CASPIAN was created to oppose
a disturbing trend in the supermarket industry -- "club" or "loyalty"
schemes. Here's how they work: Shoppers provide their name, address, phone
number, and in many cases, their driver's license number, social security
number, and demographic information to the store. In exchange, they are
issued a numbered plastic card with a barcode on the back.
Every time they shop at the store they are encouraged to use the card
so that a permanent record can be made of what they buy. In exchange for
providing personal data to the store and allowing themselves and their
purchases to be monitored, shoppers receive discounts on selected items
as a reward for their "loyalty."
Though supermarkets are touting these discounts as the greatest thing
that ever happened to consumers, the fact is that discounts have been
around for a long time -- they used to be called "sales" and did not require
people to sign away their privacy with numbered registration cards.
Many of us are uneasy, puzzled, and downright angry that supermarkets
seem so anxious to register shoppers. We feel that obtaining a basic survival
item such as food should not require the use of a number. We feel that
information about intimate details of our lives, such as the very food
we put into our mouths, should not be stored in a computer database and
subject to scrutiny. If you agree with us, and want to stop corporations
from strong-arming us into accepting these abuses, then you've come to
the right place.
CASPIAN serves as both an information clearinghouse and a resource for
community and national action. On the information front, I invite you
to report on the status of supermarkets in your town and to identify and
support card-free shopping alternatives. I will do my best to keep you
informed of supermarket industry trends and how they are likely to impact
individual families. If insiders of the supermarket, consumer research,
or "loyalty" card industries are feeling uneasy about their role in herding
the cattle, I welcome them to unburden their consciences here -- anonymously,
On the activism front, there are many steps we can take in our own homes
and communities to move toward anonymity and away from surveillance. These
activities include peaceful demonstrations, boycotting stores that do
not respect our privacy, supporting businesses that do, writing letters
of complaint and support, distributing leaflets, and telling others that
they do not have to tolerate abuse at the hands of their supermarket.
I am glad you took the time to visit this site. Please look around, read
the FAQ, do a little thinking, and drop me a line. Even if you disagree
with what you read here, I'd like to hear from you. And if after reading
all of this you still find yourself about to hand over that little plastic
card the next time you go shopping, I hope your conscience gives you a
pang. Listen to it, then please come back and join the fight. Together
we can take back our dignity and create a secure and private future we'll
be proud to leave to our kids.