Scanner Collects Pay Dirt from Driver’s Licenses

Mar 22, 2002

Driver’s licenses are swiped through a black machine, whose red light validates the license and that its holder is over 21, reports the New York Times. The machine also lifts name, address, birth date and other personal details from a data strip on the back of the license. Height, eye color and sometimes Social Security number are also registered.

“You swipe the license, and all of a sudden someone’s whole life as we know
it pops up in front of you,” says Paul Barclay, owner of The Rack bar in Boston.
“It’s almost voyeuristic.” Barclay bought the machine for his business to keep
out underage drinkers who use fake IDs. But he soon found that he could build
a database of personal information, providing an intimate perspective on his
clientele that can be useful in marketing. Barclay purchased an Intelli-Check
system, which costs about $2,500 and can scan both bar codes and magnetic strips.

For any given night or hour, The Rack’s owner can break down his clientele by sex, age, ZIP code or other characteristics. If he wanted to, he could find out how many blondes over a certain height came in during a weekend. More practically, he can build mailing lists based on the data, and keep track of returning customers.

Polka Dot Dairy/ Tom Thumb, a convenience store chain that operates approximately 100 stores in Minnesota and Wisconsin, installed machines made by the Logix Company to comply with age minimums on the sale of tobacco.

The ability to build customer databases was an obvious selling point. The company’s controller, Terry Geibel says, “Any marketing tool that we have that makes us different than our competition is an advantage. We could do direct marketing to people who are smokers.”

Moderator Comment: Where do you come down on the consumer
information/privacy issue?

Typically, we’ve come down on the side in agreement with
the sentiments expressed by Scott McNealy of Sun Microsystems. To paraphrase,
“There is no privacy. Get over it.”

Providing personal information in return for better,
more customized service is accepted, by most consumers we believe, to be a benefit.
Tools such as scannable driver’s licenses have clear applications for retail
database marketing, security and legal compliance issues.

The privacy of consumers does need to be respected by
marketers. Most companies go to great lengths to see to this. Those that do
not should be penalized through loss of business and legal action if warranted.
Anderson – Moderator

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