Home Depot Won't Let You Buy Stuff Without Knowing What You Plan To Do With It

Reader Helen went to Home Depot to buy some various and sundry items, but left empty-handed after the self-checkout refused to let her complete her purchase without disclosing what she planned to do with her items. Helen says:

On Sunday, May 4, 2008 I went to the Home Depot on Joppa Rd, Baltimore County Maryland. My purchases includes several plants, pots, and tile sealer. I went to the self check-out line because of the speed and scanned my items. Before I could indicate I was paying by cash the machine wanted me to enter a zip code, I entered 11111 because it’s really none of their business. The next screen wanted me to key in if my items were for home or business use. I had no ability to bypass this screen even thought I did not want to answer this question.

I requested assistance from the employee assigned to the area because again I do not feel I need to report to Home Depot where I plan to use items I purchase. I was told my transaction would not be completed without providing the information requested. I left without my items.

What next? Is “big brother” going to screen my cholesterol levels before allowing me to by diary products at the grocery?

I have e-mailed my concern over this interaction to Home Depot and all I have in response is some statement about sending this on to someone else in their system. Clearly, most individuals who utilize the self-checkout want to get out quickly and do not stop to question the invasion of privacy issue. If this is an attempt by the Home Depot to collect information as a survey, I would hope they would have the sense to request an individual’s cooperation.

Thank you for the forum where I can at least vent to a group who seems to care.



Yuck. You already emailed the store, but if you’re really concerned about letting Home Depot know that this stupid survey cost them your business, feel free to launch an EECB (executive email carpet bomb). The CEO’s email address is Frank_Blake@homedepot.com. For more information about launching an EECB, click here.

What do you think about “surveys” like this one? Do they affect where you choose to shop?

(Photo: cmorran123 )


Edit Your Comment

  1. Topcat says:

    Err, this crazy needs to calm down. They ask whether it’s for home or business use so that if it’s business, they can add it to an account/project tab. They’re not tracking what you’re doing, just giving contractors the ability to use the self-checkout too.

  2. FreeMarketGravy says:

    So she was happy filling in a fake zip code but not providing a fake answer to the second question?

  3. Wormfather says:

    They’re only trying to fine tune the machine so that it can absorb you more efficiantly.

  4. Geekybiker says:

    All I have to say is lowe’s isn’t much further than HD for me.

  5. sp00nix says:

    EECBs seem to be the fix all solution… for now. Eventually businesses will be come callus to these and not work in any case.

  6. Wormfather says:

    @FreeMarketGravy: She would have been really pissed when the next question asked for her bra size.

    All and all, I completly understand how she feels. Even if you’re not concerned about privacy and you just hate the hassel and time wasted, the only way to get around it is through more time and the hassel of speaking to someone with power.

  7. apotheosis says:

    It’s a good thing you refused, HD could totally use that unreasonably complex home/business question to steal your identity and kidnap your dog. Those filthy Orwellian bastards.

    I like how the story headline makes it sound like they’re being detained and grilled by Homeland Security.

    When a store has a right to ask you a single question that might give them insight into how their operations would better tuned to serve the customer, then the terrorists have already won. :(

  8. esd2020 says:

    @FreeMarketGravy: I’m with you. I don’t quite get the issue. Push “home” and be done with it.

  9. Parting says:

    I usually screw around with companies in this type of ”surveys” by putting random information. I wonder how many people actually do the same.

    So when survey results come out ;)

  10. Gann says:

    It’s useless to resist. You will be assimilated.

  11. Gann says:

    @Victo: Instead of random info, we should start a trend of putting specifically wrong info to skew the results. They will start to wonder why so many texans are going to new york to buy their building supplies.

  12. MissTic says:

    I was expecting a verbal confrontation from a Home Depot door nazi. Instead, you give me some inane marketing tactic that’s been pre-programmed into the checkout register. Sigh.

  13. RandoX says:

    You must have more free time than I do.

  14. Parting says:

    @Gann: Sadly, we cannot enter zip codes from random countries. Nigeria would be particularly good +

  15. ratnerstar says:

    It’s people like this who give those of us with legitimate privacy and security concerns a bad name.

  16. donnie5 says:

    I have always used “90210” as my zip for things like that. Beverly Hills residence seems to be doing a lot of business in Ohio.

  17. IphtashuFitz says:

    The Home Depot self-checkouts currently don’t ask any questions like this. The Lowes near me does ask for your phone number but there’s also a big “Decline” button available that I always make use of. If/when I get stuck having to provide details like this without a “decline” option I’ll simply walk out like this lady did.

  18. RandoX says:

    @Gann: I always use 90210 for my zip in these situations.

  19. IphtashuFitz says:

    @Gann: If I am stuck having to provide information I usually provide the address and/or phone number of where I grew up in CT. Since I’m in Mass. now it wouldn’t make for a huge demographic change but I figure it’s enough to keep them off my back.

  20. tubedogg says:

    Yeah I don’t really see what the problem is. From the blurb on the front page I thought that Home Depot was questioning specifically what you planned to do with it, not if you are buying items for a business. GFS (Gordon Food Services), while they don’t have self-checkout, asks the same question. My assumption has always been they ask for one of a couple reasons – they might have to ring it up differently if it is a tax-exempt sale, or businesses may be able to sign up to pay later by invoice or something. I would think it’s a similar situation at Home Depot; they may also be able to print special invoices if you indicate it’s for a business, to aid you in charging clients.

    All-in-all this is a complete overreaction and while I don’t advocate blaming the consumer in most instances, I think in this case there is no reason to be upset.

  21. zentec says:

    For those who don’t understand Helen’s opposition to the question, you need to remember that corporate America likes to collect information, sell it, trade it under the guise that it is “theirs”. But when something goes horribly wrong, like your checking account is pilfered, then they brush their hands and lay blame on someone else for the problems it creates.

    It’s far fetched to assume that answering this question is going to result in identity theft. However, it’s not far fetched for Home Depot to figure out she’s buying plants and tile sealer and extrapolate that into meaning she’d be receptive to phone calls from Home Depot advertising their contractor services for landscaping and bathroom refinishing. And guess what, she has an existing business relationship since she just purchased something there, so the Do Not Call list does not apply.

    Helen is drawing a line in the sand saying, as anyone who has been direct marketed to death “I trusted you, you violated the trust so I refuse to tell you more about me”. And then she walked out. You have to respect her for sticking to her convictions and her willingness to drive across town and probably pay more.

  22. FreeMarketGravy says:

    @esd2020: Yeah, I can understand the hassle and not wanting to be bothered, but it just strikes me as odd that she was willing to enter a fake zip code, the machine took it which means it’s not verifying anything she’s entering, just collecting it, but the idea of lying (or telling the truth) about whether it was a home or business purchase was just too unreasonable and drastic.

    If it asked her to describe the project in a 500 word summary or provide the address where she was doing the work, *that* would be unreasonable.

  23. Jim says:

    Perhaps it’s feeding a training module, since any HD employee I manage to find and ask questions of, generally has no clue what I’m talking about.

    “You want what? Hm. Well, I have these completely unrelated items… Let me find my manager to help you.”

  24. Veeber says:

    It’s probably the same reason they ask you if it’s for business at Sam’s Club and the like. Business purchases for resale are tax exempt, as would be the purchases by the contractor for business purposes since they are suppose to charge sales tax on the final product.

  25. arsbadmojo says:

    I hate these and always give false information. My zip code puts me in Beverly Hills and my phone number is 867-5309.

    If asked the home or business question, I would have selected “business”; as in ‘none of yours’.

    But do these impact my shopping choices? Somewhat. Not to the extent that receipt checkers do, but I do avoid Radio Shack whenever possible because I can’t just go in and pay for something; it’s always a 3rd degree.

  26. latemodel says:

    The info is used for direct advertising. Grocery stores started doing this in the 1970s

  27. katylostherart says:

    @FreeMarketGravy: the best part about the fake zipcode is if you do that with a debit/credit card your purchase can be denied because the billing address doesn’t match up. i had that happen at a gas station when i accidently transposed the numbers in mine.

  28. apotheosis says:

    @arsbadmojo: Agreed, Radio Shack is pretty obnoxious about it.

  29. Skankingmike says:

    This is the stupidest thing I’ve read on here.

    Just put your info in, it’s used in demographics and advertising not selling your info to the government.

    and who cares what you buy? don’t be stupid. God

  30. DaChicken says:

    While the ZIP code is used to determine where customers live, the home use/business use is possibly for business accounts, but is almost certainly for *tax exempt* status. Sales tax doesn’t apply to materials purchased that are later to be resold and taxed. That would be double dipping sales tax, which is not legal.

    This is a non-story if that’s the case.

  31. unohoo says:

    It would make more sense for HD to offer an opt-in option. Customers could voluntarily agree to answer a few questions–or not.

    I used to shop at HD, but as I have to drive out of town to get products I can find locally and with better service, I’ve opted out of shopping there altogether. I probably save in gas the few dollars more the products cost at my local lumber yard or hardware store…plus my local lumber yard delivers.

  32. SacraBos says:

    @katylostherart: I had a gas pump that simply refused my card, even with the correct zip. That zip happens to be a “pobox only” zip, so doesn’t match to a geographical location (directly).

