Why do Stores Covet Your Zip Code?

pink cash registerAfter paying for purchases with a credit card, I’ve always wondered precisely why stores asked me to hand over my zip code. Not that I gave it to them of course. I knew their request had to be for their own benefit – not mine. So I always gave them a fake number, one that couldn’t target me with ads and promotions further down the line. Though I still didn’t know how they could manage to finagle my 5 digit numbers into a more complete dossier.

Thanks to an article in Forbes, I now know. Direct Marketing Service Companies are able to take that zip code, combine it with your name on your credit card receipt, and  spin it through their vast consumer data bases to come up with your address, phone number, email address and spending history.

When promoting their services, Direct Marketing Company, Harte-Hanks, claims accuracy rates near 100%. And Fair Isaac Corp. boasts their expertise in this area can strengthen a company’s direct marketing sales up to 400%. And do it without “ complicating or jeopardizing the sales process by asking for an address or phone number, or complying with regulations.”

This profiling process costs money, however, and not all companies are willing to spend it. For these companies your zip code can tell them whether or not their advertising and marketing efforts are successful in specific areas. It can help them identify which areas need more attention and improvement.

There is one place, however, that apparently doesn’t involve using our zip codes to increase company profits and that’s gas stations where zip codes are used to combat fraud. After buying gas, someone using a stolen credit card is often unable to enter the correct zip code. Thieves also like to test cards to see if they’re live at gas pumps where they won’t have any face-to-face confrontations and chance having the card confiscated.

So beware giving a fake zip code at gas stations. Unless you like the dubious kick of being treated like a criminal.


More on the Shopping Scene:

Why Do the Poor Make Terrible Decisions?

The word POVERTY repeated in shadows

This post contains an article written by a woman living in poverty explaining why she makes what  seems like terrible decisions and an adverse response from another woman also suffering financial hardship.

  • Members of the working poor, both women attend college with full-course loads  in addition to their jobs
  • Both are exhausted ALL the time.
  • Unable to afford dental care, both know what it is to have crumbling teeth.
  • Unable to afford medical care (even low cost clinics COST), both have experienced prolonged pain.
  • Both women live paycheck to paycheck with zero funds for emergencies.

Though they yearn for higher paying jobs, they are limited by appearance from applying for them.  These higher-up-the-ladder positions are won by applicants with better clothes, healthier skin, better teeth and smiles.  (Anyone who thinks appearance isn’t a big part of an applicant’s offering is living in Dreamland).

After it was published,  Why I Make Terrible Decisions, or, poverty thoughts, written under a pseudonym, rapidly went viral.

Soon after and with a viewpoint on the opposite side of the fence, Tina Shang responded with A Response to “Why I Make Terrible Decisions, or, Poverty Thoughts.”

Their takes on poverty and decisions are especially compelling to read, I think, during this holiday week when many gather around feast-laden tables to commemorate our country’s first Thanksgiving.


More on Haves and Have-Nots:


Are those Singles in Your Wallet Worth Thousands?

fanned out dollar bills

Welcome to the world of currency collectors who are happy to pay serious bread for unusual serial numbers printed on dollar bills.

Most people don’t notice these eight numbers on their money. I certainly never did until the Fiscal Times informed me “Fancy serial numbers can go for tens of thousands of dollars depending on the rarity of the combination,” at which point I grabbed my wallet and swiftly scanned my scruffy small bucks collection.

A current winner released on October 8 is a $100 bill with a “Fancy” serial number of 00000001. Anyone lucky enough to find this bill can expect to pull in $10,000 to $15,000 for it. Needless to say a bill that size rarely puts in an appearance around here.

Repeated numbers such as 66666666 can make their owners more than $3000 richer. Ladder numbers in sequence – such as 23456789 – are juicy finds too, going for $1300. Lower on the price totem pole are repeaters – notes with 2 repeated number blocks such as 31123112.

On CoolSerialNumbers.com a high flier can purchase a three note bill set totaling $35 with serial number K00000000A for a bargain price of $16,500. Buyers with more limited funds can spring for a set of nine $5 bills with serial numbers #E00000011 through #E00000099 for $1,800.

It takes only seconds to check out the numbers on money bills passing in and out of our hands all day. SOMEONE has got to have those desired numbers. So happy hunting…

More on money:

Cheap Chick Peas and Zucchini Dinner for One

veggies and chick peas

I’m always on the lookout for fast, inexpensive, healthful meals you can cook in one pot. Not much of a cook, I’m delighted to say I have come up with such a combo on my own – chick peas and zucchini – and it’s delicious. An excellent protein substitute for meat, chick peas are also packed with plenty of nutritional goodies. For this recipe I have no exact ingredient measurements.You can add more or less of just about anything. So if you’re a complete kitchen neophyte, wing it on the cautious side. Taste as you go along and you’ll come out fine.

  • 1/2 zucchini cut in half lengthwise, then cut into 1/4” slices.
  • big chunk of red pepper chopped in bite size pieces
  • 1/2 of onion roughly chopped
  • 1/2 can chick peas, rinsed
  • about 1/2 of fresh tomato chopped in bite size pieces
  • sprinkling of garlic powder or 1 big garlic clove minced
  • sprinkling of cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • olive oil

The veggies are added to a large frying pan for sautéing as they are chopped, so by the time you’re done chopping, the meal is just about cooked. First slice up the zucchini and peppers. Generously coat the bottom of the frying pan with olive oil. When hot, toss in the zucchini and pepper. Red peppers have the sweetest flavor and look cheeriest, but if you’re a green pepper lover, then toss that in. Sauté under medium heat, stirring occasionally.

Chop up the onion, throw it in.

Rinse the chick peas and add them.

