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    Jezebel: Retailers Are Watching You With New Tracking Program

    The Jezebel blog took a close look at a recent Wall Street Journal article about retail companies and their return policies for customers. The blog found some retailers’ tactics could raise privacy concerns:

    Good news? Some stores are now making it easier to return unwanted items. Bad news? They’re doing it by employing proprietary tracking software that displays each shopper’s entire return history. Meet the Return Activity Report. You probably already have one! […]

    [S]tudies show that having a more liberal return policy can be good for business […] This would, presumably, be the motivation of the 5.5% of stores that are actually liberalizing their return policies this season (and of the 33% of stores who say that they are more flexible in executing their return policies immediately following the holidays […]

    But such largess is coming thanks in large part to the development of consumer-tracking software.

    The Journal reports that a company called Retail Equation obtained a patent in September for software that allows retailers to track individual shoppers’ return histories. (If you’ve recently been asked to swipe not just the credit card of purchase but your driver’s license when making a return, that’s why.) How widespread is the use of this software? Retail Equation says its “transaction optimization solutions” are in use in over 15,000 stores. That is, “at least one store in every mall in America.” […]

    A Return Activity Report tracks all of a shopper’s returns and exchanges — not just at the store of purchase, but at every store that uses Retail Equation’s software. […]

    The idea of a private company tracking consumer behavior and sitting in judgment of it — the idea of having an indelible and persistent “return history” that follows us from store to store and transaction to transaction, like a credit history — all without our express permission, is at base very creepy. In fact, it’s the kind of Big Brother-ish customer service development that rather makes one want to avoid shopping at stores that employ it altogether.

    One Response to “Jezebel: Retailers Are Watching You With New Tracking Program”

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