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Food Chain to Drop Its Discount Cards

May 27, 1999|From Reuters

PALO ALTO — Using a card may be easier than clipping coupons, but one California food chain has decided to go back to the old way of doing things amid concerns that its discount club cards intrude on customers' privacy.

The Nob Hill Foods chain, which operates 26 stores in the San Francisco Bay Area, says it will discontinue its Convenience Card program, in which customers who pay for their groceries with a store card receive discounts not offered to people who pay by cash, check or other credit cards.

A spokeswoman for Nob Hill said some of its customers "had perceived a privacy issue" with the Convenience Card, which enables the store to collect information about the items they buy and their shopping patterns.

She said the store also felt it should be offering the same promotions to all customers, regardless of how they pay for their food.

Nob Hill is one of many food chains around the country that have introduced discount club cards in recent years. The cards have been widely adopted by consumers, who regard the information in their grocery shopping as innocuous. But many experts say the cards represent another way technology can chip away at individual privacy.

Most chains say the information they collect is closely guarded and used only to track food preferences for direct marketing. Nob Hill says that although it was sensitive to consumer concerns, the information it collected was available to only three people in the company.

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