Add J. Crew to the list of companies sued over what they do with customer Zip codes

A woman who started getting J. Crew junk mail after she used her debit card to buy some stuff at its Copley Place store now wants at least $50 for herself - and the same for the teeming masses who also got hooked up with mailings after making purchases from the clothing chain. Plus at least double damages and lawyers' fees (and she is represented by four separate law firms).

Lauren Miller is the latest Massachusetts woman to sue a national chain for allegedly using the Zip code she was asked to produce to find her mailing address - a practice the state Supreme Judicial Court ruled in March violates the state's consumer-privacy law.

In her suit, filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in Boston, Miller alleges she started getting unwanted mailings from J. Crew after she bought unspecified items at the Copley Square store on Aug. 18, 2011 and on June 27, 2012 and was asked to provide her Zip code along with her Sovereign Bank debit card:

After Plaintiff provided her ZIP code as discussed above, J. Crew began sending Plaintiff unsolicited marketing and promotional materials, or junk mail. Prior to having provided her ZIP code to J. Crew, Plaintiff had not received any junk mail from J. Crew, nor had she requested or consented to the receipt of any such materials.

Plaintiff and Class members suffered damages, including the invasion of their privacy and the profit or other economic benefit that Defendant obtained from the misappropriation of Plaintiffs' and Class members' personal identification information (including ZIP codes).

The SJC ruling came in the case of woman who had filed a federal lawsuit against Michaels. Also now facing suits: Bed Bath & Beyond, Sur La Table and the Container Store.

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Comments

Reality Check

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Poor Lauren Miller! Now she gets...are you ready for this....JUNK MAIL! That must really interfere with her life in a tortious manner.

Hey Lauren: Guess what? You didn't have to give them your zip code. I never do because I don't think its anyone's business. Maybe you should have done the same, instead of clogging up our court system with your ridiculous lawsuit, taking up the time that FOUR LAWFIRMS could have spent on something meaningful. And why is there even a consumer protection law regarding this? Seems like overkill, designed to profit not the complainant but rather the law firms that feel compelled to bring these asinine suits.

You get the feeling that poor Lauren might not be the most fun person at a cocktail party?

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It's got nothing to do with junk mail

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The rules of baseball say three strikes and you're out. Not two, not four, and not, "gee, that strike shouldn't have counted because it didn't really make a difference in the overall outcome of the game."

Similarly, the rules under which companies do business lay out what the penalties are for breaking those rules. Getting junk mail not the problem; it is merely a piece of evidence that suggests somebody broke the rules.

So arguments about whether or not the junk mail poses an actual inconvenience for the plaintiff or whether she suffered any actual damage are completely beside the point.

I freaking hate cheaters -- in sports, in business, in the law, in taxes, etc. I think they should be shown absolutely no mercy, and I wish Lauren Miller the best in pursuing them.

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No crows around here

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Cause there's just too many strawnmen in that post.

Anyways, why should companies be able to collected personal information and data without compensating those it belongs to? Personally I think they should have to pay people to use it. We all should be getting a check in the mail for them using our lucrative and valuable data. It our data after all.

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Am I the only person who

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Am I the only person who asks, "Why do you need that information?" when the clerk aska, and then refuses to supply the information if I don't like the answer? Really, people, protecting your privacy in that instance is not that hard.

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Well that's great when you buy in person

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But what happens when you make an online purchase? I ended up buying from ll bean as a christmas present to my mother... who's into that crap. and now ll bean won't leave me the hell alone.

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GTC, you can check a box that

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GTC, you can check a box that says you don't want future emails from any company. Also, when I get on a catalog list I don't like, I simply call the company and asked to be removed. It's never been a problem. Companies don't like to waste money sending you things they know you'll immediately throw out (well, except for the credit-card companies.)

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Checking that box isn't doesn't always work.

Not only does it not always work, it's also a waste of time calling companies. Why make consumers have to check a box? Also, why then make them call to ask to stop being bothered? The purchase only needs to go as far as the purchase. That's it, final, end of story. If the consumer decides they want or need something else, then they can return.

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I politely refuse, without

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I politely refuse, without giving the clerk a hard time. I'm sure they don't like asking for it either.

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I'm not sure I agree with

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I'm not sure I agree with these suits. In what way is she asked her zip code? Is it for a credit card purchase? Do thy really think J Crew has someone scouring phone books?

I have said before, gas pumps ask for zip codes for security purposes ONLY.

Many of these mass mailings come from address lists that are legally sold by banks, credit card companies, etc...

I never knew I could sue someone becuase of junk mail, silly me just recycles it.

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More complex

What happens is that the store clerk tells the customer that they need the zip for "demographic" info. This is useful to the store as they can't pull the card holder's address from the card itself but what they can do is save the name of card holder and match that to the same name within a zip code using public data. Once they have a match they start sending the targeted junk mail.

This targeted sending of junk mail is what the suite is about, not the fliers which are addressed to "Resident" and are delivered to every house in a town irrespective of the occupent.

I don't know if I agree with the suite but it's more then just junk mail.

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If I was asked my zip code

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If I was asked my zip code for demographic info, couldn't I just say no and complete my purchase?

Anyone remember the Bradlees scandal a while back where they actually wrote the race of the person on the check...now that was despicable.

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Back in the old days when

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Back in the old days when people wrote checks, and you usually were asked for a license or credit card when paying by check, some Bradlee location cashiers actually wrote the persons race on the check. To what end, I'm not sure. It was in the news and it was very long ago so I forget the outcome.

I remember when paying by check at many retailers, they would write things on the front of the check, authorizations, maybe cashier initials so it wasn't uncommon for them to do that, but why race? It made no sense other than for very wrong reasons.

