You’re checking out at the cash register, and at the point of sale, the cashier asks you for your phone number or ZIP code.
Why do they want that ZIP code? Most assume it’s to validate your credit card. But that’s not the real reason.
Read more: 9 places you should never use a debit card
It’s because they want to get your address and create a shopping profile on you so they can better market to you. They want to want to know what kinds of products you’re most interested in order to provide them to you. The upside of this is that you may receive some great coupons and deal alerts in the mail. But the downside? Junk mail. Lots of it.
Bed Bath & Beyond got sued a while back for collecting personal information in order to send unprecendented amounts of unwanted junk mail to its customers.
When I’m is asked to provide my ZIP code at a check out register, I always politely declines. Most cashiers aren’t used to that. But, most will not pressure you any further about it either. And if you want those coupons (as our penny-pinching producer Joel does), and don’t mind the inevitable pile of junk mail that comes with it, it’s perfectly ok to continue giving out that information.
An important distinction: This does not apply to gas station kiosks and similar ‘unmanned’ places, where one is required to enter a zip code to process the credit or debit card transaction. In these cases, that is a protective anti-theft measure.