February 12, 2011

The Right to Keep Your ZIP Code to Yourself

The California Supreme Court says you can.

Stores Can’t Ask For Customer ZIP Codes: CA Supreme Court

By Scott Weber, NBCBayArea.com
updated 2/10/2011 6:45:30 PM ET

Customers who use their credit cards at stores can no longer be asked for their ZIP code, the California Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

In a unanimous decision, the state’s high court concluded that person’s personal information includes his or her ZIP code and that California’s Credit Card Act prohibits a merchant from asking for it.

The class-action case was brought by Jessica Pineda against Williams-Sonoma.

Wait, who shops at Williams-Sonoma who doesn’t want to brag about their ZIP code?  Well, maybe the people who had to trade down to less exclusive environs better suited to Crate and Barrel, or Target.  Maybe they can’t afford 94024 anymore, but they can still buy a $40 bottle of olive oil.

imageMy god, the woman who sued Williams-Sonoma was incensed that they were using her ZIP Code “for marketing purposes.”  Oh noes!  Next thing you know, they will want her name so they can send her an unsolicited catalog.

Well, now you can buy that olive oil without having to admit you live in 95008 (Campbell), or fearing you’ll be put on the Pottery Barn mailing list instead of Frette, due to your ZIP code. You have the right to not disclose it, so either wear it proudly or keep it to yourself.

Of course if you keep it to yourself, others will assume you live in 95002.

Comments (17) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:16 am

17 Responses to “The Right to Keep Your ZIP Code to Yourself”

  1. The Gilroy Alex Says:

    A good while back in Southern California there was a fad for oval black and white stickers* on cars with two or three letters on them denoting what city you live in. “HB” for Huntington Beach was the most famous. There was also NB for Newport Beach, CM for Costa Mesa, I’m fairly sure I remember CdM for Corona Del Mar, etc. Somehow I don’t remember GG for Garden Grove, SA for Santa Ana, etc being in existence at all.

    There’s room for a zip code on a little oval sticker.

    *These are apparently a copy of the stickers or signs on cars in Europe, where you’d see GB for Great Britain, FR for France, etc.

  2. nomadic Says:

    I’ve seen them around here with HMB on them. Presumably Half Moon Bay. Whoopee; I was soooo impressed.

  3. nomadic Says:

    You know, when I see decisions like this, I’m a bit amazed that someone went to the trouble to sue about it. If I don’t want to give out my zip, I’ll give them my work zip or whatever. Just like phone numbers. Is it worth dragging this petty stuff through the courts?

    I wonder if this decision will apply to gas stations. I always assumed when you pay at the pump with a credit card, they want to verify that it’s really your card by asking for the billing zip.

  4. Petsmart Groomer Says:

    > These are apparently a copy of the stickers or signs on cars in Europe

    These were not for bragging purposes though (except for CH). It used to be mandatory to have such a sticker when traveling to a different country (and you would get fined if you did not have it). Now that (most of) the European Union license plates show the country code, the sticker is not used.

  5. Petsmart Groomer Says:

    > You know, when I see decisions like this, I’m a bit amazed that someone went to the trouble to sue about it.

    Yeah, but that got me a $15 Crate and Barrel coupon.

  6. madhaus Says:

    If only zip code residency stickers were used on cars or license plates! Then Foothills Park really could keep the riffraff out.

  7. Petsmart Groomer Says:

    Stores just have to ask for ID now to get the zip code. Problem solved.

  8. SEA Says:

    “If I don’t want to give out my zip, I’ll give them my work zip or whatever.”

    I’ve found that you’ll be declined quite often, and if you have one of those aggressive credit card issuers, a couple tries and you’ll be having more problems than just the zip code. “Someone’s been trying to use your card with the wrong zip code.”

  9. madhaus Says:

    #8: Huh? The zip request from stores was never for a check on your being authorized to use your credit card. It was the store collecting the information “for marketing purposes.” The gas station entry was because the pumps are self-service, and there’s no cashier to verify your signature.

    Readers of a certain age may remember Radio Shack’s aggressive address collection techniques,, even for cash purchases of negligible amounts (like one battery).

    When cashiers would ask me “May I have your zip code!” they were always stunned when I cheerfully replied “No!” When they told me they “had to have a zip,” I’d tell them to make something up.

  10. anon Says:

    lol…

    Edward: What’s your zip code?
    Vivian: Whatever you want it to be..

  11. anon Says:

    Did anyone happen to read the opinion? There’s more to it then just asking for the zip code. Williams Sonoma would ask for the zip code so that they could use that with the person’s name (from their credit card) in order to find their address and start sending them fliers. What’s worse, they were selling this information to other people. That’s not right. Good for Jessica Pineda for standing up to them.

  12. SEA Says:

    “The zip request from stores was never for a check on your being authorized to use your credit card. It was the store collecting the information “for marketing purposes.””

    Uh, why was my card declined until I provided the right zip code? The cashier asked, is that your correct billing zip code?

    After giving the right zip code, everything went just fine.

  13. anon Says:

    SEA, try and distinguish between collecting zip codes for identification purposes versus collecting information for marketing purposes. The difference is what the company is doing with the information.

  14. SEA Says:

    I have no idea what they do with the data, but when I give a zip that does not match my billing address, I find my transactions being declined. Do they use it for marketing purposes too? I have no idea. You tell me.

  15. maryjane Says:

    I honestly don’t understand what’s going on here. I for one am proud of my zip code and think the idea of putting it on my car is a great idea too. I paid a lot of money for my zip code and wish I could flaunt it more. In fact the way I know I’m still in the RBA is by that little look of envy and respect I get when I tell a store clerk exactly what it is! I just got back from a little trip to a place where zip codes start with ‘100’ and let me tell you, not being able to subtly indicate my social status was downright annoying. It took a whole lot of the fun out of shopping.

  16. The Gilroy Alex Says:

    #4 yeah I know they were mandatory not a bragging item.

    I have a friend who lives, proudly, in Prunedale. Not too far from where people put fancy license plate frames on their cars saying “Cardiff By The Sea” so he got a real laugh when he saw a more local license plate frame someone had put on their car: “Prunedale By The Slough”.

  17. Petsmart Groomer Says:

    > Vivian: Whatever you want it to be..

    That’s one thing this website has been missing all these years: references to Pretty Woman.


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