I went shopping at RITE-AID today and saw one of my favorite products advertised as: “Buy 2, get $2 off your next purchase.” I grabbed two bottles and made my way to the register … where the clerk informed me that I could only get the deal if I had their frequent buyer card. To join the program, however, I had to give them personally identifiable information. I declined both the membership and the purchase.

There’s no reason a frequent buyer program needs to have my personally identifiable information. As long as all my purchases get charged to card #4234, they can print the offer coupons for card #4234 based on the purchase history of #4234. There is never any need to get my personally identifiable information unless they plan to sell it or cross-index it against other databases to find out more about me.

This seems like RITE-AID wanting to reward me as a frequent customer by giving me future deals that will encourage me to shop there more. In that, we’re aligned. I want to let them do that. But I’m not interested in giving them personally identifiable information that they can sell or use in ways other than encouraging me to shop there more.

If you want to reward your customers, find ways to reward them that does not infringe on them. Most people, if they like you as a merchant or service provider, will be happy to accept and respond to incentives. If you want fanatically loyal customers who rave about you, make it possible for people to have a great experience without stepping beyond the bounds where they stop being comfortable with the relationship. Otherwise, you end up with people like me blogging about your intrusion into their lives, instead of praising you for giving you such a great deal.

If you want to reward your customers, reward them!…

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