Ron Sparks Author, Poet

You Don’t Need My Phone Number for a Purchase


My wife and I were at a Payless shoe store near downtown Orlando yesterday.  Carey complains she never has enough shoes and wanted to buy some cute little loafers that she could beat up and wear during the warm summer months.  I know better than to argue when she says she doesn’t have enough shoes, even though I can’t even walk into our closet because of the herd of shoes that live inside.  No – I just nod my head agreeably and let myself get led into the store.

I have learned that when Carey shops for shoes I am not really allowed to have an opinion.  I am just allowed to grunt and agree with her.

Her:  What do you think of these honey?
Me: mmm-hhhmmmm  (that response could go either way, so if she hates it so do I and if she loves it I do too)

Her: Do you like the straps on this?
Me:  mmmmm (noncommittal – this could be a test)

Her:  If I wear these I will be way taller than you, babe.
Me:  That’s ok, if you like them.  (definitely a test – must agree with her no matter what on this one)

Her:  If I buy two pair, the second is half off!  It’s a good deal.
Me:  (making my first mistake)  Wait a second.  How is it a good deal if you spend MORE money than you intended for a second pair of shoes you don’t need?
Her:  <frosty glare> 

We finally get through the ordeal and are at the counter about to pay.  The cashier asks Carey for her phone number.  I immediately perk up and watch Carey closely; she knows how I feel about this.  She asks the cashier to ring her up without a phone number and I sigh in relief.

But the cashier throws us a curve ball.  She won’t ring up Carey without the phone number – saying she really needs it, but they won’t ever call.

At this point, I jump in and take this normal retail encounter to the next level.

Me:  You don’t need the phone number.

Cashier:  We won’t ever call you, sir.

Me:  It doesn’t matter.  You do not need my phone number for me to make a purchase.

Cashier:  But ….

Me:  ok, use this one if you must.  407-555-1212.

Carey:  Honey…. (pats me on the arm)

Me:  They don’t need our phone number.  I’ll take my business elsewhere.  What if I didn’t have a phone?  What number would they use?

Carey:  (looking at cashier) use this number.  (gives her Google voice number)

Me:  (throws hands up and stalks out of the store)

[polldaddy poll=5183451]

When we got out of the store, Carey told me that she felt bad for the cashier; she was only doing her job and that I had made it very uncomfortable for everyone.

I, more than most, know how much personal information (PII) about each of us is stored in various locations around the Internet.  We hear, daily, about such-and-such company getting hacked and PII getting stolen.  We know that companies store your credit card numbers without your permission when all they need is an auth code from the provider.  We all know that everything you do on the Internet is tracked in some fashion (unless you know how to get around it).

There is no reason to associate my telephone number with a purchase unless they are trying to build a profile on me; a profile I did not consent to.  Now, Payless Shoes knows the following about us:

  1. That we made a purchase for $22.00 on 06/25/2011
  2. That we shopped in the store on Michigan Ave in Orlando
  3. What shoe we bought
  4. My credit card number
  5. My name
  6. What telephone number we used.

If I go back and buy again, and use the same phone number, they suddenly get a trend on me.  They know how long I go before I buy again from them.  They know what locations I shop at.  They build a profile of me that I did not give them permission to.  And, because I am in a retail store, there is no End User Agreement that prohibits them from sharing this information with other companies or agencies.

So I made life uncomfortable for the cashier.  I’ll do it again and again, people.  I do not need to provide a phone number for a purchase.  If you ask me again, Payless, I will take my business elsewhere.

And to my lovely wife, I am sorry I made you uncomfortable.  I know I’m turning into a grouchy old man at the ripe age of 41, but I am passionate about some things and will stand by what I believe.  You signed up for this.  🙂

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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  • Turning into a grouchy old man? I think you both are right. I find it obnoxious that retail outlets ask for your phone number, but I also agree with your wife that taking your anger out on the folks that work there (and probably agree with you), is (well) rude.

    My solution? Usually the companies phone number (or credit card company, whatever) is displayed somewhere close to the cash register. Just give them back that number, if it is an 800 number, just insert your area code. Usually they won’t even notice, and if they do, I usually just get a wry smile in response. Hey, we just both pulled one on the Man 🙂

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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