Beware of nosy retail giants

Shoppers should avoid poor customer-luring models that acquire personal information.

by Connor Nikolic

In today’s ever-evolving economy, retailers are using everything at their disposal to increase their hold on the sales market, especially around Black Friday. Companies, including luxury retailer Neiman Marcus and 1-800-Flowers have experimented with geofencing — a mobile service that allows companies to track their customers via GPS, face-recognition and search-recognition.

This approach, although beneficial to potential shoppers looking for good deals, could be viewed as an invasion of shoppers’ privacy rights.

At a presentation last month at the McNamara Alumni Center, business and economics writer B. Joseph Pine II talked about new technologies that retailers are using to create an individualized consumer experience. This experience is relevant for both online shopping and traditional brick-and-mortar retailers.

By ensuring that their customers leave with the feeling that they got the best possible service, retailers’ intent is to make each
shopper more likely to stick with a particular brand. The experience of watching your pizza assembly at Dinkytown’s new Pizza Studio seems intended to make consumers more likely to return instead of choosing an alternative such as Mesa Pizza.

The gray area lies with the question of who should be tasked with protecting the customer’s sense of security, and how. I believe the stores themselves should make all of their tracking services optional to users.

If making your personal data private prevents you from fully using retailers’ services, then the seller has failed you. Businesses need to use a variety of means to successfully reach the consumer market.