How Supermarket Purchases Violate Your Privacy and Increase the Cost of Insurance

It’s cold and wintery. Time to hunker down with plenty of comfort food and a toddy or two… and while we’re at the store, let’s pick up a bottle of aspirin, some stomach acid medicine, and maybe even plenty of dog food for the rottweiler….

A swipe of both your store’s loyalty card (gotta get those discounts!) and of course, your debit card to pay for your goods — and home you go to lay in for the weekend, read a good book, and max out on all that junk food and alcohol.

Come Monday, your purchases, aligned with your identity, will be sold to a health insurer, or life insurance company, perhaps an auto insurance group…. and they will have that information to review should you contact them to make an insurance purchase. This, according to the Harvard Review.

Who’s selling the information? Either the supermarket or other store where you used your card, or the company that administers the program for that card. It’s one of their income streams. They make money from you AND whoever they sell information to. For the 50 cents off on that gallon of milk or can of chicken soup, you give away your privacy.

How will it affect you? Well — suppose you purchase wine from the supermarket, then drink it at home that night. The next day you drive to work and someone broadsides your car. Later, in court, the defense brings up that fact that YOU purchased alcohol the day before the accident, so perhaps it was your fault?

Or maybe you want to purchase life insurance. The insurance company pulls up your records, finds out you have an affinity for doughnuts (even though you really bought them to take to work every Friday, how do they know you weren’t the one who ate all of them?), you’ve got a problem with acid reflux, plus the fact that you have a large dog (because you buy so much dog food so often) AND they notice that you never buy condoms (will they make a leap to STDs too?) — bottom line — they’d be glad to sell you life insurance, but the price will be higher than it might have been if they weren’t concerned by those unhealthy purchases you make….

What can a patient do to prevent this kind of big-brother approach to insurance?

Stop using that loyalty card –at supermarkets, or any other store that issues them. And use cash, too.

Gives new meaning to “follow the money” doesn’t it?

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Posted in: Health /Medical Consumerism, Health Insurance, Patient Empowerment, Patient Tools, Self Help

Leave a Comment (4) ↓


  1. Sheila January 3, 2008

    According to the Harvard Business Review, the source of the Fox News story, it’s a “fictional case study “. The supermarket doesn’t exist, The STORY doesn’t exist.
    [Additional comment has been removed. Readers are welcome to provide arguments, discourse and ideas germane to the topic, but name calling and objectionable content will not be allowed and will be removed.]

  2. Trisha Torrey January 3, 2008

    Oh Sheila — you are SO missing the point!

    Yes — the Harvard Business Review story starts with a fictional supermarket as an example because, God forbid, they should just choose ONE of the supermarkets (or any other company) that does this.

    I promise you — I guarantee you — that if you are using one of these loyalty cards — all the information about you is being captured, translated, saved — it’s called data mining and it’s big business. The only question is which supermarkets (and other, similar programs at other kinds of stores, and/or the companies they subcontract with to get the information) are selling the information, and to whom it’s being sold.

    If you think this isn’t happening, you are quite naive.


  3. Robert Neal January 3, 2008

    The spys know more about the American citizen than that of China, or Russia..
    This data mining is way out of line…thank you for writing this, I should have figured it out because of all the other insanity that is going on in this country…

    I never put my pin# in any place with my debit card…I always say charge. If your pin# is in their system and it is transmitted for approval, someone can sit out side the store and pick up the signal with a hand held reciever, then they get your name cc number, and pin#. Then they call their partners in crime up in Canada, Russia or some other place outside the states and clean out your cash with the pin#..this has been happening alot..

    I will not use my personal store cards anymore. I hate the idea of being spied on and then sold to the highest bidder to track me…

    what do you think of giveing a false name, and address, and phone number and get their card, and just use it instead, and still get the discounts? I know they don’t check it out, if the info is true or not…

  4. Connie January 3, 2008

    And let’s not forget about other types of cards where you can get money for your child’s college expenses, get points online to use for store gift cards, etc. I’m guilty of using those but I’m hoping to save some money for my daughter’s college years.

    This info is true. Any type of loyalty or points card maintains that data not only for the reasons you say but so companies know what brands you use.