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Retail Stores Plan Elaborate Ways To Track You 195

Velcroman1 writes "Retailers are experimenting with a variety of new ways to track you, so that when you pick up a shirt, you might get a message about the matching shorts. Or pick up golf shoes at a sports store and you see a discount for a new set of clubs. New technologies like magnetic field detection, Bluetooth Low Energy, sonic pulses, and even transmissions from the in-store lights can tell when you enter a store, where you go, and how you shop. Just last year, tracking was only accurate within 100 feet. Starting this year, they can track within a few feet. ByteLight makes the lighting tech, which transmits a unique signal that the camera in your phone can read. The store can then track your location within about 3 feet — and it's already in use at the Museum of Science in Boston."
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Retail Stores Plan Elaborate Ways To Track You

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...leave Bluetooth turned on? Seems like a pointless way to run your battery down...

    • by MollyB ( 162595 )

      Ahem. Geeks age too, or die trying. Bluetooth is a popular feature in hearing aids, although I don't use 'em yet, but will before 2050.

      • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

        I'll be 98 in 2050, I'm sure I'll need them. Or maybe not, dead men don't need hearing aids. As to the tracking, as long as it's on their own property, why not? They know what I buy at their store anyway, unless I pay in cash.

        • Yes, what is this about cash not being tracked? When are we going to get out of the dead tree age with money and replace it with smart cars, like what is happening with license plates.

          • When are we going to get out of the dead tree age with money and replace it with smart cars

            Your future vision then :- bartering for everything with a car ! What will we use for loose change? Bikes? Toy cars?

  • by PolygamousRanchKid ( 1290638 ) on Saturday July 27, 2013 @08:23PM (#44403031)

    "Are you looking for something in particular, sir . . . ?"

    "Yeah, you got any tinfoil clothes . . . ?"

  • by luckytroll ( 68214 ) on Saturday July 27, 2013 @08:25PM (#44403039) Homepage

    I find it unlikely that the Salvation army or Value Village would bother with this technology, let alone actually be able to offer clothes that match.

    Just sayin....

    • Re:Unlikely (Score:4, Funny)

      by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Saturday July 27, 2013 @10:29PM (#44403593) Homepage Journal

      ...let alone actually be able to offer clothes that match.

      Clothes that match? I'm sorry, I have no idea what you're talking about.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

      Over a decade ago on Slashdot there was a story about PDAs being given to waiters in restaurants to take orders and beam them directly to the kitchen. Someone made pretty much the same comment as you - it would never take off in low cost establishments, it wouldn't be worth giving them to minimum wage staff etc.

      About five years ago I was in a cheap chain restaurant in Osaka and the young waitress took my order on a little PDA. A few second later the chef shouted "hai, katsu desu!" from the kitchen.

  • Minority Report (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jamstar7 ( 694492 ) on Saturday July 27, 2013 @08:30PM (#44403065)
    Sounds like that movie, Minority Report, when Tom Cruise went into that store with his new eyes and the hologram asked him "How are those Dockers working out for you?
    • by mendax ( 114116 )

      Any store like this would be one that I would not shop in. A Minority Report-type world makes me want to live off the grid.

      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

        Any store like this would be one that I would not shop in. A Minority Report-type world makes me want to live off the grid.

        So where do you shop? Online? Where every retailer online is getting analytics data already? This is offline retailers gathering analytics.

        And yes, online retailers ALL capture analytics. Even if you don't order anything, they're tracking what you looked at, what you clicked more information on, what you clicked add to cart, what else you looked for, etc.

        No, when I say "you" I don't mea

        • You are quite correct that all stores are collecting analytics on your movements

          The problem is they have no clue as to what to do with them. Take amazon. They have a record of everything I have purchased from them for the last 15 years yet they still can't send me advertising that is relevant to my interests. Why?

          if I buy something I generally don't need it again, exceptions are food and clothes. Clothes change styles so buying the same clothes 10 years later is worthless.

