King County using customer grocery store data to target pet owners, send licensing notices


KOMO (Seattle):

King County using customer grocery store data to target pet owners, send licensing notices

SEATTLE - A King County letter that ended up in the mailboxes of thousands of pet owners is raising concerns over privacy.The letter told pet owners to license their pets or face a $250 fine.
“It feels weird to me, it feels like they’re kind of snooping around in a place where they shouldn’t be,” said dog owner Chris Lee.
Turns out for the last four years, King County has been using data companies to target specific taxpayers, or in this case pet owners. That means every time customers swipe those rewards cards, they’re gathering data.
“This is kind of standard marketing practice or procedure that people use,” said Cameron Satterfield, from King County Animal Services.
The letter ended up in nearly 40,000 mailboxes.

“This is not King County going and grabbing this data, you know, big brother watching what you buy at the grocery store,” said Satterfield.

Instead, the county said they pay the company who pays stores such as Safeway and QFC for access to customer data contained in every one of those reward card swipes.
“This is a cost effective and we feel, less intrusive way of reminding people of the requirement and benefits of pet licensing,” said Satterfield.
The county admits more transparency is needed, but says the mailers work. Just last year they brought in more than $100,000 in new pet licenses.
That’s success even dog owners agree on.
“You just get kind of numb to your privacy being invaded on a daily basis,” said dog owner Margaret Bouniol. “I just don’t get that concerned. Now if they were looking at my bank records and all sorts of more personal stuff than my dog, then maybe I might be.”
The county said a disclaimer will be added to their next letter.


Yikes! Doesn’t suprise me in Seattle though. I feel bad for the person who was maybe buying dog food for a disabled neighbor as a favor or something!

Only a matter of time before they start manditory sterilization of people who keep buying pregnancy tests.


Funny you should mention that. I saw an article a couple years ago about how companies target ads and coupons. One customer got mad when Target started sending baby related coupons – turned out his teenage daughter was pregnant.

If you want privacy, pay cash and never use coupons or loyalty cards.


It’s much more sanitary than sending out agents to snoop through peoples trash cans. :shrug:


I always use loyalty cards, but I’ve never once filled out the accompanying form. The card works either way.

People should just ask the cashier for a new card the next time they’re grocery shopping, and throw the registration form into the garbage.


Paying with cash is the best way to protect privacy (and save money.)


Ridiculous that they require cats to be licensed. Particularly indoor cats. And their reasoning is specious at best seeing as almost all animals are micro-chipped these days. Smells of pure unadulterated cash grab.


They can do this because people use loyalty or discount store cards. When you buy your medical prescriptions and use the loyalty card your prescriptions are entered into a database that any one can read for a fee to see what you are buying. I don’t use any loyalty cards for any reason.


If you don’t pay in cash then it doesn’t matter that you didn’t fill out the form. They can get your info from cards and checks. You can bet they track what card number x buys with thier loyalty cards.


There is no question it is a cash grab, or tax, on owning pets. However, we tax cars and gasoline to offset road costs. I do not see a problem in principle with a tax on pets to offset animal control. I suspect some of the criticism of this program is criticism of pet tax.


I honestly doubt that most animals are microchipped these days. I know my cat isn’t. I know plenty of other people who also don’t have their animals microchipped.


Maybe it’s a regional thing. I’ve never known an animal that wasn’t here in California.


Difference being everyone who owns a car or fills it with gas is using the roads. Animal control is not utilized by most pet owners.


But most pet owners benefit from having fewer strays around.


Yeah, you’re right about the police/state being easily capable of correlating debit cards and credit cards with loyalty cards. That’s true.

I just use those idiotic cards for their coupon value. The depressing truth is, at this point it’s an ingrained and totally automatic habit for me.

Next time I go to QFC I’m getting yet another new rewards card, because while I usually pay with cash, I don’t always.

Yet one more item to add to the always growing list of annoyances I have with the modern world. :rolleyes::mad:


No more or less than the rest of the general public. Yet pet owners are being asked to shoulder a disproportionate burden in this instance.


They benefit more because their pets are less likely to contract diseases, and licensed pets are much more likely to be returned to their owners and less likely to be euthanized.


Except none of that is relevant if they have an indoor animal.


Sometimes indoor animals get outdoors.


I would disagree. If it passes through a shelter then they chip it. If it’s a pure bred then the breeder will likely chip it.

The problem with chipping is many choose not to keep paying the recurring charge.

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