When I started giving retail employees my online phone number instead of my *real* phone number, I started noticing the sheer volume of places asking for a phone number (even when it seems totally pointless).
In the past, I’d given out my real phone number so many times without really thinking about it. But now that I had the option to give them a completely separate phone number, and keep my real phone number private, I was shocked by how often people wanted it, anyway.
“Are you a member of our loyalty program?”
“Can I just grab your phone number for the receipt?”
“We’ll need a phone number to complete the refund.”
“That discount’s for rewards members only. Let’s get you signed up …”
Why do so many stores want our phone numbers? Wouldn’t it be just as easy to have us ‘in the system’ using an email address instead? (Most people have a throwaway second email address they use in these situations.)
Nope. They want our phone number.
Why do stores want our phone number so badly?
Why? Well, probably to add us to a spammy list. Why else would they insist on having our phone number instead of our email address? Even if the store itself isn’t calling us about upcoming sales, they might be selling our phone numbers to other companies.
But if you ask the store, they’ll probably tell you they need your phone number for a reason:
In order to get a refund in most retail locations, you’ll need to provide a phone number. This could be in case a manager needs to reach out and verify details after the fact, but it’s also probably a way of making sure the same customer isn’t making a ton of returns.
Signing up for a store’s loyalty program probably requires a phone number and an email address. Without being a loyalty program member, you might miss out on special offers or discounted pricing.
Sometimes when you’re completing a transaction, the cashier will ask for your phone number or email address. Why? In case you want to return the item someday. Confused, customers often tell them their phone number, without really stopping to think about it.
Dangling a sale or discount in front of a customer makes them more likely to agree to a retail employee’s request. After all, why would we (as customers) want to pay more just because we didn’t give them a phone number? Stuff’s expensive enough, as is! #inflation
Why if we don’t give stores our phone number?
A store certainly can’t force you to give them any phone number, but if you don’t want to give them one, they can restrict you from getting a special promotion, signing up for a rewards program, getting a refund, or getting a members-only discount.
Give stores your online phone number instead
I recently told the story of when I was visiting a new pet store in my area, and they asked me for my phone number. I smoothly rattled off my Hushed phone number, and my husband looked at me, startled.
He thought I was giving them a totally fake phone number! Hilarious, but no. (I could never do that. I’d feel too guilty.)
If they were to call me, I’d see the call. (It’s a very real phone number — it’s just not my regular phone number.) And the next time I go to that same pet store, I can tell them my Hushed number and they’ll be able to pull up my account. But if they sell my number, or try to spam me with annoying calls, everything will go to my Hushed number and I can easily ignore it.
What is an online phone number?
An online phone number is probably better known as a VoIP number. (“VoIP” stands for Voice Over Internet Protocol, which is a fancy way of saying “a call that runs over the internet.”) These are phone numbers that don’t rely on traditional phone carriers. They work over the internet, so you can use them over Wi-Fi or data.
How does an online phone number work?
An online phone number is typically accessed within an app. So instead of opening up your phone’s regular ‘call’ screen or ‘dial’ screen, you’d open your phone number app and see a dial screen there. You can use an online phone number for calling and texting, as well as voicemail, call forwarding, and all the other features you’d use a regular carrier phone number.
How do I accept the phone calls?
When you receive a call or text on your online phone number, you’ll see it pop up as a notification (if your phone’s notifications allow this) just like you would if you received a call or text on your regular phone number, providing your Hushed app is running in the background.
(If you’re really into privacy and don’t want anyone knowing you have a second phone number, you can close the app or log out entirely, and just log in when you want to check calls and texts.)
Will stores know it’s not my regular phone number?
If you give your Hushed number to a retail store employee (or anybody, for that matter), they’ll have absolutely no idea this isn’t your regular cell phone number. A Hushed number is still a real, working phone number. You can choose a phone number in your own area code, or in 300+ other area codes. There’s nothing weird about the number, and it doesn’t show anything strange on a Caller ID — just the phone number, and probably ‘Unknown name.’
How much does an online phone number cost?
Here at Hushed, you can get an online phone number for as little as $2.99. Just download the free Hushed app, pick a phone number and a plan, and you’re ready to begin using it.
What if I don’t remember my new online phone number?
If you’re worried a cashier is going to say “Can I grab your phone number for the refund?” and you’re going to stare back at them blankly, no problem. You can always open your Hushed app while you’re waiting in line, if you suspect someone’s going to ask you for your phone number up at the register. Then you can discreetly read off your Hushed phone number when they ask.
Depending on the online phone number you choose, you might memorize it really quickly. I fumbled at first to say mine correctly (I kept swapping a 9 and a 2) but luckily I was just giving it out places that it didn’t matter, anyway. Now I have it memorized perfectly, and I can quickly rattle it off whenever someone asks me for my phone number in a store.
It’s kind of funny, actually, because as soon as anyone asks for my phone number, I now make a split-second decision about which number to give them.
- Registration form for my kids’ camp? Real phone number.
- Loyalty card program at a store? Hushed phone number.
- New doctor’s office? Real phone number.
- Discount offer at a business? Hushed phone number.
Hushed helps when you’re out shopping
If I’m in a store and they ask for my phone number, I happily give them my Hushed number.
- I will get the calls that matter because it’s a real phone number
- If it seems like a spam call, I can easily ignore it
- It’s not connected to my real cell phone number
- If I’m getting too many spam calls, I can burn the number and get a new one
Now if only I’d start remembering to bring along my reusable shopping bags!
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