Thursday, July 9, 2009

Store Loyalty Cards and Child Custody

I was recently meeting with a client when I noticed that he had a Kroger's Plus Card. I cautioned him that he should not be using that card when he is buying the snack foods for his children as he is currently involved in a custody battle. I am a very health conscious consumer so I have little need to follow the advice I have given to others but it reminded me that there are many people out there who are using the cards without knowledge of how this information will be used against them.

Store loyalty cards are used by nearly all shoppers in today's world of precision tracking of consumers spending habits. This allows retailers to learn what consumers purchasing habits are and to market directly to them. In exchange for this valuable information the retailers offer a bit of a discount to those consumers who use these cards to track their purchases.

This information is also valuable to others besides the retailer who issues the card. Not only is this information often sold to those who data-mine and create profiles but those who may be nearest to you would like to have it. Regardless of what privacy you may think you have others can readily access information about your purchasing habits.

This can be accessed with a subpoena or warrant and used against you in court proceedings. In a well-publicized "trip-and-fall" case in California, a man shopping at a Southern California grocery store sued after falling in one of the aisles. It was reported (although the store has since denied it) that the store threatened to use his shopping history, which included large amounts of alcohol, against him in the proceedings. More important to those who may be in a child custody proceeding are what grocery items you may be purchasing for your children.

Chicken nuggets, fruit leather, potato chips, hot dogs, toaster pastries, soda and prepackaged lunches are considered by nutritionists to be among the worst foods for children. When a court is considering “the best interest of the child” an effective litigator could make the argument that a parent, whose record of food purchases show these items, may not be acting in the best interest of the child. In the near future, it's going to be become very difficult to assert that it wasn't you who bought those or that pregnancy test kit, those cigarettes, or that Playboy magazine.

Personally, when I go grocery shopping I never use credit cards, it's cash only for me. I use a loyalty card but there is also a way that I ensure my purchasing information is not being tracked. The easiest way to do this is through the use of an alias and an alternate address. Most rewards cards are available instantly and do not require name and address verification although special offers may be sent to the mailing address.

It is not difficult to get an alternate address if the card must be sent through the mail. Simply find an empty house nearby with a 'for rent' sign out front and a mailbox. Check every few days until the card arrives. In the meantime don't purchase what are considered to be “bad” items when using your card. What few pennies you save may not be worth losing your children over.

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©2008, 2009 Stuart Showalter, LLC. Permission is granted to all non-commercial entities to reproduce this article in it's entirety with credit given.

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