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I remember that. If you

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I remember that. If you wrote a check, they copied your license and your CC# onto it. My parents used to have their phone number printed on their checks, just to save that part of the process. Ah, checks...

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Scarrier still

In addition to their phone number (sans area code), my parents had their licence numbers printed on their checks for years until the bank put their foot down.

My father still doesn't understand why that would enable ID theft, since his license was still inside his wallet.

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You normally can, but...

I've been told by the cashier that it's needed to complete the sale, even if that is BS. (I don't blame the clerk, they are likely doing what they are told.) When someone pesters me I just give them five random numbers.

The issue is that the retailers should be coming out and saying they want the zip code to send junk mail instead of playing games with semantics aka "We just need it for demographic purposes".

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fyi, gas stations ask for zip

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fyi, gas stations ask for zip codes as an alternative to pin numbers. It's because skimming at gas stations are a major issue, and they're less likely to install micro cameras if there's no pin number to record.

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Its in addition to pins,

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Its in addition to pins, validates the person at the pump knows the billing address.

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Ok, I reread and see she was

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Ok, I reread and see she was asked her zip code for a debit card purchse. We used to do this for card holder protection, zip code verifies billing address on mag strip to rule out a stolen card.
It's for the customer protection. The zip code/mag strip info goes nowhere, it's done in a microsecond and washes.

I tend to think people are under the wrong impression about zip codes and debit cards.

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Well, I can speak for my

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Well, I can speak for my responsibilites to my job. The zip code was asked to verify mag stip information to prevent fraud which costs business millions annually.

With that protection now gone in MA, say your debit card is stolen. The prime place a theif will check the validity of the card (and make sure it's not been reported) is at a gas station pump. No human interface and a 6 second verification. Asking the billing zip code stopped them in their tracks - that's a fact.

We just had a guy with 14-15 "white cards" using our pumps to check validity of stolen mag strip information. Each transaction lasted about 14 seconds and since we can't verify billing zip code any longer, he was able to verify all his cards. Each card purchased 40 50 cents in gas and off he went.

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wrong result

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The suit is not about simply asking for a zip code for verification, it's what the retailer does with your information after that. I don't mind giving a company my zip code for their own internal purposes but I don't want them sending me mail unless I opt in.

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And again, I say that the

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And again, I say that the recent ruling in MA courts about zip codes stops certain businesses from preventing fraudulent purchases. It would've been nice if they were specific but they weren't.

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So?

If someone steals a person's entire wallet, license and all, they're not going to know this person's zip code? Suppose they steal said credit cards from someone's mailbox, the zip code isn't on the envelope containing the credit card?

Using a zip code as a security feature is a poor security design.

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No they are stealing mag

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No they are stealing mag strip information. You know those data scammers that break into ATM's and such.. they just want mag strip, they don't want cards. That's the bulk of data thefts very popular with people from eastern Europe.

Again, usually banks and financial institutions are looking for the larger id thefts.

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Overkill

I don't love junk mail, but is this really that big a problem? Rather than spend her time filing a suit, being deposed, etc., Lauren might try destressing her life :

1) Say "no, thank you." When someone asks for your zipcode, just politely decline. When I worked in retail lo these many years ago, we were taught that if someone said no, you just put in a dummy zip. The same applies if someone asks for an email address or a phone number. They aren't going to turn away your purchase for refusing to give your zip.

2) Put a recycle bin near her mailbox. It's maybe a 15 second process to pluck out any real mail and toss the rest. The nice thing about this is that if you do get a flyer from J. Crew or whoever that has a decent coupon, you can choose to hang onto that one and use it.

3) Give a fake zip. My ex used to give 99705 - the zip for the North Pole.

The only people benefiting from these ridiculous suits are lawyers, at the expense of our already clogged courts. Just learn to say no, people.

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Waste

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Sending catalogs/flyers that the consumer doesn't want wastes money, paper, fuel, postal carriers, and other resources.

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But...

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it does basically keep the US Postal Service running.

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So. . .

Options 1 or 3.

Even if this suit is won by the plaintiff, J. Crew will continue to send out catalogs and flyers and junk mail - they might even send out more because they won't have the target system to fall back on.

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You miss the point

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Consumer class action lawsuits like these are driven by the plaintiff's attorney. The named plaintiff is little more than a procedural necessity.

In the end, this will settle for a few million. Every J Crew shopper who gave their ZIP will get a $15 gift card. Named plaintiff will get a $5,000 bounty. And plaintiff's attorneys will get a third of the total. Helluva system.

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Um. . .

I guess you didn't read my last line. Even if the named plaintiff gets $5K, she loses a lot more in time and social capital (guess what'll be the first result when someone Googles her now). The only people who actually benefit are attorneys.

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You misunderstand the problem.

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The problem isn't that someone's getting junk mail they didn't want to get, it's that J. Crew. is breaking the rules.

Sure, too much junk mail is easily solved by putting a recycle bin next to where you sort the mail. But that doesn't solve the much more intractable problem problem of lying, cheating weasels ripping your flesh.

IMAGE(http://images.wikia.com/uncyclopedia/images/archive/5/5e/20091027224945!Weasels_ripped_my_flesh.jpg)

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How can they prove it was the zip code though?

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I have never bought anything at J Crew and I've gotten catalogs from them. I get lots of catalogs for places I've never shopped at (and in some cases, never heard of). I asked them to remove me from their list and that was the end of that.

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Here's how I get my fun: Give

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Here's how I get my fun: Give the ZIP 02467 (Chestnut Hill).

We live close enough to that ZIP's boundary that just maybe someday, some marketing-database type will see fit to place us on a mailing list of high-income folks.

Then maybe we'll get mail with some sweet offers for such objects of envy as a free subscription to The Robb Report, or whatever the rich Democrats in 02467 read these days.

Or maybe an offer for a few bucks off a Lexus...

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