          Styles, life, everything change

    • by wwphx ( 225607 )
      I wonder if an IR LED baseball cap would over-expose and foil retina cameras? I don't remember the time frame but there was a Slashdot article (IIRC) in the last year or so that cited a study that showed that our retina patterns change over time. Polarized wrap-around glasses would take care of that and might also fox facial recognition cameras.

      Of course, this is only one metric that can be used for tracking. This ByteLight thing where the LEDs interact with your phone's camera requires an app, so it'
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 27, 2013 @08:42PM (#44403123)

    Yay, more hype and wank trying to whip up the /. crowd into a frenzy.

    According to TFA (yeah, I read it, suck me) all the things listed here are features of a store-wide network that interfaces with an app on your smartphone. Yes, that's right, you have to manually add an app to your phone for these establishments in order for any of this 'tracking' to work. An app whose primary function is delivering ads and coupons to you.

    Seriously, aren't things already bad enough with the whole NSA thing? Is fear mongering and just plain making shit up really necessary?

    [captcha: congress]

    • Seriously, aren't things already bad enough with the whole NSA thing? Is fear mongering and just plain making shit up really necessary?

      You must be new here - the hourly Two Minute Hate is a regular feature of /. nowadays.

  • I resent the necessity to turn off my phone when I enter a store. They are taking what might be a great tool (like product comparisons via barcode and QR code reading) and turning it into a burden and annoyance instead.

    If I found out a store used this, I'd go somewhere else. I do, actually, have choices.
    • Re:How Annoying (Score:4, Informative)

      by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Saturday July 27, 2013 @09:12PM (#44403249)

      Based on what little info is on ByteLight's website - wouldn't you, as a customer, have to be running the store's app on your phone for this tracking to work? If so, just don't run the software.

      The other tracking method they listed was wi-fi fingerprinting. Annoying, but not very accurate - and you can completely defeat it just by turning wi-fi off, I assume (something I usually do anyway).

      That said, I'd still complain loudly to the management of any store I shop at if I found they were using the technology.

      • That sounds reasonable until the company starts paying app developers to sneak the code into their apps as part of the advertising that makes it free. You could be walking through a store and receive what appears to be a text message with the coupons or whatever and not know it was from the store's app doing this.

        what some of these free apps require in the form of access is amazing. A flashlight app that wants to read the phone state, contact information and location information is absurd but they are out t

      • "Based on what little info is on ByteLight's website - wouldn't you, as a customer, have to be running the store's app on your phone for this tracking to work? If so, just don't run the software."

        Well, that's a good point I suppose. But because of the prior use of rather sneaky tactics (using your ",insert store name here> points card" as a way to track your purchases for example), I do tend to assume it's not obviously an opt-in.

        But if it's a store-specific app, which you have the option to not run, it might not be so bad. On the other hand, if it becomes "use this app to get better prices" in exchange for privacy, I'll just be pissed off again. It's coercion, which I do not approve. Mild coe

        • You call it coercion, but others might simply call it entering into a mutually beneficial agreement with the store.

          So long as it is optional and you have the choice not to lose your privacy, I don't see what your complaint is. Other shoppers, obviously, have the choice to give up their shopping habits to the store and get cheaper prices as a result. As we have seen from store loyalty cards, it is clearly a very attractive proposition to many people.

          • I called it mild coercion. If you make regular sales available to only a select group, then people will want to be part of that group. If they understand what privacy they are trading for being in that group, then fine and it can be called fully "voluntary". But often that has not been the case. That was my point.
          • To put it a different way: the issue here is informed consent.

            If people are not fully informed, then they cannot validly be said to have consented. Instead they have been coerced.
  • Till some intrusive ad scheme like this is manufacturer/carrier baked into phones and difficult or impossible to turn off.

    I can imagine shopping and having a paper clip pop up on my shiny new windows phone that states, "it looks like you are trying to copy queer eye for the straight guy. Would you like some help?"

    • ... to shoplifter: "It appears that you are trying to stuff merchandise into your pants. Would you like me to direct you to the baggy pants section?"

  • Do not want your creeping salespeople shadowing me.

