This is page 2 of:
Home Depot Privacy Pratfall: Spotting Web Shoppers In-Store
Regardless of exactly how this is being done, the question is: Will this end up helping or hurting the chain? On the plus side for Home Depot, the do-it-yourself chain (or, for me, the send-contractors-to-this-place-when-you-are-too-incompetent-to-do-it-yourself chain) is one whose merchandise raises the fewest privacy fears.
On that scale, Walgreens (and other pharmacies) would at the top, right above grocery chains (including Walmart, Target and Costco). Near the bottom with Home Depot would be perhaps gas stations and dry cleaners. Neither Home Depot nor Exxon stations has a lot of embarrassing products.
Still, shopper privacy fears have never been especially logical or consistent. Home Depot’s choosing to use this tactic in such a way to force consumers to realize what is going on is the issue. If you’re going to push the privacy envelope, a little discretion is nice.
Two privacy issues are involved here. First, there’s the HomeDepot.com guest account. Small-print opt-ins notwithstanding, most shoppers use the guest account because they think it will keep their transactions from being tracked. The benefit of signing in is the convenience of not having to type in the shipping address and the payment-card data and to be able to review earlier purchases. Shoppers who opt for guest checkout are giving all that up in exchange for what they believe will be an untracked online shopping effort.
Clearly, every online transaction is captured and tracked. And a transaction that ends with the shopper typing in full name, home address, possibly phone number and certainly payment data, well, it’s hard to think of that as being anonymous in any way. To then take that payment data and use it to match—and then contact—that customer when he or she shows up in-store, now that is going to set off privacy alarm bells. The fact that shoppers might have left checked a box that includes opt-in wording doesn’t change their perception that they are being tracked, and it feels eerie. (Eerie is nicer than creepy, but both could apply.)