  33. Mike8813 says:

    It’s a shame that Home Depot sent out such a vague response to your email. The response that would have been more appropriate is as follows:

    “Get a life”


  34. deserthiker says:

    Paranoia. It’s a popular thing on Consumerist.

    Now if Home Depot knows you’re going to use your items at home in area code 11111 they’ll have to trace your imaginary home to your imaginary town to do some imaginary things to encroach upon your imaginary life.

    I wonder if Home Depot’s black helicopters are painted orange.

  35. Devidence says:

    Really? Who cares…

  36. Scuba Steve says:

    Why not just go to the regular checkout and finish the items there?

    I mean, there are better ways to waste a car trip.

  37. parabola101 says:

    ANY customer should be able to DECLINE answering ANY/ALL personal questions relating to a retail purchase. Forcing clients to provide phone #s, address, zip codes, reason for purchases is an invasion of privacy. WE should have the ability to OPT OUT.

  38. tekkierich says:

    You know they often use the zip code as an additional verification check on CC/Debit transactions. I am perfectly ok with that. Also, the collected zip code data can be sorted to see that many customers are coming across town to go to the store. Then they can justify build one near you in the future.

    Zip code information I am happy to provide to retailers. Much more I am not. I was at Office Depot buying 500 envelopes the other day and was asked if the purchase was for personal or business use. I responded, what does it matter? He didn’t respond and moved along with the transaction.

  39. MustyBuckets says:

    @zentec: So they will call everyone in the zip code she entered asking for her?

    Get real. It’s a two question survey, and it’s not designed to invade anyone’s privacy. Stores usually ask for a zip code to determine where their customer base is located, to see if they need to either open up a store in a closer zip code, or to see if people are going out of their way to avoid a local store. The Home/Business thing is just to, as mentioned before, allow contractors to keep better records.

  40. Snarkysnake says:

    Wonder if this woman has one of those store loyalty cards ?

    Wonder if she swipes that MoFo to get $.08 off a can of coffee ?

    We’re already down this road.

    Just sayin’

  41. fuchikoma says:

    I live in Canada so I’m far from an American legal expert, but…

    Isn’t asking something like that as a requirement of sale just a wee bit unambiguously, blatantly illegal?

  42. smirky says:

    Concerning the lady’s fake zip then calling it quits when question #2 came up; maybe (I’m only guessing based on what my reaction would be) she was simply annoyed with the first question but anwered it in hopes of being able to continue the check out process. When the second quesiton came up, she realized that this line of questioning could go on for a while. She didn’t know if the Home/Bus question was the last question and she called for help to simply get the transaction completed. When she received the ‘answer or else’ response, she chose the ‘or else’ option and left.

  43. Ah yes, the “just bend over and take it” commenters come skeeving out of the woodwork yet again.

    Look, companies have the right to ASK for information about me, but not to REQUIRE it as a condition of doing business with them. It’s that simple. They didn’t give her a way to opt-out of the question; therefore, they’re in the wrong. She is not in the wrong for daring to shop there, daring to enter a fake zipcode, or daring not to be okay with being required to answer a question they didn’t have the right to make her answer.

    I hold out faith that one day you guys will learn, or at least die off so the general population can get a little smarter.

  44. FreeMarketGravy says:

    @katylostherart: Which is another reason why I enter anything about me that’s public record and don’t get all the paranoia about OMG MY PERSONAL INFO.

    That’s not how identity theft happens. Could it? Sure. It could also happen with the bank teller who opens up your credit/debit card, any teller who does anything with your account, any cashier you have ever given a check to, any transaction processor who works for any company that you’ve ever bought anything from that wasn’t paid for with cash, etc. I’d be willing to bet (and I’d like to be proven wrong if I am) that the majority of identity theft is performed by people the victims have never met or interacted with once and who they never volunteered any info at all to.

    Becoming paranoid about your information just makes things harder for you, adds worry lines to your face, takes years off your life and embarrasses anyone you’re with when you throw a power-trip-induced temper tantrum. It doesn’t make you any safer.

    Be smart, not paranoid.

  45. startertan says:

    I was just at this Home Depot on Sunday. I was returning a remote control unit for a Hampton Bay fan. I hate HD and refuse to shop there. Lowes is a much cleaner and friendlier store in my experience but my parents got the fans from HD so I had to get the remote from them.

    This particular HD has been going downhill for years. My best friend used to be a manager there when we were in college. He was one of the few managers who busted his @ss to make sure the customer was happy. After he and some of his friends left the store started getting ghetto.

  46. smirky says:

    True, that’s why I key in my friend’s card number (same as telephone #). I get my savings and my friend can have the extra discount on gas.

  47. Kounji says:

    They’re trying to make their business better. They asked you your zip code not your home address. What they should do is add a decline to state button for people who really don’t want to use their information

  48. SkokieGuy says:

    Since the poster was planning to pay with cash, no info about her address or phone number could be obtained, so HD would be unable to market to her.

    Legitimate business reasons:
    As noted, to find out if it was a business account (and tax exemept). If the check out simply asked “is this a taxable purchase” maybe people not understanding sales tax laws would enter ‘no’ thinking they could save tax.

    Second reason:
    If lots of business accounts are using the self-check out, it would likely mean that the dedicated contractor check outs are understaffed (tip to HD – YES). So the info checked will help HD better staff their checkouts and properly allocate between regular and business account check outs.

    That being said, all these posts and NO ONE commenting on self-check out. I despise it. The only way I’m willing to self check out is if I am offered a discount in exchange for functioning as an unpaid employee. Currently, no stores I am aware of offer this. Since all stores want to promote self check out, wouldn’t offering a token (2%?) discount for self check out make sense? The food stores could do it an reap the marketing reward of doing something to help consumers impacted by rising food prices while lowering the store’s overhead by reducing check out staff.

  49. plustax says:

    @RandoX: I used to use 90210 when I lived in Chicago but now that I live one zip code over from 90210 it kind of defeats the purpose of my marketing anarchist ways. But I guess now that I’m out here in California I can say my address is 1060 West Addison, Chicago IL 60613.

    Go Cubs!!! It’s your year!

  50. Buran says:

    @donnie5: Why is that one apparently so popular?

  51. IphtashuFitz says:

    @DaChicken: @Chris Vee: Here in MA if I want to purchase anything tax exempt I have to provide documentation. Basically a state tax form with my tax ID. Simply basing it off of a question like “is this for business or personal use” won’t work. Places like Home Depot keep a copy of my state tax forms on file at the store as proof.

  52. ConsumerAdvocacy1010 says:

    @zentec and OP:

    Question: How is Home Depot going to call her? If she’s never given them that information, and she pops in a fake zip, they wouldn’t have her number.

    Now, if you use a credit/debit card, what info does that give to Home Depot? Sure, the card number, transactions number, and authorization number…but does it have your name/phone number/address linked to it as well?

    Anyone know the answer (there’s enough speculation)?

    Unless they get her name from the credit card and then cross that against a phone book, I don’t see how they are going to call.

    Though I agree….you should be able to decline answering that question.

    Though refusing to pay altogether…a bit much. I’d move to regular checkout and then pay with cash.No info, no nothing.

    But I respect the OP’s decisions….I’m saying that I’d act differently :)

  53. kabes says:

    I understand the principle of not wanting to answer it, but in this case…. just pick something random and move on. It’s flower pots for pete’s sake. Now if they started asking your income level, number of children, etc. I can see you having a serious problem… but this? I’m sorry I just don’t see it.

  54. Sugarless says:

    I don’t know, this seems minor to me.
    And that headline made me think an actual person stopped her from shopping. Shame Consumerist, shame.

  55. IphtashuFitz says:

    @SkokieGuy: As I mentioned in my previous post, here in MA you need to provide state documentation for tax exempt purposes. At Home Depot I had to show a state tax form at the customer service desk. After that I did go through the self-checkout once after the person working there said I could do a tax exempt purchase. She showed me how to enter my tax ID into it so that it would make the purchase tax exempt. But it only worked because I’d previously provided the necessary documentation to HD ahead of time. Their self-checkout system apparently woundl’t have accepted my tax ID if I hadn’t gone to the customer service desk first.

  56. whatdoyoucare says:

    They just do this so they know if they should send you an application for their commericial credit card or their regular credit card.

  57. WEGGLES90 says:

    Oh my god… big whoop. Hit personal use and get on with it. I’m all for privacy, but this is rediculous. How is it an invasion of privacy to say home or personal use, they aren’t asking for an essay. Give me a break, you tinfoil hat people are whipped.

  58. FreeMarketGravy says:

    @IphtashuFitz: Yes and if the computer determined you to qualify for tax exemption status, it would probably then ask you to provide your form to that supervisor who stands at the head of the self-checkout area, so basing it off a question like this will work.

  59. StevenJohn says:

    Time to grow up.

    There are legit reasons (as previously mentioned) for asking a question.

    Don’t wanna give the correct answer then don’t.

    Let’s save the histeria for something that is really important.

  60. GABrit says:

    What is going to really get you scared is when you realize that they also have the video tape stored of you shopping the aisle for the plant pots, the plants, and the tile caulk. They have already analyzed how many customers bought the same brand of caulk with a plant pot this week/month/year. They are also getting a better understanding of how people that buy that particular species of plant are shorter so they will now market the more expensive caulk on the lower shelves to appeal to you.

