Jo Anna Davis, Her Zip Code, and Ulta Beauty Stores: A Cautionary Tale

Jo Anna Davis. (screen grab)

When Jo Anna Davis declined to provide a retail store with her zip code information, she wasn’t prepared for what happened next.

It all started when she decided to return an item at an Ulta beauty care store near Sacramento, California. She says the clerk insisted she provide her zip code information.

Davis declined and things turned ugly.

“When I refused to give them my zip code, they called the manager. She wanted it and then said she couldn’t go forward with providing me a refund or a store credit or whatever,” Davis told CNN, adding that the confrontation between her and the store manager became increasingly unpleasant.

“Davis asked for her receipt back, the manager refused, so she took it herself,” Forbes reports. “An argument ensued. The manager locked the store’s door and demanded it back.”

“It was absolutely insane. I’m sure I looked rather crazy myself,” Davis recalls, later adding that the absurdity of the situation moved her to laugh “out loud in her car afterward.”

And all this trouble over five measly digits.

But what could a store do with your zip code? Well, as noted earlier on TheBlaze, a lot, actually.

Additionally, if a clerk gets your name and zip code information, the store can take that information to a “data broker” and ask them to “match up the name with the zip code in order to get the person’s home address,” said UC-Berkeley Law School professor Chris Hoofnagle.

“And they can get other information, too,” Hoofnagle added. “They might be able to get and email address or a phone number as well.”

Obviously, retailers use this data to better direct their marketing campaigns. But the type of personal information some retailers collect, including how much a customer makes or whether that customer has filed for bankruptcy, has raised concerns.

And if that doesn’t make you uncomfortable, there’s always the possibility that store employees with access to customer data may decide to use that information for nefarious purposes:

Ulta Beauty, for its part, has apologized to Davis for providing a “valuable customer” with “less than great” service. The company offered to “make it up” to Davis, herself a victim of domestic violence, but it also declined to comment on its practice of collecting customers’ personal information.

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