You shuffle forward, eyeing the line beside you (which always seems to be moving faster)...
Then you load your groceries onto the belt – hopefully lots of vegetables, olive oil, and blueberries – and wait for the inevitable series of questions:
- How are you today?
- Do you have a reward card?
- Did you bring your own bags?
- Paper or plastic?
- Cash or credit?
From there, the questions get more annoying... and intrusive.
So before you answer, think about what the store might want the information for. And if you're asked a yes-or-no question, I recommend just saying no...
Say No to Zip Code Requests
Unless you enjoy junk mail clogging your mailbox, don't answer a cashier who asks for your zip code.
Sometimes retailers use zip codes just to figure out the best place to open new locations. But more often, companies use your zip code (when paired with information from your credit card) to market to you... meaning you'll likely receive more junk mail and telemarketer calls.
There are only a few times when giving a merchant your zip code won't result in more mail...
American Express may require you to enter your zip code for security reasons. And gas stations often require a zip code when paying at the pump to prevent fraud.
But in most cases, do what I do... Just say no. If they claim to need it, I give them a phony number.
Say No to Receipts
Do you really need a receipt for your $2 coffee? I only ask for a receipt when I absolutely need it...
For years, I've warned my readers about the dangers of a chemical called bisphenol A or "BPA." Receipts carry high levels of BPA. The problem is that BPA coats the paper used during the thermal-printing process.
And it's even worse if you also use hand sanitizer.
A study by the University of Missouri found that people who used hand sanitizer and then handled a paper receipt for just 45 seconds saw jumps in the level of BPA in their blood and urine samples. Hand sanitizer has chemicals that allow the alcohol to penetrate your skin... And those same chemicals also allow BPA to pass through easily. Those who didn't use sanitizer also had higher levels, but only about 1% of what the sanitizer users saw.
So do what I do – Don't ask for a receipt if you don't absolutely need it. Use your bank or credit-card statements to back up your purchases. If you're worried about having to return an item, some retailers will e-mail you a receipt. And if you do get a receipt, wash your hands with soap and water afterward.
Say No to Donations
I also say no when asked to donate a dollar (or two) at the checkout...
It's not that I don't think the cause is good. Or that I'll miss an extra $1 tacked on my grocery bill.
But I don't like "underwrit[ing] a store's generosity," as the Boston Globe put it... "which gets to burnish its image as a good corporate citizen on our dime." The paper reports that sometimes stores don't even kick in any of their own money.
Good statistics on exactly where all that money goes are hard to find. And there's not much accountability...
These donations at the checkout line aren't regularly reported, formally accounted for, or regulated. And the few rules that are on the books aren't often enforced. It's up to the retailer to make sure that the money gets to where it's supposed to go, and they often use a charity's name without the charity signing off on any sort of agreement.
And while most of the checkout-charity donations are less than $2 each, it adds up to real money... The social-cause consultancy Good Scout Group reports that nearly $400 million was raised by checkout campaigns in 2014
So make sure your money is going to a cause that you support, not one chosen for you at your local supermarket... Websites like Charity Navigator, CharityWatch, and GuideStar have hundreds of charities in their databases.
What We're Reading...
- Donations at the checkout: A total shakedown.
- Amazon is opening a grocery store with no checkout line.
- Something different: The cult of Wawa.
Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,
Dr. David Eifrig and the Retirement Millionaire Daily Research Team
February 8, 2017