    The information that HD and other retailers have on you is scary! The zip and business/personal question is so they can understand the geography and client base of that particular store. Continue to enter the fake info and you aren’t sharing anything…trust me, they already saw you drinking the Starbuck’s Frappacino in the video of you shopping the caulk aisle!

  61. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    Now what if I was refinishing my deck and building a greenhouse for it, and bought plants, pots, FERTILIZER, NAILS, CHEMICALS, GROW LIGHTS and so forth? How fast would Home Depot fall all over themselves to finger me as a potential bomber or pot grower?

  62. FreeMarketGravy says:

    @WEGGLES90: You know, the biggest problem is that you often can’t tell who’s just a bit overconcerned with privacy and who’s had their life destroyed by paranoia until you’ve been arguing with them for a while and they start off with conspiracy theories about a gang of bloodthirsty henchmen robbing your house, assaulting your loved ones, ruining your credit, wrecking your car and making off in their black stealth helicopter all because you showed your driver’s license to a cashier at Target.

  63. geoffhazel says:

    Changing the subject sort of: who gets annoyed at having a receipt 2 feet long with “enter to win 10,000 dollars by calling this number” survey solicitation on the end of each and every receipt? I tear these off and leave them at the register, and I’m not the only one: I see other torn receipts next to mine some times. Everyone is all “green” and “save the earth” and yet they continue to print these d**m survey solicitations. I use my HD card, and you’d think you could “opt out” but noooo, not happening.

    Yeah, and on topic: lie about the zip, lie about the home/business. easy-peasy.

  64. enine says:

    Whats worse is when you set off the “inventory control system” every time you walk out the door and have the employees or other customers try to stop you. I don’t know if its my pdaphone or bluetooth headset or leatherman or whatever but I set it off every time. So nearly every time I get accused of being a criminal. I’ve learned to tune out the sound so well that in a clothing store the cashier forgot to remove their security tag and I set off the alarm and they caught up to me going into another store and we went back and removed the security tag.

  65. SkokieGuy says:

    @IphtashuFitz: We’re saying the same thing. When you’re going through self check out and you indicate your a business, the next screen prompts you for your account number. If you don’t have an account number, it would likely abort the sale and direct you to the contractor desk to open an account.

    So once again, lets all hold hands, gather around and blame the poster and in this case Consumerist for suggest an EECB for such a trivial issue. The power of an EECB is diminished each time its used for a trivial issue.

  66. IphtashuFitz says:

    @FreeMarketGravy: I suppose, but there have been times when I go through the regular HD checkout lines and tell the cashier that I’m tax exempt that I end up getting a glazed look in response. The end result is that the transaction takes about 5 minutes longer than it should (if I’m lucky). Having all the paperwork done in advance once at the customer service desk makes things a lot easier down the line. It’s actually made doing tax exempt purchases at HD a lot easier compared with other stores.

    I think I asked once before all this if I could do a tax exempt purchase through the self-checkout and the person there told me I’d have to go talk to the customer service people. I’d much rather have to key in a number into the self-checkout then rely on whatever part time employee is stuck monitoring the checkouts since half of them seem to have no idea what “tax exempt” means.

    I can only imagine what happens at places like HD when Massachusetts has one of their semi-regular “tax holidays” to try to kickstart the local economy… I usually avoid shopping during those times since I know it’s going to be a nightmare.

  67. VA_White says:

    The old CEO was all about increasing Home Depot’s contractor business. That’s why they bought Warehouse Supply, dumped the in-store experts, and beefed up the contractor desk. They are probably trying to see how much contractor business they’re doing now or the question is leftover from his reign.

  68. FreeMarketGravy says:

    @geoffhazel: Well, not “Everyone is all ‘green’ and ‘save the earth.'” The concept of environmental conservation is something that’s only recently become trendy and not everyone’s claimed their seat on the bandwagon.

    That said, I rarely keep receipts for anything but big purchases, but yes, it’s annoying to get half a roll of receipt paper when I only bought a pack of socks.

  69. BrentNewland says:

    I’m going to blame the consumer on this one. Office depot did this for two months and no one said a thing, although I think we might have just had to ask if it was personal or business. It’s some advertising thing I’m sure, they use the information to determine what home and business users buy so they can offer better sales to get people in the store.

  70. midwestkel says:

    This was a dumb post.

  71. FreeMarketGravy says:

    @IphtashuFitz: Oh, I understand and if your paperwork is on file with the store, then you’d have to go to customer service. The point I’m making is that I doubt the register asked if it was home or business use because the folks at Home Depot honestly care if Jane Doe is going to be potting plants at home or at work.

  72. duckfat says:

    There is justifiable concern. Then there is paranoia. Then there is borderline psychosis. I think this is the latter. It’s just a stupid question to let you shop the self-checkout as a homeowner and as a business. Reactions like this to innocuous “intrusions of privacy” are asinine and a waste of space on Consumerist.

    Please, can we get back to REAL problems?

  73. bohemian says:

    I have had Home Despot clerks ask if I wanted to put a business purchase order number on the sale when I have bought things that looked like they could be contractor type stuff. I told them no.

    It sounds like this is a poorly executed attempt at this via the automated registers. It should have a diversion where IF you are a contractor and would like to add a job code press here, otherwise continue (with a continue button).

    The flat demand to disclose your use is BS and a bad way to offer the contractor feature if that is their only purpose.
    If they are trying to collect customer data on “use” of the product for future marketing efforts they can’t demand that as part of a cash sale.

    I’m guessing state consumer affairs or dept. of commerce might have something to day about requiring this info.

  74. t325 says:

    @Buran: Beverly Hills 90210 was a very popular TV show in the 90s….you don’t remember?

    To the person who submitted this story: Get a fucking life.

  75. Topcat says:

    @Mary Marsala with Fries: They don’t require anything. Your zip code can be as made up as you want, and the home/business thing is moot. You select home, you get to buy what you want. You select business, they give you options to apply the purchase to an account or project number. It’s that simple. There’s no breach of personal information, no way they can sell you something or send something to your house. It’s not a breach of personal information.

    In this day and age, all I need is your last name and first initial to find out more about you than you’d care to be available. Let’s focus on the big privacy issues and not these petty, whiny little things with zero consequences for the consumer.

  76. Imaginary_Friend says:

    It doesn’t matter whether you agree with the customer’s decision to not provide that completely unnecessary information – it’s her frigging choice. She is there to make a purchase and get the hell out as quickly as possible (presumably that’s why she went through self-checkout). If Home Depot isn’t able to accommodate her and instead insists on bombarding her with unnecessary and time-wasting questions, she can and did choose to shop elsewhere.

    Home Depot is swirling the drain anyway. Can they really afford to piss off one of their last three customers?

  77. leastcmplicated says:

    I think all it does is if you press business it gives you a text field to type in a PO number… this is wheres-my-aluminum-foil-hat BS. Come on. And yea, you guys did make it sound like someone detained her or whatever. Next time make the headline “Home Depot Self Checkout Has the Audacity to Ask if Your Purchase is for Personal or Business” and I can skip over it. Thanks.

  78. FreeMarketGravy says:

    @Topcat: “In this day and age, all I need is your last name and first initial to find out more about you than you’d care to be available.”

    Amen. I wish more people would realize this before they get self-righteously indignant and act like making a cashier’s job harder than it has to be actually does anything to safeguard their info. The genie’s out the bottle, has been for decades now and no amount of huffing, puffing or foot-stamping is going to get it back in.

  79. u1itn0w2day says:

    I hate self checkouts,unless I get a discount I refuse to use them.I’ll wait til a live cashier opens up.The more people that use self checkout the more these companies will use them as the primary way to check out.

    Problem with the zip code thing is that these companies can piece together information.If you buy with a credit card it frequently puts your name on the transaction wether you gave it or not.Now they have your name,credit card # and zip code.On one hand yeah it might be paranoia or the other with all the fishing or mining for information you just gave these types some information on a silver platter.

  80. B says:

    I don’t mind putting in my zip code, cause if enough people put in my zip code, they might open up a store closer to where I live. Phone numbers, on the other hand, no way.

  81. akede2001 says:

    @RandoX: Which is why you’re on Consumerist replying to people’s posts?

  82. Sudonum says:

    I have a HD Commercial Account, with a resale number on file. I have used the self checkout many times and NEVER been asked these questions. It will ask me for a PO or job number, but it is optional. I simply ring up my stuff, select the HD Commercial Account as a form of payment, and run the card over the bar code reader. The clerk overseeing the self checkout lines then comes and checks my ID, as I agreed to under the guidelines of the HD Commercial Account terms.

    I receive the invoice later in the mail without any sales tax added. The register NEVER prompts me to answer any zip code or “business or personal” questions.

  83. Sherryness says:

    I’m not usually one to “blame the victim” but to make this big of a deal – I’m sorry, it’s a good thing this person does not have any REAL problems in life. She simply appears bored to me, not really upset. I also suspect the home/business questions had to do with whether you need to buy something with your eid so you don’t have to pay sales tax. The zip code thing – It’s stupid that some stores do that, but I don’t think I’d make a federal case out of it – I’d just answer 90210.

