The option to be sent an emailed receipt is being offered to shoppers by merchants as a convenience during the holiday shopping season can lead to compromised privacy online, according to consumer advocates.
Many holiday shoppers are being asked if they would prefer an emailed receipt to a printed one after making a purchase.
Before answering “yes,” KTVU viewers should be sure to understand that the growing trend comes with conditions you might not be willing to accept.
Whenever you’re our shopping or dining with credit cards or cash, California law forbids merchants from asking for private information such as your phone number and street or e-mail address.
Nonetheless, many shoppers provide it when asked.
“Email. It’s saving paper. Better for the world, really,” said a woman who only gave her name as Jamey, an avid e-mail receipt user.
The fact is, anyone who voluntarily allows merchants to e-mail you a receipt essentially waves their privacy rights.
Richard Holober, the Director of the Consumer Federation of California, explained just how far merchants can go with consumer information.
“And once they’ve got it, they use it for marketing, they can sell it to third parties, they can develop a dossier, [and] know exactly what your shopping habits are,” said Holober. “[They can] bombard you with not only e-mail, but they can gather your physical address, your phone number and, you know, attack you in all sorts of ways.”
That was news to almost every customer KTVU spoke to about whether or not they prefer printed receipts on Union Square Wednesday.
“I really didn’t know that. I didn’t put and thought or anything into it,” said Jamey. “I gues that makes sense and I won’t do that any longer.”
“I thought that it was just for them,” said Dana DiRicco, who prefers printed receipts. “And the reason I don’t like to give it is because I already get so many advertisements. I really don’t want any more.”
Consumer Deborah Logan, who also prefers printed receipts assumed that getting an emailed receipt could lead to more junk email.
“I just figured that they would sell my name and I’d never be able to sift out the good stuff from the advertisements,” explained Logan.
It is hard to know what companies do with that e-mail address unless they tell you on the spot.
“Yes. I did now that. But, a lot of places, they’re pretty good about not sharing that information,” says James Coker who prefers e-mail receipts.
But Golden Gate University Consumer Psychology Professor Kit Yarrow told KTVU some consumers are getting fed up.
“When they find out that their trust has been abused, that their names has been sold, I think it creates an even more difficult business environment,” said Yarrow.
Consumer advocate advise shoppers: when it doubt, make them print it out.