Personal information and high street retailers

Time for a bit of a rant, so are you sitting comfortably?

Following the demise of my last less than trustworthy model, I find myself in need of a new printer. I was going to order one online, but as I am going out on an event/tour tomorrow I thought it would be nice to print off some documents, so ran over to the shopping centre to quickly buy a replacement from a shop.

Where I live, I have the choice of a Dixons Currys Digital or a Waitrose which also sells a small range of computer stuff. Waitrose were out of stock of the basic model I wanted, so – alas, it was off to Currys to see what they have.

I tend to avoid the shop as they play thump, thump, thump music in there and just walking past is usually enough to make me cringe. Today, the music was still there, but at a tolerable level. What is it with most domestic appliance retailers and their passion for loud heavy bass music?

Saw a basic printer, but also spied a reasonable priced wireless model and thinking this would be a useful addition picked up that one and took it to the till (yes, it’s self service for printers).

Everything was fine, put my credit card in the swipe thingy and then the salesperson asked me for my home address.

What?

It’s for the warranty – they need it.

No they don’t – I’ll be perfectly happy with just a normal till receipt.

A pained look of confusion and a conversation with a colleague.

Yes – my address details are mandatory and they can’t carry on the transaction without them.

Sorry, I reply (being generous as I was less than sorry at this point), but there is no need for my address details for a mere warranty and I have no intention of handing over personal information to them.

We hit an impasse and after another pained attempt to extract my address from me, I said I was refusing to buy the printer, took back my credit card and walked out.

So, I still can’t print off the details for tomorrow.

You might think I was being difficult – but I have my reasons for not handing out my personal details at a mere whim of a retail shop.

Now, I actually used to work for Dixons Group about a decade ago, and periodically write for a living about consumer electronics, so have a moderately decent idea of is and is not needed for warranties.

Had I been buying a TV or DVD player, then my details are indeed required – by law – for the TV license authority to check I have a license. However, for any other item there is absolutely no need for my home address to be handed over for the warranty as the till receipt (or suitable proof of purchase) is enough.

If a customer did hand over their details and also hadn’t brought an extended warranty you knew they would get a letter a month later trying to sell one to them, and a series of reminders when the manufacturers warranty expired.

I had already said that I was happy to have just an ordinary till receipt, and when I worked at the company we could tab past the address details on the computer/till if a customer didn’t want to hand them over. Now – apparently it seems that is not possible, and the company would rather lose a sale than lose a chance to collect my home address details.

That itself raises suspicions.

The two till boys assured me that my details wouldn’t be used for any marketing purposes – so why is it that the company would prefer to lose the sale if faced with a customer who didn’t want to hand over their address details? Something doesn’t quite add up.

In an age where we are exhorted by government bodies to protect our personal details – where companies like Dixons Group sell paper shredders so we can protect ourselves from ID thieves, we have a company demanding to collect my personal details for no apparent reason.

When retailers are being routinely (it seems) hacked into and governments are losing CDs left right and centre – should I hand over my personal details to a retailer without considering the implications?

I think not.

Had I walked into that store, and been approached by a top quality salesperson who guided me through the product choice and won my trust in their expert product knowledge – then just maybe I would have been more comfortable with the idea of handing over my address details.

As it was, I spent a good 5 minutes looking at the products and trying to make out the tiny tickets with product specs and work out what I wanted. I then had to help myself to a box and take it to a till.

No – the retailer had not put in any effort to win my trust, and as a result I refuse to hand over my private home address details to them.

I get very little junk mail at home – simply because I refuse to hand over my home address details without a damn good reason, and buying a cheap printer is not even close.

« « Previous Blog Post Next Blog Post » »

Sign up for my free weekly email newsletter

Sample Issue

7 Comments

  1. Am in total agreement with you on this Ian.
    I returned to the UK after 8 years living in Spain. Within 2 weeks of returning I was bombarded with spam email and daily junk post… all as a result of applying for a Boots Advantage Card. Still driving me mad 18 months later.

    Stick to your guns!
    Best Sparkly Wishes x

  2. Tony

    Quite agree

    Tony
    No Fixed Abode
    Near Cricklewood
    LONDON

  3. Jo

    Quite agree, there’s no need for it unless it’s for crosschecking TV licenses. I always kick up quite a fuss if anyone dares to ask me for such details otherwise.

    I’m in need of a new Freeview box and I’ll happily supply the details but will purposely annoy them by telling them the box is for a friend who’s asked me to pick one up but doesn’t have a license. Childish, I know, but bwahahahaha ;)

    Also recommend The Lecture List and Nature Network for events (the latter is solely for sciencey ones). Have a look also at the Monday evening botany / horticultural lectures at Kew (“Kew Mutual Improvement Society”, or KMIS) as they are lovely and inexpensive (around £2).

    Arrived at your listings blog via Greenwich Phantom and am enjoying your rants.
    Jo

  4. Mike

    I had the same experience in Currys today – they refused the sale on the grounds that I would not give them my address, again with the excuse that it was for the warranty.

    With all the fuss in the press about data protection, why does the consumer have to put up with these retailers bullying consumers for their personal information. I am surprised that they value my address over the profit on a £200 electrical item.

    I shall not ever shop at Currys again.

  5. big momma

    Its all very well and good having a moan on a website…but you need to tell the people who can actually change things…i.e John Browett. The guys in theses shops are probably on min wage and have been brain washed to do a job. The likes of you people make a difficult job worse…I bet you wouldnt speak to your son/daughter they way you speak to the guys in the shop.. and you probably would nt anyone else to either…so a bit of respect and get of your high horse and do something constructive and report these irritants to the people who matter.

  6. IanVisits

    As I pointed out, I used to work for the company, so I know from an insiders perspective what the data is used for.

    You’ll also find that the staff are not on “minimum wage”, and while hardly banking wages, the salaries are quite good for high street retailers.

    The only high horse I can detect in this posting is your comment.

  7. Anji Petersen

    I complained to the Information Commissioner about PC World wanting my address when purchasing a printer from them. I got a crap response after a huge delay. Next time I am giving them the postcode SW1A 1AA.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

web