  84. mgy says:

    Do you have any coupons? Are you sure? Do you have a super saver card? Are you sure?

  85. Sherryness says:

    @u1itn0w2day: I absolutely ADORE self-checkouts. Their main appeal to me is that I don’t have to make small talk with someone just to pay for my groceries. Plus I’m usually a lot faster than they are. I think they rock.

  86. minvasive says:

    OK, so I have a Sam’s Club membership through my employer. If I go to buy materials for work, I have to tell them that it’s a business purchase because I work for a nonprofit, and they don’t add sales tax. I imagine Home Depot has similar policies.

  87. IphtashuFitz says:

    @u1itn0w2day: Not unless you give them a phone zipcode (or whatever they’re asking for). If declining to give them the information isn’t an option for whatever reason (like using self-checkout) I’ll just enter a random 5-digit number for a zipcode. I won’t even use the same one each time. They can try to make sense of it all they want but they’ll never get my real zipcode.

  88. FreeMarketGravy says:

    @Sudonum: When I worked for Target, we went through 5 register software changes and they were all rolled out in waves, hitting some markets before others. This could be a similar thing.

  89. @sp00nix: @zentec: That’s why I make up patently false information.

    My Shop Rite grocery savings card is registered under the name “Lord Horatio Fuzzlebottom” who resides at 123 Fake St.

  90. spanky says:

    Assuming they need to know whether it’s a business purchase for tax reasons, it’s bad design. It would be much easier and more effective to let the user choose to process the purchase as a business transaction at the outset, rather than in the after the transaction is started, mixed in with their marketing questions. And the ZIP code field should be optional.

    And to the bend over crowd: The fact that someone raises concerns about something does not mean that their entire life is centered around this issue. The world is full of injustices, large and small, and in a civilized society, principled people will often expend some of their own time and effort raising questions about and trying to change things for the better. Intrusive marketing and information gathering is a very legitimate cause for concern to many people. Even if it’s not a cause you have chosen for yourself, you should be thankful that there are other people who are raising questions and concerns about it.

    And while I feel as though even having to explain this is going to make me stupider: Yes, it is easier and less time consuming to comply with what someone is asking you to do rather than to question it or resist.

    To illustrate the mechanism for those who are still having a hard time understanding: Do you understand why Rosa Parks wouldn’t move to the back of the bus? It certainly would have been easier and less disruptive if she had. Didn’t she have anything better to do? What’s the big deal? Moving would have been a minor inconvenience at most.

    Go ahead and argue your case that the cause itself is illegitimate. That’s at least a valid issue for discussion, but if you’re basing your objection on expediency, it just makes you seem a little sociopathic or something.

    (Now is the time for someone with poor reading skills to accuse me of equating marketing with segregation. 1-2-3 GO!)

  91. surgesilk says:

    You always have the ‘right’ to decline or opt out by shopping elsewhere. And the store has the ‘right’ to ask for the info. Freedom doesn’t mean you get what you want, how you want it, when you want..freedom is messy that way.

  92. People need to calm down about this Big Brother shit, seriously. You lose nothing in terms of privacy so long as you’re not required to provide your actual information. Ability to give fake answers = no Big Brother. Sure, it’s annoying to have to answer these stupid surveys, but Home Depot and company aren’t going to be flying the black helicopters over your house any time soon. Relax.

    And Consumerist, please get off this hobby horse of businesses requiring ID for CC purchases, asking for receipts, or asking for (easily faked) personal information. It diminishes the credibility of the site, and wastes effort covering minor annoyances that could be better spent on exposing real issues.

  93. Sudonum says:

    Thatt’s possible, but I work across the country and not one of the hundreds of HD’s it’s been my misfortune to visit in the last 10 years have asked these questions.

  94. The Porkchop Express says:

    @zentec: did it ask for her contact info? If so, then you are right. If it wanted to know if it was home or business and what area of the state/city/coonty/parrish, they may be looking to where they couls add an HD or what items they could/should carry in other markets

  95. The Bambino says:

    One thing it seems that most people posting here have MUCH MUCH MUCH more than me:

    I don’t have time to piss around with all this crap. My time is $. My time is my personal freedom. My time is MY time. I refuse to spend it dicking around trying to “opt out” of every freaking annoying question that some store wants to ask me for whatever reason. I just don’t care. There are certainly occasions in which I will fight my battles to the death, but making 37 phone calls to get $1.27 refunded to my CC isn’t worth my time. Annoying and wrong? Hell yes. Worth my time? Hell no.
    In order to WIN these battles, you must LOSE your time.
    Mine is precious…maybe yours isn’t, I don’t know.

  96. Balisong says:

    Misleading headline! I thought there was going to be a story about some cashier thinking the purchaser was going to be growing illegal substances in these pots they’re buying, and refused to ring them up. And why an EECB? Should I EECB next time I stub my toe in a store too? Sheesh. Way to render such a thing useless.

  97. FreeMarketGravy says:

    @Sudonum: “Over the past 10 years”? What does that mean in regards to this? Maybe this update was just rolled out 6 months ago or less?

  98. smoothtom says:

    The relentless gathering of marketing information is obnoxious, but it’s not something to lose your mind over. Home Depot should put a “I prefer not to answer” option if their software is designed not to let the transaction proceed unless an answer is provided. Absent that option, just close your eyes, push one, and be done with it.

  99. hexychick says:

    That headline is really deceptive. She CHOSE to leave without answering, not them refusing to sell to her without information. The computer won’t budge till they get an answer so fake it since you faked the zipcode. What’s the issue? HD is a store that sells to both home and business and when they track their purchases, they see what is going where. It’s not exactly invasion of privacy, it’s just item tracking. Haven’t you ever noticed the contractor-only lines? Same concept except they’re making it available in the self-check for the same reason.

  100. Channing says:

    Break out the tin-foil hats!

    My friend’s mother once went to the Apple store to buy something and when they asked her “credit or debit?” when she handed them her card, she said “I don’t think I need to tell you!”. Needless to say, it was a very, very long transaction.

  101. Valhawk says:

    When I first read the headline I though Liability issue because if you hurt someone else they won’t just sue you but anyone else they can find to.

    When I read the story I was just annoyed. Just put in a fake answer and be on your way. Better yet intentional pick the wrong option and screw up their research results.

    An EECB over this is overreacting and every EECB lessens their overall power. We need to hold them in reserve for issues that really mater not this stupid crap.

  102. Valhawk says:

    @Channing: This is because Debit cards can be run through both ways. Sometimes banks have fees associated with one route or the other. Also, going Debit has you enter your pin instead of signing a receipt.

  103. A lot of times consumerist provides articles about real customer service issue. Sometimes consumerist provides articles that the equivilant of an old lady nagging the bag boy for packing too heavy….although the bags wern’t actually heavy.

    This could be a valid complaint if:

    -You didn’t have the option of making up answer(you had no problem w/ the zip code).

    -The self check out machine knows if you are lying.

    All in all this is a petty nagg. I don’t think this should be on consumerist. This is not like having to give your ID w/ a credit card purchase. This is not like having to show your reciept to the wal-mart greeter. This is a trivial nag, and if consumerist wants to keep consumers and companies watching to see real complaints, they shouldn’t post grandma’s naggs up on this piece.

  104. picardia says:

    It’s still stupid that they ask for this crap. A screen could’ve asked, “Do you need to ask this to an existing business contract?” A simple no, and no privacy is breached, no customers lost.

    I just find it creepy how many people on this board are happy to put up with being tagged like antelope on “Wild Kingdom” because, you know, it’s convenient for some ginormous corporation instead of asking the ginormous corporations to do their jobs, no more, no less. Can people get too upset about it? Yes. Is absolutely anybody who cheers on corporate data collection being a complete tool? Also yes.

  105. Imaginary_Friend says:

    @Sudonum: And that’s that.

    Anyone else planning on whining that the customer is being “overly-sensitive and paranoid”, please feel free to refer to Sudonum’s post above and spare us your “get over it” rants. Home Depot is just being too nosy, the customer chose to shop elsewhere. The end.

  106. karmaghost says:

    I was expecting one of the items on her list to be salt peter.

  107. dotyoureyes says:

    I have trouble getting my panties in a bundle over this.

    If you lie on the first question, you can lie on the second one.

    The best way to discourage companies from collecting data like this is to make the raw data so polluted that it’s useless. So lie, every time. If you’re buying something for home use, claim it’s business.

  108. Nicholas_schaulsohn says:

    The tittle of this posting is absolutely misleading and idiotic.

    That woman needs to calm done and consumerist needs to stop reaching for “news”.

  109. MercuryPDX says:

    @picardia: The home or business question was to determine Tax Exemption status. I live on the WA/OR border. OR has tax free shopping, and it’s very common for WA stores in my area to ask “Are you a Washington or Oregon resident?”. If you’re an Oregon resident with a valid drivers license, and shopping in WA, you don’t have to pay sales tax.

    It still amazes me when people get all rude and indignant with the checker, when all they were trying to do was:
    1. Their job.
    2. Save an Oregon resident from paying tax on a purchase when they don’t have to.

    I’ve even seen OR residents get angry when they have to produce a drivers license to prove tax exempt status. The store will NOT take your word for it, so if you choose to not prove your residency then STFU and pay the tax or go shop in your own state.

