Image of the glider from the Game of Life by John Conway
Skip to content

It's Pronounced Dow

Today, I went grocery shopping at Albertson's. I know that they use cards in order for you to save money. Actually, all those cards are good for is tracking your spending habits, and targeting advertisements to your home, and solicitation calls to your phone number. So, for the past few years, I've been using 867-5309 for the phone number when I reach the checkout (I forgot my card). However, as of the past couple months, that phone number no longer works, and I can't save money. So, when I reached the checkout, the lady asked me for my phone number or my savings card. I told her I didn't have one. So, she preceded to hand me a form to fill out while she scanned my groceries.

Now, at this point, I'm laughing inside. The first thing I think of is "Do they honestly expect people to not beat the system here? Seriously." So, with that in mind, I filled out the form:

First Name: John
Last Name: Dough
Address: 108 Church St.
City: Beverly Hills    State: CA    Zip: 90210
Email: <none>
Phone (911) 867-5309

I handed her the form, she looked it over, and asked "John Doe?!".
"It's pronouced 'dow'. I get that all the time. Also, I'm just visiting. Is that okay, being from California, or do I have to fill it out there?"
"Yes", she said. "That's fine." And she gave me my savings cards, handed me my receipt, and we were out the door.

John Doe would just be too obvious. I have to shake it up a little bit. Funny she didn't catch the area code, or the phone number. 108 Church St. is an apartment I used to occupy when living in Toronto, Canada. I'm sure every city has a Church St. so it's easily convincing.

And there it is. I got my savings without handing out a bit of my identity. If they cancel the card, no biggie. I figure every time I walk into that grocery store, I'll just fill out a new one with unique bogus info. I'm out to show Albertson's the silliness of making shoppers fill out those forms to get a "savings card". Maybe I should start with U.S. Presidents, work my way through each of them, then move through Biblical Prophets. I could have some real fun here. And, if they ever catch me on falsifying the information, I'll just show them my collection of savings cards, and ask them to pick which one would work.

Beating the system, and it's all too easy.

{ 17 } Comments

  1. Janne | February 7, 2008 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

    You're only partially "beating the system" here. The most valuable data is what you buy over time - not who you actually are - and then being able to extract trends in aggregate from other buyers. In a very real sense, that card, no matter what name is on it, _is_ the identity they most are after.

    If you really want to do something, swap cards now and again with other shoppers. That will poison the aggregate statistics in a way that altering your name will not.

  2. jim | February 7, 2008 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

    I just get the card and never fill out the form. Maybe Alberson's makes you fill it out, Safeway expects you to take it home and fill it out. I never do and the card always works - until I lose it.

  3. Mike | February 7, 2008 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

    In any case, false information is better than no information. The proliferation of false information about everyone is probably one of our best bets for privacy at this point. Although I'm not sure there's much hope to be had.

  4. jldugger | February 7, 2008 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    Why would you go out of your way to do unestablish an identity? Arguably, asking for personal information is a loss of privacy, but building an anonymous yet consistent identity for their correlative statistics doesn't seem to hurt you. But hey. Just shop at Walmart, since you know, they don't have those computers at HQ working out the transactions to track you without a shopper's card or anything.

  5. phoenyx | February 7, 2008 at 11:50 pm | Permalink

    When I was in college, we filled out one form with fake information and got a card and two of those mini-keychain cards and we just split them between us. When someone would move out, he'd just pass his card to the new guy moving in. They're probably still being used.

  6. Tom Mann | February 8, 2008 at 12:31 am | Permalink

    "Beverly Hills 90210"

    I've used that on so many web forms in my lifetime... 😀

  7. Rob J. Caskey | February 8, 2008 at 5:39 am | Permalink

    I've at times wondered if Beverly Hills had a large number of Johns...

  8. Aaron | February 8, 2008 at 5:56 am | Permalink

    @Janne- You're only partially correct. The aggregate date is of no use to them, if they can't target advertising, either by mail or phone, to the one holding the data. Also, as mentioned in the post, I'll just keep getting a new card every time I run into the store. There certainly will be nothing interesting about 1 purchase on each card.

    @Mike- Exactly.

    @jldugger- I won't shop at Walmart. I don't agree with their business practices or ethics. We'll just leave it at that. Besides, I can get savings just about everywhere I go.

    @Tom Mann, @Rob J. Caskey- Thanks to the show, that zip code will be forever famous.

  9. Hans | February 8, 2008 at 6:38 am | Permalink

    Your Albertsons is still doing that? The ones in my town stopped it. They even put up signs about how cool it is that you don't have to use a card to get the savings now. As if they were the only ones doing that. But hey, I'm not complaining.

    I wonder if this is some kind of pilot, or has to do with state law, or if each albertson can choose independently to abandon it. Might be worth talking to the manager of your local store.

  10. Adam | February 8, 2008 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    I always tell them I forgot my card and didn't register a phone number on it. Then they just scan some extra card that is attached to the register, and I get the "savings" off the jacked-up prices. I've always wondered how it affects their data to scan a card that is tied to the register and not an individual.

  11. xabbott | February 8, 2008 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    There is one good reason to put at least a phone number on those key cards. Getting your keys back if you lose them. 😉

  12. Wolfger | February 8, 2008 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    "pronounced Dow"... Ha! That's great. A nice little touch of believability.

  13. Terry | February 8, 2008 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    I did the same a few years ago. I still get a kick after all this time when they say, "Thank you Mr. Gandalf"

  14. Fabian Rodriguez | February 8, 2008 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    I couldn't help but laugh when reading your post.

    Whenever I am asked for a fax number I use a California phone number (valide, free fax service by Jfax at the time) . Being in Montreal, many people stop me when hearing the area code is not 514..."Isn' t that long distance ?" "Sure, if you can't fax me LD, just send me an email" .

    Guess what I get instead of faxes...

  15. Vek | February 9, 2008 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

    You're not really gaining anything by this, to be honest. Maybe if you only ever use cash. But the moment you use an actual ATM or credit card, they'll just scoop the address info from there. (and phone #). Its much more reliable than what people fill in.

    When I got my card for the local market, I actually tossed the application away and just randomly used the card (they gave me a card right on the spot without asking). Sure enough, I soon started getting targetted spam in my RL snailmail box even without having filled in any details.

  16. Jon | March 8, 2008 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    Why not either 1. stop using a savings card altogether, or 2. buy stuff from somewhere that doesn't have a lame scheme

  17. Hank Proudhon | December 20, 2008 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

    I just use 206 867 5309. Works everytime.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared.