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Monday, January 12, 2009


Just before this last Christmas, my wife was shopping in a Target store when she realized she needed a gift for an upcoming party. Since a good California wine is always acceptable, she headed for the liquor section, eventually finding what she wanted. At the checkout stand the clerk asked her for her driver’s license to confirm that she was over 21. My wife looks great and they did card her at restaurants up into her late 30’s, but the fact is she will be 65 this month and anyone with common sense would know she is over 21. Willing to show the ID, she quickly withdrew her license when the clerk indicated she was going to scan it into Target’s database. The purchase was, of course, cancelled.

We had already gone through this earlier with Safeway re. the cashing of a check. Even earlier it had been OfficeMax, who wanted to scan my wife’s driver’s license number to return an ink cartridge just because the purchase date was older than 30 days. Back in October of 2007, I did a post on Albertsons/OSCO when they sold our family’s personal data, including medication information, to the pharmaceutical industry. Their pharmacy, OSCO, also once asked me for my Social Security number for their database, which I refused as did my wife in the other incidents. But back to Target.

Since the store manager was clueless over why they had to scan the date of birth into their database saying over and over—“it’s just store policy”—my wife opted to buy the wine somewhere else, and, of course, it was my decision to tell this story to the President of Target by e-mail. I explained to him how complete the Arizona license is with identifiable info, including a picture, and that checking it should be sufficient. An afterthought, however, was that they might not trust the judgment of their clerks, but that is another complete story.

I had my answer within two hours from Joe, who wouldn’t give me his last name due to security purposes. They are worried about Joe, but not what might happen to my wife’s sensitive data once it is in their database. By the way, all that is necessary to commit identity theft is your name, address and date of birth, and I don’t have remind you how many companies had their customers’ private information raided in 2008. Some big names include: Hannaford Bros. (Eastern) Supermarket Chain, 4.2 million personal records; Countrywide Mortgage, 2 million; Starbucks 97,000. Target gets “A” for response time but “F” for policy.

Agreed, companies have to be careful who they sell booze to, but it borders on the ridiculous when the separation in the components in question—this case age—is 45 years. Rethinking my earlier statement of not trusting the clerk’s judgment, it is obvious they don’t even trust the store manager to make this decision, much less update them on the specifics of the policy.

In closing, Joe did tell me that Target only keeps the birth date after swiping the driver’s license, and that the company has a new policy under consideration in relation to this kind of incident. But added that he couldn’t guarantee quick action. Until that new policy is enacted, our family has decided to stop buying any alcoholic beverages at Target, and only other products there not available at other stores at comparable prices.

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