    Don’t go shopping with an “personal/political agenda” and don’t start an argument with the checker, demand a manager, and create a scene.

    The five people standing behind you in line laughing at your rant about how your “personal privacy” is threatened by a simple question asked only to save you sales tax ALSO would like to just buy their stuff and be on their way.

  110. Davan says:

    I love the people jumping all over the op, when all these things are doing is getting you in the mindset to think its ok to ask ever increasingly invasive questions. I tried to return a controller to gamestop and they wouldnt accept it without me giving out my phone number and address – and I paid in cash!!! Needless to say their district manager received over 30 phone calls from me in less than a month, before finally agreeing to accept the return without requiring all of my personal information.

  111. TheBigLewinski says:

    What a dildo-weeb this woman is… Go live in the woods, then you don’t have to buy anything at the store.

  112. Nighthawke says:

    Partly why they are shuttering so many of their stores. That and massive grass-roots movements giving them hell over driving the small stores into obscurity.

  113. John Whorfin says:

    Is it just me, or does anyone else always consider the “HD” intials, Hi-Def?

  114. Benny Gesserit says:

    @FreeMarketGravy: Exactly my thought. I lie through my teeth with asked these things (via computer or in person.) I love to see how big a whopper I can get away with – although a reaction can be fun too.

  115. Lambasted says:

    I don’t have a problem giving up non-intrusive info like a zip code or home or business use questions. But stores can go straight to retail purgatory if they dare ask me for my phone number. I’m talking to you Marshalls.

    When I decline to give it, sometimes clerks shoot me a look that that says, “Well the person in front of you gave me their number. What makes yours so special? You must think you are better than them or something.” Better? Maybe not. Smarter? Definitely.

    Once, as I was gathering my bags to leave, there was a lady behind me who made it a point to look at me and loudly say her phone number like it was some sort of snotty “in your face” gesture. I felt like saying to her, “I hope you are that proud when telemarketers start calling your house at dinnertime.”

  116. TheDude06 says:

    yeah… i tend to agree with the masses here. it was probably just wondering to present her with a visa/mc or home depot commercial account screen.

  117. MercuryPDX says:

    @Davan: Take a breath. To say this opens the door to more invasive questions is akin to saying receipt checking leads to full body cavity searches. Most stores have a “target time” they expect a transaction to be carried out in, so its counterproductive to start a 10 minute Q&A session when you go in to buy a pack of gum. If you are in a hurry and knew a store had a long checkout process, you wouldn’t go there.

    If you had asked, the reason why they wanted your info was to make sure you’re not some kind of “returns scam artist”, or to have an address to send your refund check to.

    Most stores will track how many returns come from a given customer to make sure they’re not abusing the system (eg. Retail renting). Would you prefer a more restrictive return policy that gives you “10 days for store credit only for broken merchandise” instead of “30 days for full cash back for any reason”?

  118. @donnie5: that’s what i do! it’s the first zip code that pops into my head most of the time…shows when i grew up.

    i’m glad that right off the bat, a lot of comments have been along the lines of ‘quit yer bitchin.’

  119. farker says:

    Based on the headline, I figured some sort of warning popped up when this crazy tried to buy 10,000 LBS of fertilizer…but alas, I was misled.

    Hasn’t this lady noticed that nearly EVERY gas station which lets you self-pay with a credit card asks for your ZIP code? It’s a fraud-prevention method. If someone found your wallet, I guess you’d be shit out of luck, but generally, it’s a decent attempt at preventing credit card fraud (especially with $3.50/gal gasoline)

    This lady needs to chill. Even if the ZIP code question is not about fraud protection and is instead to provide marketing information, it isn’t harmful.

    Knowing what ZIP code she’s from gives them a rough idea of what markets their store is serving.

    Her letting them know about whether it’s for business or personal use also lets them gauge what kind of market they need to focus on for advertising/incentive offers.

    Lady needs to take off her foil hat, and an EECB would be extremely unwarranted in this case.

  120. S-the-K says:

    OMG! Some of you people really got a stick up your butt sometimes? Whatever happened to LYING? I assume the OP pays for their gasoline with cash so they don’t have to enter their ZIP code at the pump.

    Asking for a zip code is probably so they know how far their customers will go to shop at the store. I like the idea of entering 90210. That would be an excellent choice. Or even 20500 (the White House’s zip code) would be good.

    Asking for personal or business is probably an IF…THEN statement in the program. If it is for business, it may ask if the purchase is tax exempt or something along those lines. If it is for personal use, then no need confusing people with asking them if it is tax exempt.

    I agree that this is *not* EECB-worthy. This is such a pittance of an issue to get worked up over that it would lessen the power of an EECB to use it in such frivolous ways.

    Now, if they had called the cops on you for lying about your zip code, then maybe an EECB would be justified.

    OMG! Take a chill pill!

  121. SkokieGuy says:

    @spanky: I agree with you and respect the HD customer to decline and walk out when there was no opt-out from selecting home or business.

    This issue is important enough to her to vote with her feet – hurrah.

    However I still maintain that this is not enough of an issue to warrant an Executive Carpet Bomb. We have people receiving repackaged damaged merchandise (or floor tile) then being refused a refund. People being double charged, cancelling contracts without refunds, I think more major issues are appropriate.

    While this woman has the right to her opinion, Consumerist recommending an EECB is serious, as each one sent for a trivial issue reduces its power and that potentially affects all of us who may someday be unable to use this tool as it will have lost its effectivenes.

  122. Mrs. Stephen Fry says:

    These seems like a really silly objection to a very innocuous question. Just use the opposite answer. Who cares?

  123. 00exmachina says:

    it’s probably been said all ready but,
    Zip code:
    -annoying but not a big issue mostly done to figure out how far people drive to each location and where to send store specific newspaper coupons/ads/ect.

    Buisness or personal:
    -non issue just use personal.

    Fun is buying a padlock 6 feet of galvanized chain and a hacksaw and not being able to use the self checkout, while people look at you trying to figure out if you forgot to get the quicklime.

  124. Rbastid says:

    Wow you talk about how this is big brother coming after you, maybe you should hit the shrink up and let them know. This is being paranoid beyond belief. You had to give information to log on to this site, do you think thats all kept secret?

    I no longer shop at Target too because they use a bold red logo, LIKE THE COMMIES.

  125. trk182 says:


    You do have an OPT out. It’s called go somewhere else.

  126. jeff303 says:

    @SkokieGuy: I like self checkout because it’s faster, plain and simple. At Jewel in my Chicago neighborhood it saves several minutes over waiting for a cashier (there is usually no line for self checkout plus I can scan my own items faster than the cashier).

  127. eelmonger says:

    @SkokieGuy: For the love of God no. Self Checkouts are currently meant for small transactions. If you start offering a discount people who don’t know how to use them will drag carts filled with stuff over and take an eternity. Self checkouts are great if you can follow instructions, but I notice far too many people having major issues with them.

  128. eelmonger says:

    Also, OP’s complaint is BS. Stores have valid reasons for needing that info, such as restricting resale and tax exempt transactions.

  129. linoth says:

    What’s the problem? You lied about your ZIP code to throw their metrics to hell, just put whatever you feel for the personal/business use and throw their survey metrics off even more. Instead of freaking out over something minor (a Consumerist trademark lately, it seems) just do something infinitely more satisfying. Make their data that much more error prone and useless.

  130. Jabberkaty says:

    There is no “I” in the Borg.

  131. B says:

    @farker: I’ve never seen that before. Must be more common where you are, but I don’t need to enter any info besides swiping the card when I self-pay at a gas station with a credit card.

  132. Buran says:

    @t325: I don’t watch much beyond scifi, a few dramas, and documentaries. TV is just not a big pull for me.

  133. dveight says:

    @Valhawk:I totally agree with you. People, ENOUGH WITH THE EECB! We need to be more selective when using this or it just going to be like the boy who cried wolf. As for the Helen, the OP, just pick on and get on with it, you had no problem press 1 five times, you couldn’t take just press the screen 1 more time?

  134. Karyuu says:

    Another ridiculous non-issue story posted by the Consumerist. Can you please stop being so alarmist about things most people don’t give a damn about, for good reasons?

  135. spanky says:


    *sniff* Thank you for reading my huge long comment.

    I agree with you that the carpetbomb probably isn’t the best response. I think with this type of thing, the ideal response would be more general and diffuse. What I’d really most like to see is consumers challenging intrusive marketing and information gathering wherever it arises. I’d like to see people questioning what retailers want their information for, and every now and again leaving their stuff on the counter and walking out.

    The practices are too pervasive for anyone to reasonably do it every time, but maybe if more people were willing to walk out when they have the time or when their intended purchase isn’t really essential, it’d start to have an effect on the practices in general.

  136. ogman says:

    Wow, Home Depot still hasn’t learned to avoid pissing off their customers yet. Haven’t they lost enough business? Amazing.

  137. edosan says:

    I’ve used the self check-out almost exclusively since they started having them at Home Depot and I’ve never seen this.

    If I had to guess, I think they’re on to you. RUN!

  138. milw123 says:

    What no one here realizes is that HD has fingerprint scanners built into the touchscreen at the checkout. Because of this, I always wear loose-fitting jogging pants and use an appendage that has no prints when I self check-out.