    Do not want your club card / loyalty program tracking me.

    Really do not want your tracking app.

    • by Animats ( 122034 )

      Do not want your creeping salespeople shadowing me.

      That's why I, and everybody else, gave up shopping at Best Buy. Their combination of annoying and incompetent was just too much.

      Do not want your club card / loyalty program tracking me.

      That made me switch from Walgreens to CVS. Walgreens' pricing on many items is more than doubled unless you sign up with their tracking card. At CVS, they'll scan a generic card at checkout and you get the "card" price.

      Really do not want your tracking app.


    • by hjf ( 703092 )

      I agree with you.

      But like i said before: I run a shop. People WANT a salesperson creeping behind you. I think it makes them feel important. I've learned that you have to get up from your chair and start following them around, grabbing things from the shelves, and putting them in their hands. They buy a lot more when you do that.

      Not all people are into the full self-service thing.

  • I have two rules when I go shopping, especially for clothes: I don't want to spend too much time on it, and I don't want to be asked if I can find "it". Yes, thank you, I'll use my eyes and I will ask you if absolutely necessary (and yes, I'm a man). Absolutely the last thing I need is the electronic equivalent of an overly eager employee store, especially since I can't tell it to bugger off.

    Granted, not everybody shops like me. But image you are shopping and every 2 minutes an employee pops up next to you

  • My phone has this setting enabled. How is this little nuisance supposed to work in this case?

    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      My phone has this setting enabled. How is this little nuisance supposed to work in this case?

      you think visibility means that the app _you_install_ couldn't talk to their bt devices? doing that link is trivial once you have agreed to install the shit.

  • Don't buy anything.
    Visit a "frugal living" website and "tune in and drop out".

    • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

      Don't buy anything.

      Grow your own crops and raise animals? The form of barter called "cash" works just as well if you don't want corporations stalking you.

  • Or, they could, you know, go low-tech and just have a sign by the shirts that says, "Matching Shorts - 20% Off". Or even better, put the shorts on the next table.

    Want to *really* upsell me? Have a pretty girl at the door hand me a coupon for an extra 10% off any purchase of $25 or more at the register. Good for two days.

    • How about stocking all the sizes? Or maybe go crazy and even ad some sizes based on the new body types that exist in society. You know, tall or far or even tall AND fat people.

      And maybe I am insane but how about stocking clothes for the season we are IN? I am male, I buy clothes when I need new ones... well... several months after I need new ones and the concept of shopping a season ahead is both alien and repulsive to me.

      Or how about actually putting clothes for men in at least 1% of clothing stores? We

      • by hjf ( 703092 )

        I have a friend who worked in a shoe store. I asked him WHY is it so hard to find shoe sizes in my number (I'm 45 EUR/12 US). He gave me a very simple explanation:

        ALL women are shoe size 36 or 37. And women that are 38 wear a 37 (I think that's about US size 6).
        Men have an incredible distribution: ANY shoe size from 36 to 46. And men make up for less than 10% of sales.

        So unless you're an incredibly busy shop, it's just impossible to stock all models in all sizes for men. And even if you do, it's amazingly d

  • by guttentag ( 313541 ) on Saturday July 27, 2013 @10:52PM (#44403681) Journal
    The summary is incorrect. The story is about retailers tracking customers who are running the retailer's app while shopping in the store so they can suggest related items. The article even leads off with a ridiculous photo of someone holding an iPad mini and looking at a listing for the item on the shelf. When was the last time you saw someone walking around a store with an iPad in their hand?

    In theory, if you're downloading the retailer's app and using it in their store on your phone, you are looking for "something extra" from the retailer. What they're talking about here is the app acting as a salesperson, noting where you are in the store and possibly what you might be looking at to suggest items you might want. It's a gimmick, though. The app may know where you are within a few feet, but it doesn't know what item you have in your hand, so it can't properly suggest products based on what you're about to buy while you're still in the store. All it can do is say "I see you're by the polo shirt table... want two of these? We'll give you a coupon for two for $20." This is no more effective than putting a dead tree sign on the table that says "polo shirts: 2 for $20." Dead trees are cheaper, and everyone can see them, resulting in more sales than limiting your promotion to the <1% of customers who are walking through your store running your app and paying attention to it.

