Every little helps

This shouldn't come as any surprise to anyone with a so-called loyalty card:

Guardian: Tesco stocks up on inside knowledge of shoppers' lives

Tesco is quietly building a profile of you, along with every individual in the country—a map of personality, travel habits, shopping preferences and even how charitable and eco-friendly you are. A subsidiary of the supermarket chain has set up a database, called Crucible, that is collating detailed information on every household in the UK, whether they choose to shop at the retailer or not.

Of course, the British public won't kick up a fuss, because we're talking about our favourite passtime here: shopping. That's all. Nothing at all sinister. Just a bit of fun: 20p off baked beans for the loss of your privacy. Can't say fairer than that, can you?

But you do wonder how much fuss they would kick up if the government or (heaven forbid!) scientists started making use of this database. Assuming they aren't already, of course.

But what really pisses me off about loyalty cards (and yes, I do have one—the financial penalties of not having one make it a no-brainer) is that the loyalty is totally one-way. The information Tesco holds, or could hold, about me could be of great use to me as well. Two examples:

Customer preferences

About two years back, Tesco suddenly stopped giving their customers separate debit card receipts with their purchases. Instead, they started tagging them on to the end of their normal shopping receipts. This really pissed me off: I keep my card receipts in my wallet until I can check them off against my bank statement; now I am expected to fill up my wallet with long lists of stuff I have bought over the last month. (In fact, I don't fill up my wallet; I very pointedly remain at the checkout until I have  v e r y   s l o w l y  torn the debit card receipt from the bottom of the printout—using my loyalty card as a convenient straight-edge—filed it safely in my wallet, and screwed up the rest of the printout and thrown it into the bottom of the trolley.)

Every single week since the change, without fail, I have diligently filled in a Customer Comments form, asking for a separate debit card receipt (politely at first, increasingly less politely as time wore on, sometimes even resorting to rhyme: Oh wouldn't it be neat / To have a separate Switch receipt?). I even made it on to the Feedback board one week:

Q: Can I have a separate debit card receipt?
A: We have stopped giving separate debit card receipts to save paper.

Save paper, my gonads.

So here's a question: if Tesco can dedicate gigabites gigabytes [thanks, Keith] of storage space to keeping tabs on my every purchase, how come they can't dedicate a single binary digit to recording whether I want a separate debit card receipt or not?

Purchase history

Tesco knows exactly which products I have bought from them and when. So, how come, during the recent Sudan 1 cancer dye scare, Tesco couldn't give me a list of products that I had bought from them, that might still have been in my fridge, that might have been dangerous for me to eat?

Now that would have been loyalty in action.

Or would giving me a list have wasted too much paper?

Richard Carter

A fat, bearded chap with a Charles Darwin fixation.


  1. Hi Richard
    Do Tesco use a different base counting system for storage capacity than everybody else because they are mainly in the business of selling food? Or are you really that pissed?

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