  139. PølάrβǽЯ says:

    @Gann: Hey, the Borg WAS destroyed, remember?

  140. FreeMarketGravy says:

    @dveight: Not only that, but then executives stop using e-mail addresses like John_Smith@Company.com and start using ones that are impossible to find and hard to transcribe like J203SMWBFKX@Company.com.

    I really wish instead of stories like this, Consumerist would post a guide on how to deal with policies you don’t agree with. I’ll even provide a framework:

    1. Leave the store. Employees, even managers, can’t (or in the case that they can, won’t) override company policy if you can’t provide a compelling reason besides “I don’t want to.”

    2. Decide is the issue is worth your time to get riled up over or if you should just go shop somewhere else.

    3. Contact someone who has leverage to change the policy or someone who can get in touch with someone who can change the policy. In this regard, no, store employees can NOT get in touch with upper management.

    4. Reassess your life and see if it really is so empty as to allow for temper tantrums over receipt checking, ID showing and survey answering where you’re not even required to answer the questions factually.

  141. christoj879 says:

    Helen, please stay home from now on. I, as well as everyone else who is tired of this “invasion of privacy” bullcrap will thank you.

  142. metaled says:

    If you are paying with a credit card, then Home Depot has a shit-load of private information by your just answering these 2 questions. Self checkout is to speed up your exit. Not to take a survey. Most companys ask if you want to take a survey, not force it down your throat as a condition of exiting. Next the guard at the door is going to check your reciept to see if answered the survey and not let you leave until you do!
    Almost 2 years now, I drive past 3 (THREE!) Home Depots to get to the closest Lowes. At least once a week.(I’m a cabinet maker.. need screws and such..) Their security guard would not let me leave with my purchase, even with my receipt. A $5 plastic toolbox I had left in the store, my receipt was for the $400 Ryobi tool set and the $5 tool box. No matter how much I tried to explain the incident. He wouldn’t hear a word I was saying, just kept repeating “you are not leaving if your receipt does not match your purchases”, in a threatening/challenging manner. I was tempted to get another tool set to satisfy him, but ended up getting the manager to order him to let me leave the store. I wrote (snail mail) to the store and to corporate, requesting an appology.. never heard from them again. That and the being molested by the hundreds of day laborers at all the Home Depots here in So. Calif.
    I will NEVER set foot in that place ever again!!!!!!!

  143. Hvnsent309 says:

    Ok, I work for Home Depot and I can tell you that we do NOT use the zip code and purchase type to sell your information or bomb you with mail. We use that information to tailor things like setting up delivery radiuses, etc… It helps us get an idea of what areas the majority of our customers are from, and if we get more pros or more homeowners. These surveys are not a permanent thing. They typically run for a 2 week max period, but when people put in fake zip codes it tells corprate that we didn’t collect enough data, so we have to run the survey even longer.

  144. abz_zeus says:

    Here is the UK we have VAT (Value added Tax) which is basically, if you add value you charge tax on what value you added (if you bought a plank for 1 carved it and sold it for 4 you chage VAT on 3)
    Business can reclaim the VAT they’ve already paid out but consumers can’t. [It’s a hell of a lot more complicated than this BUT that is the usual reason in UK you need a VAT receipt showing how much VAT you have paid]

  145. miguelggarcia says:

    This is ridiculous!!! What’s the deal for a EECB? I don’t understand the reason to make such a big deal out of this. So, you spent 40 minutes (assumption, I didn’t see you on the videocameras, swear) picking your items, get to the cashier and just leave them there, just to go and spend another 40 minutes picking the exact same products at another store? How much do you value your time?? Apparently not much. Give a fake answer and move on…

  146. edosan says:

    @metaled: So do you go to stores and leave stuff behind often?

  147. radio1 says:

    I can understand being upset at, say, giving your telephone number… And I really really understand wanting privacy.

    But she was paying by cash why not just give fake fake answers if your so concerned about if this is a business or personal transaction… Gee, zip codes and business/personal are just for demographics and possibly fraud protection…

    Sometimes a survey is a just a survey. You may as rail against all form of credit since your information is out there somewhere if you’re unlucky enough…

  148. Shutterman says:

    Alright, I’ve never been one to go against a reader’s complaint but this is stretching things a bit.

    When you buy any new electronics and register it, they ask you the same home or business use question. Do you not answer that either?

  149. beboptheflop says:

    I don’t know why but it always gets on my nerves when letter writers to The Consumerist invoke the Big Brother fear. Orwell was talking about government, not private industry. Most people on this board don’t seem to have a problem with giving the gov’t their personal info to get a driver’s ID, trash pick up, tax refunds, etc. But Home Depot asks for your zip code and a simple survey question and you go ballistic? That’s insane!! If you want to complain about something, complain about how you couldn’t get a refund even though you had your reciept. Or how the check out girl was really rude to you and made you cry. Petty complaints like this make you sound exactly like what you probably are, a petty, small minded whiner.

  150. diddy0071 says:


    And who said they had the right?

  151. MelL says:

    It’s all about getting people used to giving out information in dribs and drabs. While it may seem meaningless, it adds up and more is asked of you. After all, you answered those other questions, why not these slightly more intrusive ones?

  152. metaled says:

    @edosan: So do you go to stores and leave stuff behind often?

    This was the HUGE 8 piece Ryobi tool kit with the Miter Saw, Sawzall, Circularsaw, drill, Mini Router/Cutout tool..etc.. In a Huge Plastic Rollaway for taking on the Jobsite. The cashier took the little toolbox from underneath the cart, rang it up, then required us to remove the toolkit from the cart since the UPC was on the bottom. In the process, she set the toolbox on the floor so we would have room to put it on the couter for her to search for the UPC/Ring it up. After getting it back in the cart and back home, we realized we had not gotten the toolbox from her. Called at 9:30pm at night. The manager was already aware of the box and had gone looking for us, but we were gone. He put my name on it and put it at the entrance to the store for me to pick up the next day (they close at 10pm).
    I took my receipt first thing when they opened the next morning, it was waiting for me as he said it would be. Thanked the manager who had saved it for me (it was the same guy), took the toolbox and went out the exit.. The security guard was standing there checking reciepts… I started to explain that it was purchased the night before.. He wouldn’t even let me finish my sentence, he stuffed my receipt in his pocket and told me I could not leave with the toolbox if I did not have a receipt for it. I did, or I should say HE DID. He just kept repeating himself, pointing me back in the door like I was a little kid or a dog, just kept getting louder and louder. I almost had to run back into the store. Anyhow the manager was collecting carts at the end of the registers and when he saw me he came running to the door. Calling the guard by name several times and then telling him it was OK, that “I was OK”. I hadn’t said a word to him, he knew the problem when he saw me coming back in. I took my receipt from the guard, who just held it out and sort of scoffed at me. I had never been so flustered, upset and afraid. The guard looked like a 400 lbs (I’m 220lbs) Cholo/gang-banger in a rent a cop uniform. I think his appearance was intentional and he enjoyed intimidating me and having total control every single second. They gave him too much power.
    That’s another reason I was so upset at the store, the manager knew all about my situation and I hoped for an apology from the store and the guard.
    So hope that answers your question, I am not an idiot, things happen some times!

  153. howie_in_az says:

    @tekkierich: I was in a similar situation and really screwed up the cashier by saying they were for personal letters at a business.

  154. beboptheflop says:

    Businesses need to know who they are catering to. A homeowner is going to have different needs than a contractor. And vice-versa. It is so not unreasonable for HD to ask for this info. It’s their company, they want to know who their clientele are so they can provide the proper goods for them.

  155. thesabre says:

    In other news, McDonald’s is violating your privacy by asking whether your order is “for here or to go”. They SAY they do it so they know whether to give you a tray or bag… but their real reason is to know if you’re eating outside your house more than in and that can mean you are having family problems. Why aren’t you eating with your spouse?

    Damn McDonald’s…

  156. c0dek says:

    I, for one, welcome our new Home Improvement overlords.

  157. poornotignorant says:

    Since she walked out after the second question, did she or anyone of you know how many more questions and time she would have to go through before being able to check out? That’s what would have annoyed me. I’ll answer one screen of questions, but when the next screen comes up and it’s another question, I’d be mighty annoyed. Maybe some of you feel ‘important’ when anyone asks for your input and don’t mind wasting unknown amount of time ‘chatting’ with a computer.

  158. LibertyReign says:

    The point is you should be able to make a purchase without automatically submitting to the collection of your purchasing habits. It IS a violation of privacy regardless of how small YOU consider it to be. Most consumerists will not do business with a company that does not provide the option to OPT out of a survey.

    If you think any corporation is going out of its way to protect your rights by refusing to cooperate with government (including the IRS) you are as naive as your comments on this story make you out to be.

    It amazes me how willingly Americans submit to all types of fascism. Not only do you submit, but you defend it, downplay it and criticize those of us who resist it.

  159. bones says:

    I love the people who say things like “who cares what you buy” and the government isn’t collecting info on what you buy – guess it was too tough to read all the news reports on the “Office of Total Information Awareness” – a program designed specifically to track every financial, business, travel, etc transaction of every citizen.

  160. MelL says:

    @beboptheflop: Such surveys should be 100% optional. It shouldn’t be a requirement for a transaction, as was the case here. Personal information so I can buy things? No thanks.

