Does everything have to be so creepy all the time?
May 2, 2016 1:21 PM   Subscribe

A few weeks ago I bought some stuff at an Ann Taylor Factory outlet for the first time in my life. I did not give them my email address. I started receiving marketing emails from them nonetheless later that week, to my main gmail account.

Last week I started going to Earth Fare grocery store for the first time in my life. I did not give them my email address. I started receiving emails from them a couple of days later, to the account I use for spam/shopping.

For the Ann Taylor transaction I used a credit card. At Earth Fare I used a debit card. The accounts are not connected in any way. The spam/shopping email address isn't tied to either card account at all. I have never signed up for an online account or placed an online order with either of these companies.

What is going on here? How are they apparently tying my purchases to my email address, especially when it's not even the same one I use for banking? The only thing I can think of is that they're capturing my facebook account info - which is tied to both emails - via my phone, while I'm in the store. Is this what's happening? And how is it legal? I certainly did not opt in for marketing emails in either case.
posted by something something to Technology (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Does either location use Square as its POS system? Have you used Square before? Do you have a Square account? Have you ever chosen on a past, seemingly unrelated purchase to have your receipt emailed to you?
posted by phunniemee at 1:23 PM on May 2, 2016 [8 favorites]

If you've used those cards before at a place with a loyalty card (like the kind supermarkets and drug stores have) then a loyalty management company (e.g.) surely knows that that credit card and that debit card belong to you. Even if you did not give your email address to that loyalty card, all they need then is to match it to your email address from some other database (have you every given your email address to something associated with your name and address?). If said loyalty management company with your name and email address and linked credit cards has a contract with the new stores, too, then they'll happily sell that company the email address for their new customer (or more likely, do the emailing themselves).
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 1:29 PM on May 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

Did you give your email to any Ann Taylor or Earth Fare affiliates? If you're already subscribed to LOFT emails for example or a parent/subsidiary of Earth Fare, they're probably using the information they already have in their databases to contact you.

Another possibility: They might be subscribing to larger marketing database that correlates things like your address, phone number and email. So you may have given your email address to some other company, made a purchase online and they sold the info about you. Ann Taylor might not even need your address in this situation--they could make assumptions based on the ZIP code of the store and its proximity to the ZIP code in the marketing database they purchased. It wouldn't be hard to correlate from there and spam you unless you have a really common name.
posted by purple_bird at 1:32 PM on May 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

When they ask for your zip code, you can say "no". Maybe you should.
posted by amtho at 1:38 PM on May 2, 2016 [6 favorites]

So many vendors nowadays ask if you would like your receipt emailed to you. Once you say yes, well, there you go, they have your email address. The only thing you can do is "unsubscribe."
posted by zagyzebra at 1:39 PM on May 2, 2016

Banks and credit card companies sell your purchase histories to marketers. Maybe the card you used has one of those deals in place.
posted by gehenna_lion at 1:52 PM on May 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think gehenna_lion is onto it. My guess is they're doing some matching between credit card/name/zip to email and/or Facebook.

I know when I've worked at a non-profit there were companies we could work with who would "append" email addresses to our old school list of donor street addresses. Must be something like that.

I work in higher ed marketing now and we don't do fancy stuff like this, but I'm sure it's possible given the right resources. All of that data exists.
posted by jdl at 2:15 PM on May 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

About unsubscribing: This is junk mail, but it is junk mail from legitimate companies that want your business and want to stay this side of the law, albeit just barely. In the US, they are regulated by a law called the CAN-SPAM act, which allows them to implicitly opt you in to their mailing campaigns, but which requires them to provide an easy (as in "one click") way to unsubscribe. There should be a little disclaimer at the bottom of each email with an unsubscribe link. As long as these really are coming from the companies they say they are (and it sounds like they are, in this case), you are perfectly safe clicking this link, and they will honor it, though it may take a few days before the email stops.
posted by mr vino at 2:19 PM on May 2, 2016 [3 favorites]

Companies combine their data into giant aggregated marketing databases. Each one has a little piece of the puzzle and they put them together to form a comprehensive consumer profile with all your info.

Personally I like it because it means that most of the ads I see these days are for things I'd actually be interested in instead of random crap marketed to everyone.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:57 PM on May 2, 2016

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