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October 21, 2013

Target Finds Sneaky Way to Make Robocalls

Filed under: Electronics,Retail,Telephone — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:58 am

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Edgar Dworsky For 25 years, Consumer World, the creator of Mouse Print*, has served readers with the latest consumer news, money-saving tips, and independent investigations. It is your generosity (and not advertising nor corporate contributions) that keeps Mouse Print* and Consumer World available as free consumer resources. So MrConsumer turns to you and humbly asks for your support again this year. Your gift will be most appreciated.

Target’s red debit card provides a host of benefits that few department stores offer: free shipping with no minimum from their .com store, an additional 5% discount off most purchases, and a 30-day extension to their regular return policy.

When MrConsumer recently applied for a Target debit card, he was taken aback by the company’s tricky maneuver to allow it to make robocalls to its cardholders’ cellphones.

When one applies for the card in-store, you fill out the simplified application that appears on the little signature screen of the credit card terminal at the customer service desk. In addition to entering your social security number on one screen, and your date of birth on another, two screens also come up requesting your home phone and cellphone numbers.



On the left of the two phone number screens is a disclosure granting Target permission to make robocalls to your cellphone. MrConsumer only provided a home phone (a landline) and left the cellphone screen blank. The application did go through.

Why did Target tuck that disclosure into the on-screen process, while leaving all other disclosures to a fine print booklet? The reason is that the FCC requires companies to get the consumer’s explicit written permission before any robocalls or texts can be made to a wireless telephone.

Most consumers probably won’t catch the disclosure, and won’t they be surprised when Target targets texts to them.

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  1. I am curious as to what your ideal solution would be to comply with the TCPA regulations since it seems like, to me at least, this is a good sized, prominently displayed notice…

    Edgar replies: The consumer is standing at a courtesy desk filling out a form on a small screen, and thus is focused on that task, not on reading verbiage that surrounds what looks like an obvious fill-in-the-blanks form where no instructions are necessary. Target, and other companies also have to realize that consumers don’t like automated messages. So it is not a matter of how to get permission properly, but rather recognizing that they should seek other means of communication with their customers.

    Comment by Justin S. Johnson (JJJJust) — October 21, 2013 @ 6:10 am
  2. I don’t think this was sneaky, I thought this was how it should be, telling you this right next to where you fill in your number.

    But I think they should let you opt-out. Very odd they wouldn’t process without a cell number though.

    Comment by Tina — October 21, 2013 @ 9:16 am
  3. If a phone number is required to complete the form, I would try the old TV/movie trick and give them a 555-whatever #. And why in the world would they need your SSN?

    Comment by JeopardyGeorge — October 21, 2013 @ 10:08 am
  4. @JeopardyGeorge They use the SSN for your credit check.

    Comment by me — October 21, 2013 @ 10:35 am
  5. Like JeopardyGeorge I am also curious as to why Target would need my Social Security #. I would have stopped completing the application right then. I thought we were supposed to be moving away from giving our SS# to every Tom, Dick or Target that asked for it.

    Also, is a phone# required to complete the application or are they asking for it on the assumption that most people will mindlessly provide the info? Will the application go through if you just leave it blank?

    Comment by jim — October 21, 2013 @ 10:44 am
  6. Just put in the telephone number to the local FBI office.

    Comment by Jack — October 21, 2013 @ 1:34 pm
  7. Jack has it right…. Will it work though??

    Comment by Richard Ginn — October 21, 2013 @ 2:48 pm
  8. I am more surprised by the fact that companies still think robocalls work. Are people still buying things from those? Seems like a waste of company resources.

    Comment by Wayne R — October 21, 2013 @ 5:14 pm
  9. Jack has it almost right. Put the phone number to the Chairman of the FTC or FCC. That might get some enforcement. The FBI won’t care.

    Comment by Wally — October 21, 2013 @ 6:22 pm
  10. @me: Edgar describes this as a “debit” card, which traditionally uses your own deposited money. There should be no need for a credit check or a ss number Unless of course, it’s not really a debit card. The whole thing sounds fishy to me.

    Edgar replies: This card really is a debit card (they also have credit cards). The card taps into my existing checking account just as if it was a debit card issued by my bank.

    Comment by Bob — October 22, 2013 @ 6:49 am
  11. Don’t put in the number to the local FBI office, put in the number for the Target CEO.

    Comment by Derlin — October 23, 2013 @ 4:32 pm
  12. Just today I started to fill out a survey for a ‘free’ $25 Khols gift card. I was instructed to place a check in the “Agree to Terms” box. Reading the terms I realized I would be giving permission to over a half dozen companies to robo-call my cell phone, not to mention giving them my mailing and email addresses. Needless to say I did not check the box.

    Comment by Michael Sidorak — October 28, 2013 @ 3:36 pm
  13. I have never wasted my time with these stupid stores and their gimmicks that “save you money”.
    I do not have a smart phone so they can’t track me if I ever got to a mall. I avoid the nix box stores with a passion.

    I have 1 credit card from a major credit card company. I get my points and can easily keep track of my spending.
    If I buy so etching I pay it off as soon as it hits my credit card. If a store asks for my number I give the the number of the time 860-524-8123 in ct.

    Or if they ask for a cell number I tell them I don’t have one.

    Sadly most people are so stupid they have no idea what they are signing. I watch people at the register talk on the cell phone and completely ignore the cashier. For all they know you could put anything in front of their face and they will sign it.

    Remember the store does not care 1 iota about the customer. They care about how to separate the customer from their money and will lie, cheat and mislead you to do it.

    So “LET THE BUYER BEWARE”. If you are not vigilant you can’t blame the store..only yourself.

    Comment by Tom bucior — November 2, 2013 @ 9:09 pm
  14. When it comes to giving out a phone number or zip code, I make one up on the spot. When I had to register for a new supermarket discount card, none of the information I gave was real – fake name, age, phone number and address (the address, if it existed, would have been in the middle of a river). Of course those discount cards aren’t used to cash checks or tap into a bank account, so in the case of the Target card, I’d have to weigh the benefits over the loss of privacy. I’ve shopped at Target maybe twice in the last five years, so the benefits are minimal for me. If a simple discount card application asked for my SS or a state ID for verification, I’d decline the card altogether.

    Comment by Nunuv Yerbiznezz — November 4, 2013 @ 10:38 am
  15. Edgar,

    I’m so disappointed in you. You run a consumer advisory web site and you are advocating the use of a debit card?

    Edgar replies: Marc, the post is not promoting the use of debit cards, but is pointing out a sneaky practice when I signed up for Target’s card. Now, this card happens to have wonderful benefits for people that want free shipping and five percent back. Of course you have to smartly choose and use any plastic in you wallet, debit or credit, knowing the pros and cons of each.

    Comment by Marc K — November 4, 2013 @ 9:26 pm
  16. That’s interesting – I recently applied for a Red Card but I’m sure I didn’t see that screen. If I had, I would have put in a fictitious phone number for sure.

    Comment by Renée — November 6, 2013 @ 9:56 am

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