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CA court nixes zip code collection at the register

Lucia Buccico waits to pay for her purchases at the checkout counter of a Wal-Mart store in North Miami, Fla.

TEXT OF STORY

Tess Vigeland: Here's one more commandment that I'd add to the mix: Thou shalt not ask me for my zip code when I'm paying for my merchandise! Why, oh why, cashier, do you need to know that?

Chris Moran: The most common reason they ask for it is for market research, for knowing where people who are shopping there are coming from.

Chris Moran is the senior editor at Consumerist.com.

Moran: Some of them are reselling that information, some of them aren't. And you know some of these places go so far as to ask you for your address or your phone number.

But here in California, they can't ask us that anymore. A woman sued Williams-Sonoma for pestering her with the zip code question. This week the California Supreme Court ruled in her favor, overturning two lower court rulings. Moran says this week's decision relied on protections already in place for California consumers.

Moran: In California, there was a law passed saying that retailers were not allowed to ask for private address information, and the California Supreme Court decided that a zip code -- since it's part of that address -- falls under that existing law.

Of course, the woman could've just said she didn't want to give that number out. And retailers can still ask for identification when you hand over your credit card. But they can't record that information.

For all of you who don't live in the Golden State, Moran offers this tip:

Moran: One of our editors has historically given the zip code for Wrigley Field in Chicago.

That number is 60613.

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