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Saturday, June 11, 2005

BLOG Bulletin: Super Market and Drug Chain Albertsons/Osco Wants Your Personal Data. The Question is: WHY?

We’ve been shopping at the Albertsons/Osco store in Scottsdale, AZ, since it first opened several years ago. Even joined their “Preferred Savings Card” plan for store discounts. I should know better but the call of the bargain never fails. We also purchase all our prescriptions from Osco for my wife, her father and myself. A lot of money is spent each week in this store by the Dunning family.

I tell you this as the prelude to an unbelievable series of anti-consumer policies that this major grocery and drug retailer has initiated. From our family’s point of view it started a few years ago when a pharmaceutical clerk asked me for my Social Security number. He said Albertsons new policy was to have this on file but he didn’t know why. I said there was no way this was going to happen and a heated argument ensued. At this point the pharmacy manager stepped in and agreed to use a substitute number.

It was about the same time that we began to receive mailings, supposedly from Osco, with a reminder for prescription renewals. This contained the name of the drug, Rx#, refill due-date, and the address and telephone number of the store location. To date, we have received forty-seven mailings and there is no indication they will ever stop. However, if Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (PRC), one of the nation’s largest privacy organizations has their way, there will come a halt soon.

PRC filed suit against Albertsons and its Osco/SavOn pharmacies in September 2004, charging them with improperly using and disclosing your private and confidential medical information. The action also asks restitution for amounts paid Albertsons for this data. It has been alleged for some time now that drug chains across the country were selling these records to the pharmaceutical companies. In my earlier posts, I told you how the junk mailers were amassing a fortune selling your name and personal data for $4 billion each year. If the figures were known, the sale of your medical information could very well top that.

Not satisfied, Albertsons recently implemented their latest jab at the consumer. They are requiring you to present your driver license and provide your telephone number to cash checks. Normally that’s OK, except, they input both the license number and telephone number into their computer. At the airport, TSA requires the same picture ID to get on a plane but they don’t whisk it away to their computer. I don’t mind showing it but react postally to Albertsons saving it in a database. Thus, the original question: why do they want your personal data?

I asked the store manager but he didn’t know. He said he would contact Albertsons corporate and get back to me in a couple of days. That was over a week ago…and nothing. Interestingly, a checkout clerk who disagrees with the new policy said management told them they would be required to ask for the ID’s ten times for each person. Yep, each time keying it in to the computer. The same clerk said they heard it was because Albertsons was changing check authorization companies to save money.

I am curious if anyone out there in the blogosphere has experienced the same treatment. If you have, your comments would be welcomed on this post. Also, you might want to contact Albertsons and tell them how you feel about their privacy policies. One at a time…we’ll let all the “Albertsons” know that they cannot compromise our names and personal data.

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