Ron Sparks Author, Poet

No you can’t have my number!


Carey, the kids, and I were out shopping tonight for some necessary clothing for the kids. As I was checking out at the counter, the clerk said:

“Can I have you telephone number sir?”

I immediately answered, “No, you may not.”

The clerk looked at me and said slowly, “ooohhhhkayyyy….” She obviously thought I was being unreasonable – I was one of those customers – you know the kind. The ones with “annoying customer” stamped on their forehead – the ones who will make her job more difficult.

So I smiled and said, “I don’t give my phone number to just every pretty lady. Unless, ” I winked, “you want to take me out to dinner.”

Carey smacked me – hard.

The clerk laughed and decided I was not as annoying as she had thought,and keyed in a fake phone number for me.

I used to get filled with self-righteous anger. I used to give the clerk a really hard time for trying to enforce what I saw a nonsensical corporate policy. Then I realized that the clerk had little say in the matter, so I started deferring in a more polite fashion.

Still – the matter puzzles me.

Asking for a phone number is not like the programs bookstores and grocery stores offer. They offer discounts to members. I never take them up on it – but at least the memberships at the grocery and bookstore offer discounts to members.

It’s just not enticing enough for me to get that membership – I prefer to keep my shopping anonymity to getting a discount and having my spending habits profiled. Carey doesn’t stand on my philosophical point and gets the memberships and, hypocrite that I am, I sometimes use them. (It’s OK to track HER habits, I suppose. Just not mine)

So – I can understand the grocery store and bookstore memberships. You get value for your membership – you agree to a reduction of privacy in exchange for a discounted price. I don’t do it – but I understand those who do. The value is pretty good too – sometimes you get 10% – 30% discounts. And it’s completely voluntary to join. So I approve of those membership policies – curmudgeons like me can abstain while the rest of the world pays less than me.

The phone number thing, though, escapes me. I have no idea why I get asked that question. Or what purpose it serves. I have been to several stores that actually required a telephone number and refused to complete a transaction until I supplied one. I, being the self-righteous man that I am, walk out every time and go somewhere else. In my experience, most companies that try to demand a telephone number quickly back away and make it voluntary.

Still – can someone enlighten me as to what purpose this telephone policy serves? Aside from profiling your customers, I mean, without requiring a membership. Anyone?

Based on the new laws, it’s pretty difficult for a company to legally use that phone number to solicit me. If my number were listed they can conceivably use the phone number to get my address to send me flyers and such. Still – that seems like a convoluted and unlikely way to get an address.

So why do they ask me for my telephone number? Why not offer a voluntary membership program like grocery stores and bookstores (unless they can’t afford to offer value for a membership)?

About the author

Ron Sparks

Ron Sparks is a technology professional, science fiction and fantasy author and poet living in Zurich, Switzerland. His latest book "ONI: Satellite Earth Series Book 1" is available on

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  • It’s really for marketing purposes, to see who is shopping in that store. The phone #s provided can give an estimate of the radius that people will travel to shop. It also helps with targeting an area for marketing purposes.Oh, and you don’t have to give your #. You can decline and there is a button on the register they can push if the customer declines.I hope that helps.

  • Poor Carey. I bet some of those profilers just can’t figure out some of “her” purchasing habits! 😉

Ron Sparks Author, Poet

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Ron Sparks

Ron Sparks is a technology professional, science fiction and fantasy author and poet living in Zurich, Switzerland. His latest book "ONI: Satellite Earth Series Book 1" is available on


A man of many passions, I lay claim to a myriad of interests and hobbies. Among them, I am an amateur astronomer, an avid motorcycle rider, a whiskey aficionado, a (poor) surfer, a scuba diver, a martial artist, a student of philosophy, a proponent of critical thinking, a technologist, an entrepreneur, a cancer survivor, and I harbor a lifelong love of science fiction and fantasy. Feel free to strike up a conversation on the social networks below.

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