Your Favorite Store Might Be Spying on You

Image via Stylecaster By Meghan Blalock, Stylecaster

Before you head to JCPenney, Victoria's Secret, and Nike to make your next "I'm going to buy this, leave the tags on, wear it once, then bring it right back" purchase, you might want to think twice: A new AP report reveals that these are among a group of brands who will now be tracking customers' purchases to prevent such activities.

In normal speak: if you buy a dress at JCPenney to wear to a wedding, for example, leave the tag on, wear it once, and then bring it back the next week for a refund, JCPenney sends the tracking of that particular item to another company, who saves it in your "profile.

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According to the report, these companies are monitoring customers' returns-with and without receipts-and they're also "outsourcing that information to a third-party company, which creates a 'return profile' to catalog and analyze the customer's returns at the store."

Sound sketchy? Others think so too, as several discussions have raised red flags about this practice, claiming the obvious: That it's a major breach of privacy.

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"There should be no secret databases. That's a basic rule of privacy practices," Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, said. "Consumers should know that information is being collected about them."

Advocates for the retailers insist the methods are not meant to invade privacy, but rather prevent the $264 billion annual loss due to merchandise returns, or almost 9% of total sales.

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