Want to Buy Cold Medicine at Target? They'll Try to Scan Your Driver's License

Years of exposure to advertising has taught me that when I go to Target, I should "Expect more pay less". Well clearly, they need to change their motto to "Expect to get your driver's license swiped through a barcode reader."
Indeed, this morning I got quite the surprise in the checkout lane. The cashier was happy to ring up all my purposes, but when she got to my box of DayQuil she paused. "I need to see your ID for this," she said. 
Hmm. The DayQuil wasn't locked up and there was no sign saying I needed to show ID to buy it. But, I know folks use DayQuil and other over-the-counter meds to cook meth and other drugs. I figured the cashier just needed to see that I'm over 21. Even a blind bat could tell that I am, but whatever, I pulled out my ID and held it up so she could see photo and birthday.

The cashier tried to take it out of my hand. "I need to swipe it it." 
Hold up. Swipe it?
"Yes," she said, pointing to a bar code reader on the side of the cash register. "I need to swipe it." 
"Why do you need to swipe my ID?" I know I had on my Major Side Eye face when I asked, but I didn't care. Any corporation trying to swipe my government ID sends warning bells off in my head. Heck, they don't even swipe driver's licenses at the airport, so why does Target need to do so?

"To verify your age," she replied.
"Because that's our store policy."
Since when? I've had bronchitis since mid-November and have been in Target buying both DayQuil and NyQuil. And generic OTC Claritin. No one has so much as peeped about scanning my license. 
I refused to hand my license over, so the clerk said I couldn't buy the DayQuil.  I asked for a manager and explained to him that there was no way in hell I was going to hand over my goverment issued ID so that Target could scan and download all the data available in the barcode on the back.
"Legally, you can't make me do that," I told him. "And if I you did swipe it and download my data and your system got hacked by identity thieves, I would file a class action lawsuit against you since your request is illegal." 
Now, I don't really know if it's illegal for them to require me to let them scan my ID for DayQuil, but I was betting on them not knowing either. Plus, I live in Los Angeles. Any mention of lawsuits scares folks.

Next thing you know, the manager agreed to allow me to verbally tell them my birth date, which they then typed into the register. Then he entered a password to override the ID-swiping requirement.

Here's the funny thing: I've been sick since November 13, so I've purchased a LOT of cold medicine. During one trip to Rite Aid, I bought some DayQuil, NyQuil AND TheraFlu--all at the same time. That cashier at Rite Aid didn't say anything to me about ID. 
What's going on with Target and their little ID scanning scheme, and what are they doing with everybody's data? 
Photo via Some rights reserved by kevin dooley


Anonymous said…
Interesting. AS I was reading your post my nostrils were flaring as if EYE was the one in Target...I am always, always the person who beefs about privacy and mysterious data collecting. I heard this woman who's an expert on the whole thing http://www.katherinealbrecht.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=102%3Afirst-chapter-of-qspychips-how-major-corporations-and-government-plan-to-track-your-every-move-with-rfidq&catid=62%3Awriting&Itemid=94
on public radio a few years ago. SCARY stuff. I don't even trust those grocery/drug store "discount" cards but that's a whole 'nother story.
Anne said…
I went to buy Christmas wrap at Rite Aid (about $12). The cashier told me they would not give me the sale price without a Rite Aid identification card. He then said he would need to scan my driver's license. I said I'd pay cash, and he said he still needed my driver's license or he couldn't check out my purchases. I told him I couldn't believe that was true and a manager finally came over. They said they at least needed my phone number or the system wouldn't let them process the sale. I told them it was 610-555-1212, and they let me get my purchases and leave. Unbelievable.
Liz Dwyer said…
The possibilities for misuse of data definitely make me nervous. But then again, I use Facebook. I constantly struggle with the public/private balance. Sigh.

Wow. All that for some gift wrap? All a store should need for you to buy something is money. I'm glad you stuck to your guns and challenged him. Good for you!
Stefanie said…
The Polo Ralph Lauren store asks for your full name and address... what do you need that for?? It really makes me not want to purchase anything there... (I only buy gifts for my bf there, but I doubt I will again.)
Anonymous said…
Here in Georgia you can't buy more than one. The clerk says its to cut down/control the meth problem here.
Val said…
I remember Radio Shack used to ask for your telephone number.

I saw a story about companies making people swipe their ID to get into a building. And according to the report it is illegal in California for a business to require that you let them swipe your government issued ID for any reason. They can ask to see it but not swipe.

I quit shopping at Target last year when it was revealed that it gives money to crazy conservative candidates.
Aisha said…
I remember Target swiping my drivers license when I bought some wine coolers there. I thought that was odd-why couldn't they just read my license like everyone else? What the hell are they doing with people's information?
Aisha said…
RE Target: Oh yeah, but when I filled a prescription for Valium, a controlled substance, the pharmacy did not swipe my I.D. I don't think they even checked it. But they need my whole life story for some wine coolers? Please.
southern belle said…
Just had this happen today at a Target. I was buying Theraflu which has no Sudafed in it. I'll be complaining to corporate.

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