Using COVID for a marketing gimmick?

Jackie Wilson Asheeke

I went to Woolworths and Donna Claire in Maerua Mall the other day and was shocked to be harassed at the door by security guards demanding that I ‘sign-in’ before entering the store. What sort of nonsense is that?

Why is my name, date of birth, ID number and telephone number needed to enter a store? What has that information to do with blocking the spread of COVID-19? I must receive the numbered tag that ensures the store is not overcrowded, but why is my birthdate a prerequisite for getting that number?

And it is selective. I entered other stores in the mall where no such harassment for personal information is required. Checker’s, Click’s, Body Shop and Akermans did not require any kind of sign-in harassment. They all had the normal hand sanitizing. If this personal identification information is a new rule in Stage 3, why isn’t every store asking for it? Or is this a South African requirement passed on to all stores in that chain regardless of local requirements?

If there is some new scientific demand by the UN World Health Organization or the Namibian Ministry of Health that all citizen’s dates of birth on a form helps stop the spread of the pandemic, then I missed that one.

Shame on any store demanding personal details from potential clients without an explanation. We are not mindless lemmings; we are thinking clients with the money you need to keep your store’s doors open.

When I declined writing my birth date on the form at Woolworth’s the G4S guard said he would “throw me out.” Being a sista’ from the ‘hood used to standing up for my rights against armed police, gangs/thugs, and all authority, I dared him to do it. He backed off. Good for him because it was about to go down.

We all want to do the right thing and be safe and keep others safe. We want to follow the rules in a state of emergency. We don’t mind temperature readers wielded by people with no training, so-called ‘hand sanitizers’ that are floor cleaners diluted wrongly, limited admission to stores to ensure social spacing, and cloths to wipe off baskets or anything else we touch. No problem – that is the new normal.

But to use the new normal to get marketing information on the cheap is despicable. I would want to hear from these stores explaining to the public WHY citizens’ personal information must be on a publicly displayed sign-in sheet and what that has to do with COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

I’d like to see the NAMIBIAN Ministry of Health media release calling for this specific step. If you send me an explanation, I will publish it in this column. If I am blasting you wrongly, I will apologize and correct the record.

To verify that there is no serious reason for such information, for one store, I signed in under the name, ‘Donald Trump’. For my birthday, I put June 14, 1863 (The day the Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves in the USA), and a made-up ID number with a phone number of my old apartment in Washington, DC from 35 years ago. Those taking this so-called ‘vital’ information, didn’t notice or didn’t care.

So, what is the point?

If stores want customer information, they must do this without combining their opportunist business priorities with COVID health restrictions.

If my assumption is correct that these stores unethically ‘combined’ COVID entrance rules with their bid to get data on their clients, then this is must be stopped. The public must not be sheep; we must clap back any business making their own COVID regulations to slide their profit-making agendas into the public’s healthcare mandates.

Marketing surveys are optional. I can choose NOT to participate. I should not be threatened to be thrown out of a store if I do not give over my personal identification details.

Data lists compiled like this are usually used by the store or agency involved and then re-sold many times to ad agencies, real estate brokers, insurance agents and other businesses who want to sell things online or via tele-marketing. Once they get your name on these lists, prepare for months of unsolicited calls from South Africa, text promotions, and other annoyances.

Another concern about leaving my personal details lying around is identity theft. It happened to my mother some years ago. No one should have open access to anyone else’s identification number, date of birth and contact information.

Some criminal in South Africa (because that is where the information is likely going) gets hold of that list and can apply for a credit card using my name, ID and birthday and contact information. I would have no idea that someone in a township in RSA is using a card in my name, running up bills and ruining my credit record. It can take years to sort out identity theft victimization.

Maerua Mall stores – check yourselves and your motivations. We are all tense enough these days of tough financial times and the threat of infection. Stop making things unnecessarily difficult.

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