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Are retail stores allowed to ask for personal information when paying for products using cash?

Cupertino, CA |

At Sears, I purchased $2 shoelaces with cash and I was required to give my first name, last name, email address and phone number before the cashier would sell them to me. I know it was required because before each item I asked if this information was necessary when paying by cash and she told me YES.

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Attorney answers 3

Posted

There are privacy laws in place re: certain info. Not sure if this info is covered but I think it is. NO way it's required...

Asker

Posted

Thank you for the response, which confirms my suspicions. What advice can you give on where I should go from here? Should I contact the BBB about this or could you recommend a better approach?

Bruce E. Burdick

Bruce E. Burdick

Posted

Better approach. Go to Walmart and let the Sears store manager know that's what you are doing if they keep this up. Sounds like you got an unthinking clerk.

Asker

Posted

I asked to speak to the supervisor to complain about this and she told me that she was the supervisor. I didn't think to ask for the store manager. I was thinking of going back and making another small cash purchase at a different cashier to rule out the unthinking clerk theory. This way I can just inform the store manager of the actions of a specific store employee or confirm that this is a store policy.

Golnar Sargeant

Golnar Sargeant

Posted

File a complaint with their corporate office. Contrary to popular belief, the BBB is a voluntary organization, it is not an arm of the govt that swoops down to discipline "bad businesses". They have no power over businesses who are not members, and in any event, all they do is give businesses an alphabetical rating, and they do try to get them to respond to complaints, but the businesses have no obligation to. It doesn't hurt to report them, but I wanted to let you know the BBB's limits.

Golnar Sargeant

Golnar Sargeant

Posted

I meant "the businesses have no obligation to respond"

Scott Richard Kaufman

Scott Richard Kaufman

Posted

Important and accurate info re: the BBB, thanks for sharing.

Posted

Of course they can ask, and you are NOT required to give it. They want it to use for marketing purposes. If you say no, will they refuse to sell to you for cash? Not likely.

I am not your lawyer and you are not my client. Free advice here is without recourse and any reliance thereupon is at your sole risk. This is done without compensation as a free public service. I am licensed in IL, MO, TX and I am a Reg. Pat. Atty. so advice in any other jurisdiction is strictly general advice and should be confirmed with an attorney licensed in that jurisdiction.

Asker

Posted

This is precisely what happened. I told them I did not want to provide any information and they told me that I would not be able to complete the purchase without it. I should also add that I was automatically enrolled in their "BONUS Member" program, which I was unaware of until after I saw it printed on the receipt.

Posted

Mr. Burdick is correct: it is for marketing purposes, not legal purposes.
Years ago they required your drivers licence, phone number etc. if paying by check, but new laws now forbid it.

The above is general legal and business analysis. It is not "legal advice" but analysis, and different lawyers may analyse this matter differently, especially if there are additional facts not reflected in the question. I am not your attorney until retained by a written retainer agreement signed by both of us. I am only licensed in California. See also avvo.com terms and conditions item 9, incorporated as if it was reprinted here.

Asker

Posted

Thank you for the response. I will look into this further, but it sounds like the store and/or its employees are going about getting this information the wrong way.

Michael Charles Doland

Michael Charles Doland

Posted

Thank you for being to polite. It means a lot to many of the participating Avvo attorneys.

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