    The way to make it somewhat more effective would be to tie it into what safeway is doing, where they keep track of everything you buy with your Safeway card and the highest prices you've historically been willing to pay for those items. Then they offer you a discount based on what they know your threshold is... and they offer the person 10 feet away from you a deeper discount on the same item because they see that she only buys the item when it's below a certain price. That systematic price discrimination is the greater concern, but the article doesn't mention that because the author doesn't get it.
  • We're no longer the consumers. We're the consumables.

    In the marketplace, in the workplace, at home and in public.

    McDonalds "tested" a program where they pay their employees with gift cards. The number of internet service providers who do not require access to your data and your eyeballs is shrinking.

    And the concentration of the wealth of the world in the hands of a small number of people continues to increase, already well past the point of sustainability.

    And people who put up the smallest resistance to t

  • One store tracking me is bad. I'll just stop shopping there. It is when they start sharing the data. This is a clear case of where data privacy laws need to be very very clear and strong. You might think "Who cares if a store or two tracked someone" But the moment you buy something with a CC or debit card, then they can go back through all their data and tie your face (or cellphone ID) to your actual person. If they are sharing the data you now have a trail.

    The worst would be if the cellphone company jus
    • by Skapare ( 16644 )

      Tracking me in a store is one thing. But getting my ID and selling information about what products I looked at to another store crosses the line. And yes, I am more concerned about other businesses having that info than I am about the NSA having that info (though I am sure they are wanting to know who is looking at buying a lot of pressure cookers).

  • It's kind of heavy and won't work anyway when it's not plugged into the wall.
  • by guttentag ( 313541 ) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @12:16AM (#44403967) Journal
    The submitter, Velcroman1, has submitted hundreds of stories [] since October 2009, all of which link to, but only five comments in the last two years... just one this year so far.

    Even more interesting is that stories submitted by MarkWhittington come up on Velcroman1's slashdot page as if they were Velcroman1's submissions... If you look at MarkWhittington's slashdot page [], all of his submissions link to his own articles or opinion pieces on or ALL of them. And also no comments. MarkWhittington apparently contributes his own content to these sites as a freelancer and submits them to slashdot to drive traffic.

    On page 2 [] of Velcroman1's slashdot profile Nerval's Lobster (, submissions start to show up. We've [] already [] established [] that Nerval's Lobster is Nick Kolakowski, a slashdot employee submitting paid content as user-submitted stories...

    It would be interesting to see what percentage of published slashdot stories are genuinely submitted by people who have no financial interest in the submission.
  • Stores cant keep their stock in any fucking sort of order, havent been able to with a small army for the last 30 some odd years

    now they expect you to pick up a shirt from section A-1 and flash you to shorts in B-2, really? HAVE YOU SHOPPED FOR CLOTHING IN YOUR ENTIRE LIFE?

    sure its in some order, but for god's sake if a clothing store cant keep brand Y off the same rack as brand B and manage to match size numbers from tags to hangers do you seriously thing THIS is going to work, going to macy's is WORSE than

  • I have no trouble with being tracked, and with the environment being modified towards my likes. However I'm royally sick of constantly being offered shopping opportunities. Hey guys, if you're tracking my actions and my likes, you should notice that actively trying to sell me stuff makes me go away, and stop doing it so much.

  • can pick up.

    A intransparent Bag should help.

  • >you pick up a shirt, you might get a message about the matching shorts.

    That is what well trained sales people are for.

  • there could have always been a sign under the shirt to promote the shorts. pickup the shirt, see the sign. it was never hard.

    but there's always been technology to do all of that stuff. it used to be called a salesperson. they've gone extinct in most stores these days. but if you have a fist of cash, and you walk up to a human with a name tag, you can still get all of that old-school service at no additional cost.

Nothing makes a person more productive than the last minute.