  161. Televiper says:

    Is there any difference from being paranoid about answering “is this for home, or business use” any different from the paranoia that keeps a 2-year off a plane for having his name on the no fly list?

  162. nikalseyn says:

    Anyone who uses these self-checkout lanes is a damned fool, to begin with. Meijer now has a ton of them in their Michigan stores and I have actually left a couple of cart-loads of groceries in the aisles and walked out when they had no manned lanes with reasonable lines in them. I refuse to use their stupid self-checkout lanes! Shop at Lowes or better yet, Menards. And by all means, stay away from those self checkout lanes.

  163. valb says:

    Right. So to end the conspiracy theories for all you concerned citizens out there:
    I work as an accountant for a major nationwide retail/wholesale company. The REASON you are asked for your zip code at the check out is because your retailer has to pay sales taxes to all the states in which they operate, and some states where they do not have physical locations but still make sales. So, by providing your zip code, you are letting the retailer know where to send your sales tax so your local area can have things like, oh I don’t know, roads and schools and libraries. There really is no other reason, and it really isn’t all that interesting. Sorry to burst your bubbles.

  164. Televiper says:

    What I find oddest of all. The consumerist advocates using CREDIT CARDS for all transactions?!?!

  165. Televiper says:

    @FreeMarketGravy: The would be great, but here at the consumerist, that’s called blaming the costumer :)

  166. lihtox says:

    @FreeMarketGravy: Because the level of annoyance increases with each question, and she reached her limit. And who knows what else it would ask next…maybe it was a complete survey.

    It’s death by a thousand paper cuts: the spam, the telemarketers, the receipt checkers, this. And meanwhile people here say “A papercut? Big deal.”

  167. dotcomrade says:

    I requested assistance from the employee assigned to the area…I was told my transaction would not be completed without providing the information requested…”

    If the Home Depot employee were properly trained, she or he would have offered to bypass these questions for the customer by entering the stores zip code and answering “personal” on her behalf.

    I agree with Metaled that “Self checkout is to speed up your exit; not to take a survey…”

    FWIW, If you answered “personal” you would not have been able to enter a PO # or Job name for tracking nor could you have entered some off-color language as was reported in this recent Consumerist story on Home Depot receipts:


  168. dotcomrade says:

    BTW, if “Helen” refused to answer these two innocuous questions at a self-checkout when paying cash, what is she (and everyone else on this blog) planning to do when the 2010 Census takers come a-callin’?

    From the EPIC website (Electronic Privacy Information Center)


    The use of the Social Security Number on public documents remains one of the most controversial topics in privacy regulation.

    Recently, the Census Bureau has engaged in a study to see whether the public will object to the collection of Social Security numbers on census forms. The Census Bureau has created a program called SPAN, Social Security Number, Privacy Attitudes and Notification Experiment.

    The experiment would consist of asking 20,000 people to fill out their special census form, which would include their SSN.

    Meanwhile, the Census Bureau has begun to expand interagency sharing of Social Security numbers.

    In 1998, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration approved the Census Bureau’s request for the file of SSN applicants (also called the Numident File).

    The Administrative Records Steering Committee continues to assess whether or not a public outcry would follow the use of SSNs in the Census.

    Their studies have recognized that there are numerous considerations, particularly due to issues of controlling data.”

    And we’re concerned about a self-checkout at Home Depot?

  169. superchou says:

    i go to this HD location all the time, never been asked that stuff

  170. hatrack says:

    Good plan. That way when they start adapting their business model to reflect the bogus information people can come here and complain about it.

    When I read the title I thought someone had tried to by some restricted combination of chemicals and Homeland security had swooped in.

  171. krunk4ever says:

    Like many others, I agree that the editor that posted this article appears to have extremely over-exaggerated the scenario.

    I can understand not wanting to give up information, but given that you’re paying cash already, is there really any reason you’re afraid of just punching in random information like you did with the zip code? I doubt they have facial recognition software or thumbprint scanners for those who pay cash to associate this type of information…

  172. glycolized says:

    Nice alarmist headline. Why the hell do I even read this site anymore? There used to be good information here.

  173. LionelEHutz says:

    A little birdy told me that Homeland Security will be visiting this whiny latte sipping tree hugging tofu & sprout munching America hating commie pinko terrorist sympathizing Democrat bastard of a customer within the next 12 hours.

  174. BugMeNot2 says:

    wow thats up the street from me

  175. suzy-q says:

    @thesabre: HA!

    But really, I don’t exactly understand what the OP’s issue is. She had no problem making up a zip code, and could have just as easily picked (or made up) either “home” or “business,” whatever her intended purpose was. Hypocritical, no?

  176. ReticentEnigma says:

    I’m the same way.
    If I can’t pay and get out, I’ll shop elsewhere.
    I don’t need the third degree to buy a handful of items.

    I’ve left an entire cart full of stuff in the checkout line before and walked out because of this.

  177. SuperJdynamite says:

    Since the question wasn’t answered there’s no way to know what would have happened with the information.

    It just so happens that some grout sealers sold by Home Depot (specifically the Stand ‘n’ Seal brand) have been linked to respiratory illness. Maybe Home Depot wanted to issue a warning to people who would be occupationally exposed to the fumes?

  178. amightywind says:

    way too many comments to read through to see if this has already been asked: i could sliiiightly understand this if she were to use a card, but if she was going to pay with cash (as mentioned) there’s no way for them to track the sale to her, so where’s the danger in answering the question (fake answer or not) this particular time? “big brother”‘s got nothing on you. unless of course they go back to check the surveillance camera to see your face and then look through the DMV database to find you, because clearly that 11111 sent off alarms in the upper offices since obviously it should have been 212xx. and then, once they caught you, hopefully they’d send you to a nice comfortable psychiatrist’s office to have a little chat about those nagging little paranoid delusions.

    i’d love to be in the head of the HD employee when confronted with the problem. and leaving without your items is just impractical and wasteful. how much gas did you burn just driving over there? instead of leaving without the items, why not just go to a regular checkout line? or tell the employee to pick something for you? or better yet, just hit a button and pay your cash and realize it’s just going to be part of a stastistic, and that sometimes, maybe, just maybe, not every company has a personal vendetta against you.

  179. captainleah says:

    if you are not going to let me post please delete my account

  180. Dakine says:

    I bet they asked to see your receipt when you were leaving, even though you had no product.

  181. Dakine says:

    Hey, one day you’re in a hurry and push some random button to get out quick, the next day you got a mailbox full of snail spam from carpet installers and homeless drywall installers knocking at your door looking for work.

    Good job. Fuck them and their stupid questions. I’ll answer theirs when they start answering mine.

  182. Dakine says:

    at least the self check out doesn’t DEMAND to see your ID.

  183. Dakine says:

    @The Bambino:

    Your “time” means nothing.

    Our lives on this miserable planet are a spek on a gnats ass. Yours will be over before you know it. And probably no one will remember anything about you.

    So yes, bitch and complain…. LOUDLY…. while you still can.

  184. LUV2CattleCall says:


    I actually like that feature: It’s optional, but it sure as hell makes returns a ton easier if you can’t find your receipt!

  185. Dakine says:

    I wonder how well it would go over if, while checking out, I conducted my own survey of the cashier. Does she also make purchases for business or simply collect minimum wage? Does she live in my zip code? Does she dye her hair? May I see your ID please? How much time have you spent in training for this position?

    Yeah, I bet that’d go over like a shit covered brick.

  186. Mike_Hawk says:

    Do what i do….


    Any time a business asks for my phone number, zip code or address, and I feel they don’t need it, instead of arguing I just make shit up. Its far easier than arguing.

  187. Pink Puppet says:

    @eelmonger: Self-checkouts should be self-explanatory, but for the life of me I’ve never had a good experience with one. I’m not stupid and can follow directions, but self-checkouts hate me.

  188. bonzombiekitty says:

    @Valhawk: I think the point of the story was making fun of the customer, rather than criticizing the store for asking “debit or credit?”. In that, some people are so paranoid about privacy that they refuse to answer simple questions that are required (with good reason) to complete the transaction.

  189. bonzombiekitty says:

    @picardia: But you have to understand — a lot of people aren’t all that bright. While you may not find the question confusing, I can guarantee that there would be a lot of people that would find it confusing. You would be surprised at how easily confused they can get, so you have to make things as user friendly as possible.

    “Is this purchase for home or business?” is less likely to cause confusion.

  190. Coyote says:

    @donnie5: Ha! Same here, been using 90210 for about 15 years now so WV Radio Shacks and Circuit Cities have been seeing a spike in cross country purchases. But needing to fill in pointless information on a self checkout line seems well… pointless, its there to make checking out quick and efficient.

  191. vildechaia says:

    A bit off-topic, but can anyone please explain why Walgreens always asks for your zip code? Walgreens nationwide seems to have this practice.

  192. bobblack555 says:

    Just dick with them and claim that you’re using the doorknob, can of paint, and socket wrench you bought to build a thermonuclear device.

  193. LibertyReign says:


    Wow. Are you really this stupid, or are you paid to lie to people about their information being involuntarily collected? I have seen a lot of really stupid ignorant crap on this site, but this definately takes the cake. Go back to sleep kid, and remember the government loves you.

