As any Safeway regular knows, they offer discounts to "members" who carry their Club Card. And, as any privacy advocate will tell you, cards like this are very worrisome. Records of individual consumer purchases have been made available to law enforcement agencies. Insecure or inappropriate handling of this data might result in it falling into the hands of other businesses, privacy policies notwithstanding.
I could never bring myself to carry my Club Card, but Safeway's made it oh so easy: all I need to do to get my discount is to enter my phone number on the terminal while I'm checking out. So, despite my ambivalence, that's what I do. Today I gave away a little more of my privacy, in exchange for 80 cents off on my yogurt.
I remember hearing stories of customers at the Castro Safeway swapping Club Cards in line. That always seemed like a perfect solution. But who has a card? And anyway, would I have the guts to violate the terms of service, with the surveillance cameras blazing?
Recently, Safeway cashiers have started thanking me by name. They deftly read my name from the receipt, as if they're somehow escaping my notice. Handing me my change and receipt, and with good solid eye contact, they say, "thank you Mr. Hertz!" Maybe they should be more forthright and say, "thank you for your purchase data, Mr. Hertz!"
I was pleasantly surprised a few months ago when a cashiers said, "thank you, Mr. Vaksman". I checked the receipt, and sure enough, it said Boris Vaksman. I was ecstatic. I assumed I'd entered the wrong phone number, Boris' to be exact. But what was the number? The next few visits I tried various permutations of my number, but no dice -- I got errors.
I went back to entering my actual number, and now it's clear that Safeway thinks my phone number belongs to Mr. Vaksman. At least some of the time -- once in a while, my name comes up on the receipt. Not today, though.
I've never met Boris, and I probably never will. Does he shop in the Castro? Perhaps. But I have to echo the cashier, and say, "thank you, Mr. Vaksman!"