Add salt and pepper, then a light sprinkle of garlic powder (or minced garlic), then sprinkle cumin over the whole shebang. While stirring, check for veggies sticking to bottom. If affirmative add a little more olive oil.

Cook a few minutes to soften up the chick peas. Lastly add the tomatoes a few minutes before the dish is done. If you can’t tell by the zucchini’s translucent look, taste the veggies for doneness.

To finish off the other half of the zucchini and chick peas I usually prepare this same dish two nights in a row. I suppose I could cook the whole thing at one shot, but I like meals  freshly cooked, not reheated.

If you’re cooking for two, that’ll polish everything off nicely.

There are other zucchini and chick pea dishes out there but they are more complicated, take longer to cook and designed for multiple diners. Mine is simple and fast for no-fuss diners on their own.


More in our recipe repertoire:

Did a Builder Swipe Your Home’s Mineral Rights?


If you neglected to read the fine print in your real estate contract or didn’t let a lawyer in on the deal, you may have kissed goodbye the mineral rights under your new home.

Now that fracking — horizontal drilling for shale oil and gas — is invading residential areas, land developers and builders are cashing in by grabbing up mineral rights below homes in developments they build in 25 states. Lance Astrella, a Denver Lawyer claims, “All the smart developers are doing it.” And they’re doing it with little or no disclosure to unsuspecting home buyers.

The country’s largest homebuilder, D.R. Horton, has already taken possession of  mineral rights in tens of thousands of homes in states where shale drilling is currently happening or about to happen in North Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Virginia, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, Oklahoma, Utah, Idaho, Texas, Colorado, Washington and California. According to Reuters, County records show the builder has already snagged the mineral rights on more than 10,000 Florida lots. The company leases the rights to an energy company that may develop, drill, produce, withdraw, capture, pump, extract, mine or transport minerals, resources and groundwater under or around property starting at a depth of 30 feet.

Other companies appropriating these potentially lucrative mineral rights in this multi-billion dollar business  that can pay production profits of 25% include Oakwood Homes, the Groce Companies, Wynne/Jackson, Shea Homes, Ryland Group, Pulte Homes and Beazer Homes.

Last year when 700 homeowners in a North Carolina subdivision simultaneously learned that fracking was fast approaching their neighborhood AND that  D.R. Horton had taken over the mineral rights below their homes, they revolted and contacted the State Attorney General’s office. D.R. Horton responded with a statement saying they had instructed their sales agents to inform buyers before signing contracts that mineral rights had been severed from their homes. Buyers disputed this. Horton also claimed their deeds, titles and sales contracts contained this information. In fact their contract merely included a nebulous clause giving D.R. Horton “all geothermal energy and resources” located “on, in or under the Lot.”

The irate homeowners won their case when the builder agreed to return the rights to them.

Not so lucky were new homeowners in Greeley, Colorado. Cordially Invited to a community get-together, the homeowners were astonished to hear that an energy company, Mineral Resources, had purchased the mineral rights from their developer and was scheduled to begin drilling in their neighborhood. Twenty two well heads were to be constructed directly across the street. Company officials assured them, however, that home owners would have plenty of input in choosing the shrubs and greenery to conceal the operation.

Immediately hiring a lawyer, the residents filed an appeal. Greeley already had 425 wells within city limits, but the residents argued that such a large project so close to a residential neighborhood posed a possible threat to their health, to their homes in case of accidents and to their finances. Who would be able to sell their homes now? Who would buy them? 

Unmoved, the city rejected their appeal seven to zero.

Research continues on whether the fracking process causes ground, air and water contamination with no definitive results so far.

In the meantime, if you’re signing a contract on a new home in a development and you want to walk away with the mineral rights to your own property, be sure to check early in the game if the builder has already signed, sealed and delivered those potentially lucrative rights to himself.


More Home Sweet Home Stories:

Rake in Over $400,00 a Year – Be a Stagehand


Photo: ChairWomanMay

Little did I know when I was a member of the stage crew in high school, that path could have led me to Carnegie Hall where I could be making a cool $400,000 Plus as a stagehand. To be more precise, in 2011 the five full time Carnegie Hall stagehands earned an AVERAGE of $420.000 in overtime pay and benefits. The ONLY employee who made more was the executive/artistic director, Clive Gillinson, who last year took home $1,113,571.

To earn this big bacon, the stagehands moved equipment in and out of the building and prepared stages for performances. One detail I seem to remember from the many appalled reader comments on this story was the fee they charged for moving a cello onto the stage –  a mere $700 bucks. But their whopping income wasn’t enough for these stagehands. Forcing the cancellation of the season’s opening concert  on Wednesday night, its premier fund-raising event, their union, Local One of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, went on strike,

And why did these handsomely paid stagehands go on strike? For a still bigger hunk of their already humungus pie. (See their income tax details reported by the Village Voice.) It seems Carnegie Hall has been constructing a new Education Wing set to open in a year and the union has been pushing for stagehands to be employed there. Additionally, the union demanded that maintenance workers currently employed at the non-profit Education Wing be replaced with stagehands – at a far steeper cost.

Does this sound greedy to you? It may even have sounded a bit over the top to the union itself. After the stagehand’s  salaries and grabby demands were broadcast all over the internet eliciting irate remarks from the public, the union quietly backed off. On Friday afternoon a news release from Carnegie Hall  announced it had reached an agreement with the union. There were no union boasts their demands had been met, (as usually happens after a strike). Instead Carnegie Hall said the new agreement included “limited jurisdiction” for IATSE/Local One in the Education Center. Translation: Carnegie Hall apparently threw the union a minuscule bone to save their face, not the whole carcass the union had coveted.


 More on the New York Cultural Scene

Newer Posts · Older Posts