    Yeah.. anyone who believes that a retailer has to pay taxes in the state where the CUSTOMER lives is stupid enough to believe that corporations do not voluntarily violate your rights and share personal data.

    By the way even if your argument had any validity whatsoever it wouldn’t apply to the self-check-out in the middle of a store. You cant shop online at the cash register. It IS a physical location. J.H. Christopher, the crap people will come up with and/or believe to convince themselves they are free..*vomit*

  194. stuny says:

    Well if this was Wal-Mart, they would’ve body-checked the computer to the ground and forced it to eat it’s cute blue vest!

    My enjoyment at my NY HD was 20 people on line, ZERO human cashiers, and four self-checkouts but only ONE was working. Seriously, has anyone ever been to a store that has ZERO cashiers!?

  195. thesabre says:

    Probably to plan future expansion. If 10 out of every 15 customers is coming from a city that is 50 miles away, they may consider building a store there.

  196. RokMartian says:

    Every day I find myself reading less and less of Consumerist and it is because of these posts with misleading titles of stories of asshats who somehow feel victimized because a harmless question will jeopardize their livelihood.

    Consumerist, please spend an extra two minutes looking at these “news” items before you post – your credibility is truly waning.

  197. tristax says:

    “What next? Is “big brother” going to screen my cholesterol levels before allowing me to by diary products at the grocery?”

    Classic slippery slope line of thinking. It’s 100% irrational to think that punching in Home or Business will give way to the monitoring of your health records next time you buy dairy.

  198. wesrubix says:

    @Topcat: amen!

    Who said you had to answer HONESTLY? :)

  199. amightywind says:


    i’ve been in the opposite illogical situation. the supermarket near where i went to college has about 15 checkout lines, probably 5 or 6 of which were self checkout. if you ever went to the grocery store after about 10 or 11 (which, being near a college and in the middle of a town ended up being a lot of people), they shut down all self checkout lanes. but then they would have 1 or 2 cashier lanes open, which would lead to a huge line of people trying to check out. damn inconvenient. there was never a paucity of employees in the store, so i never understood why they couldn’t have the normal employee or two responsible for overseeing the self checkout. at least have one self checkout lane open for people who are there to buy a late night snack or a box of condoms or something.

  200. Get over yourself Helen. Just enter the damn information and be done with it. OR, here’s an idea, use the regular cashiers, then get over yourself.

  201. Sudonum says:

    Like I said, the update is theory is possible. But I’ve been shopping at at HD’s in various parts of the country for 10 years and the procedure has never changed.

  202. sean77 says:

    @donnie5: our website asks for zipcode when you register. We have a disproportionate number of people in 12345 and 90210.

  203. maztec says:


    12345 = Schnectady, New York.

    I have “lived” there for years! And have a “business” there also!

  204. Anonymous says:

    I always used to opt out of a bunch of these, but then I realized I’m using my debit card, credit card, or a store “discount” card anyway, so unless I’m paying cash I don’t make a big deal about it, I do, however, usually supply false information. I guess my thought is that I should make it more difficult for anyone to track the info.

  205. LibertyReign says:


    Paranoia – Greek, Highly aware

  206. LibertyReign says:


    I really don’t understand the difference between being accurately marketed to without your consent, or being inaccurately marketed to against your consent? Except of course that maybe that if you put in FAKE info it would make the experience even WORSE.

    Yeah wtf were you talking about again?

  207. This is pretty funny! Before I was old enough to understand the gravity of the situation, I had 2 similar experiences at Home Depots in Chicago.

    The first in 2003. I was a sophomore in High School and needed PVC pipe for school (I was on the props & set building crew in the Drama Club). I went alone to Home Depot to buy the piping and they gave me a really hard time about buying it. I told the cashier over and over that it was for a high school play prop (the cashier was probably a year or so older than me). A supervisor was called over, they asked for ID, which I didn’t have… I guess you had to be 18 to buy PVC Pipe. I now know that people build bombs with it…… which is no fun.

    The 2nd occurance was in 2004. I was 17 – in my senior year of highschool. Again I was shopping for the Drama Club – this time I needed spray paint. Home Depot wouldn’t sell it to me because I was under 18 (because the urge to destroy property ends at 18 as everyone knows).

    In retrospect, I completely understand these situations, but at the time I was infuriated. I’m 21 now, and realize that I must have seemed like a bomb-building, property-destroying delinquent.

  208. ginnylavender says:

    I ALWAYS lie on that sort of thing and also on those “register to access our newspaper” or similar sites, because I resent the whole idea.

  209. gomakemeasandwich says:

    In fairness to Home Depot, not too long ago this kid from my area bought materials for pipe bombs from a Home Depot and an employee noticed his odd purchases, so she wrote down his license plate and called the police. Sure enough, they searched his house and found pipe bombs.

  210. gomakemeasandwich says:


    12345, lol. Mine is usually 01234 or something like that.

  211. StevieQ says:

    They only want to use your zip for market research. Who care? Enter it (or the next town’s).

    And the title of this article is completely misleading, and more deptive than anything HD is doing. You put a provocative title on a post to generate more clicks and ad revenue. Then on the follow-up page, we see the ral story and that this person is just a paranoid crackpot.

    The hypocrisy on this site is breathtaking.

  212. The Bambino says:


    Perhaps my time means nothing to YOU. However, I think it might mean something to the dozens of children I try to positively influence on a daily basis. And they just might remember something about me too…ya know, considering they are orphans and all.
    Sorry your time is so meaningless to you.

  213. DomZ says:

    Why is this even a story? Do people seriously waste their breath worrying about this stuff? I chalk this up (as well as another post today) to “nothing else better to do but whine and complain” syndrome. Its an epidemic.

  214. DomZ says:

    @StevieQ: +1

  215. DomZ says:

    @RokMartian: Exactly – these posts aren’t pro-consumer. They’re pro-idiotic behavior that wastes the time of all parties involved. This person, the refuse ID people, and the “no you can’t look at my receipt” people should form a support group.

  216. Ixnayer says:

    I do heating and Air Conditioning installs and service and use the Depot’s self checkout frequently. The reason it asks for home or business is that if you select business, you have the option of putting in a invoice #. I use my companys Home Depot card and the purchases are easier to track when you put the job number as the invoice number. Next time just press “home” and it won’t ask you anymore questions. YOU ARE JUST NUTS!

  217. Zyada says:


    Actually, the reason why minors can’t buy spray paint is because some doofuses use spray paint to get high.

  218. Lucky225 says:


    I know, in California it’s the law you have to be 18 to buy spray paint, and it’s generally locked up behind glass. When I moved to Arkansas I needed to buy some at Wal*Mart, I was surprised to find it out in the open, and something you could purchase at self-checkout anonymously. Apparently not only does the urge to stop destroying property suddenly end when you turn 18, but it also ends when you cross state lines.

  219. mmejanvier says:



    you go into a giant faceless corporate store and then the MACHINE TAKING YOUR MONEY isn’t sensitive enough or whatever?

    wait, what?

  220. rbdfoxes says:

    @ratnerstar: judgmental much?

    There really should be a button that allows you to choose not to answer. That’s all. Seriously guys.

  221. virgilstar says:

    I’m with the 90210 / 867-5309 crowd here. just feed them some bogus numbers and get on with your life. This works for machines but is not effective in person (unless you want to raise a smile from the cashier). Babies-R-us is always asks for your ‘phone # at the checkout – a simple “no thank-you, I’d rather not” is all it takes. No reason to throw a hissy over it.

  222. Consumer007 says:

    Victory! I wrote them an email and got this response! Maybe the OP can write to Virginia

    Hello ;

    We are in receipt of your email in regard to the question(s) asked at the self checkout registers. Mr. Womack at The Home Depot, we take the privacy of customer information very seriously. We do not sell, trade or misuse customer information. From time to time, we may invite out customers to provide limited identifying information, such as a zip code, to help us better serve our customers.

    Once a year for one week in the fall, we ask customers if they would like to provide their zip code at the check out, which provides some indication of where customers travel from to visit our stores. During that week we also ask if customers are shopping for personal or business use to help us better understand what brings people to our stores. We recently learned this function was activated early on some checkout stations, and we have turned it off, since spring is a very busy time of in our stores.

    Your feedback on this topic will be taken into consideration as we look at ways to better serve our customers. The Home Depot is committee to providing our customers a fast and convenient checkout, and we will weigh that carefully with our desire to better serve out customers. Thank you for contacting us in regard to this issue.


    Virginia Johnson, Sr. Customer Care Representative
    The Executive Response Team
    Southern Division
    1-800-654-0688 ext 76567
    Fax 770-384-5038

  223. Anonymous says:

    The reason you were asked your age is because it’s SPRAY PAINT. You will be asked your age for this anywhere you go so GET OVER IT. And the reason you were asked if it’s for home or business and for your zip code is a survey that corporate decided to put out because they want to get an idea of thier customer base. They do that in order to better serve thier customers.

    You telling them that it is for business or personal use… how is that telling them what you intend to do with it? Just answer the question and call it a day.
    And the zip code question is to get an idea of where thier customers are coming from so that they know where they need to build more Home Depots, again in order to better serve thier customers.
    I know all this because I work at Home Depot. Thank you and have a GREAT day.