other side, you have the retailer who argues that without this information they will be unable to effectively market their products or services. One customer, Jessica Pineda, decided to fight back against Williams-Sonoma and won.
As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, the California Supreme Court has ruled that retailers are violating a California consumer privacy law by asking for a customer’s zip code. The law is not a new law in California, as it was enacted in 1990, but has previously only been thought to apply to the customer’s physical address and phone number. The court ruled that the zip code is a part of the customer’s physical address and is off limits. Therefore, the next time I am checking out and the clerk asks for my zip code, I will feel no guilt when I politely decline to provide it.