Fox 26 Interview Last night – Big Brother at Target

Retailers Play Big Brother with Your Purchases:

Last night I ran down to do a quick interview with Fox 26 about an article that appeared in the New York Time this week about coupons.

It was about a father who was furious that Target was sending his teenage daughter coupons for baby items. He felt like they were encouraging her to have a baby. Turns out she was already pregnant and Target knew this because of the items she was buying.

But that is a really small part of the actual article, which is REALLY fascinating! It talks about the researcher that Target hired to do the equations to figure out human behavior and what people buy as a result of lifestyle changes and habit.

You can read the article HERE. I suggest reading it, it is VERY interesting!

The article says Target tries to assign each customer a unique ID, since they do not have a store “loyalty” card, I am assuming that this has to be done through your debit or credit card. When you swipe it they must be assigning a number to that card and tracking what you buy in order to send you coupons and offers to get you back in the store.

The desire to collect information on customers is not new for Target or any other large retailer, of course. For decades, Target has collected vast amounts of data on every person who regularly walks into one of its stores. Whenever possible, Target assigns each shopper a unique code — known internally as the Guest ID number — that keeps tabs on everything they buy. “If you use a credit card or a coupon, or ?ll out a survey, or mail in a refund, or call the customer help line, or open an e-mail we’ve sent you or visit our Web site, we’ll record it and link it to your Guest ID,” Pole said. “We want to know everything we can.”

I have 2 questions about collecting data:

  • Is this if you have a Target debit or credit? Does it state this when you sign up for that card?
  • If they are able to do this on MY NOT Target debit card, how are they getting my address to send me coupons? Is my bank giving them this info? I can’t remember that in anything when I signed up for my debit card.

I do not have a problem with Grocery stores tracking what I buy. I knew that was part of getting a Kroger, CVS or Randalls card. I am exchanging that information for the discount that I want at the store. What concerns me is that Target is able to do that without a store loyalty card, and to a teenager.

It is freaky to get coupons in the mail for things that YOU personally need. Do you ever think about that? How did they know that I like that brand of ice cream?

“And we found out that as long as a pregnant woman thinks she hasn’t been spied on, she’ll use the coupons. She just assumes that everyone else on her block got the same mailer for diapers and cribs. As long as we don’t spook her, it works.” From the Article. 

What do you think? 

P.S. Did you just see yesterday that Google was getting all your personal information off your iPhones?


  1. Pat says

    Interesting. I use cash due to the stalking of retailers and no longer own a loyalty card. I have also noticed that the coupons that are available almost always are at the same time a new commercial comes out for the item. I just smile. I have recently been upset about Google stalking the websites I visit and now receive pop up ads for the sites I visit. Now I go in about twice a week and remove my cache which at least slows it down. Big Brother has been out there for quite awhile. I shop at Wal Mart and an Albertsons LLC that does not have loyalty cards. I am an older woman who does not use a SmartPhone or Facebook so have been intrigued about the non privacy of all that technology. Yes, the coupons I print are tracked I am sure but I believe every little bit I try to keep Big Brother out of the picture the better. Any ideas people as to any search sites that aren’t owned by Google?

  2. Sheri says

    Yes, I know I give permission for my purchases to be tracked when I sign up for a store loyalty card, but to have this done without my knowledge and permission?? Privacy is pretty much nonexistent anymore!!

  3. Dee says

    I just read the Target article yesterday and almost fell off my chair when today I received my mobile coupons and there was a maternity one on there. I’ve been buying pregnancy tests.
    I figured they were attaching my coupons to my non-Target debit card, but I also assumed that my home coupons were because I’d had a registry previously.
    Does everyone get the same mobile coupons? I had a few Target brand coupons and finally a Liz Lange one.

  4. Brittany says

    Read the article and thought it was fascinating. I could care less if Target (or whoever else) knows what kind of ice cream I buy. As long as they don’t send a spy peeking through my bathroom window, I’ll gladly take coupons geared towards me.

  5. says

    @ Dee, Hilariously relevant! lol And I hope happy news one way or the other!

    I read the original article and I thought it was cool ( and funny). The purpose of the marketing is not to come knock on your door and like, hassle you. The point is to send you coupons to lull you into shopping there. I don’t see a problem, for me personally anyway.

    Think about this: when you return an item to a store (like Target) and don’t have a receipt, they are able to look it up by your credit card you paid with. The information is being stored. And it’s convenient for us.

    Tiffany, there are data collection services which collection our info- name, age range, address, etc., and sell that to other companies. You fill out a survey for one company, like My and they sell it to Target or other people so they can use it in marketing. That’s how they get your info.

    PS: I am doing a give away on my blog for some baby items, I was hoping to spread the word. There’s a blog that lists give aways and such, does anyone know what it is?

  6. Kenz says

    A few days ago, before this news story broke, I was in the Target in the Woodlands, when my phone beeped to let me know I had received a text message. It was from Target! I was in the aisle next to the Valentines candies and gifts, and the text advised that the Valentines items were going on sale! They were obviously tracking me – and knew not only that I was in the store, but where in the store, and thus, what I was probably looking for! And yes, I WAS looking for Valentines sale items! I complained to a gentleman who was right there stocking shelves, and also to the cashier on the way out, both of whom laughed and shook their heads! So I do believe every word of your report Tiffany, and the Fox report too… Incredible.

  7. Tanya L. says

    I don’t particularly care if a store knows what kind of ice cream I’m buying either……….the problem is that it doesn’t stop with ice cream. “Someone” may be spying on everything you buy or search for online or will be soon. There are people who don’t care if the whole world knows what their business is (i.e. probably people who post their whole life on Facebook!) and there will be some who are more concerned about the slippery slope of invasiveness.

    Ice cream today and who knows what tomorrow? It IS frustrating because I also like some of the conveniences of these marketing methods but there’s no way to stop the train once it gets started and that’s what my concern is.

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