It seems that certain malls are going as far as to track visitors based on the locations of their cell phones within the mall, even though the shoppers were not aware of this.
To make matters worse, this story about the practice quotes one mall official as saying they will make it "easier to opt out" of this feature. Say what?
One "excuse" for doing this, according to a quote in the story, is to "make the playing field level with online shoppers". Yikes.
What gets me is that these malls have the time and money to spend in an effort to track, without authorization, the location of its shoppers, instead of putting their resources to better use.
What happened to simply and easily tracking the number of parking spaces in use within the mall's parking lot(s) on an hourly basis throughout the year? To tracking the amount of revenue brought in by each store or business during that same period? We, as consumers, can't stop them from doing that.
Many of the big malls should be using their resources to improve the experience for shoppers who go there, whether during the busy holiday period or any other time.
In much of the country, this time of the year, when malls draw their biggest crowds of the year, is during cold and wet weather times. Yet, few offer indoor or covered parking, and those that do generally suffer from overcrowding, thus leaving the process of parking to be an unpleasant experience.
The majority of shopping malls, including newer ones, continue to make the mistake of not providing easy access for cars to exit. They force drivers to head toward the stores and entrances, creating additional hazzards for pedestrians carrying packages and for the children with them, when these drivers are looking to exit the mall area.
Sure, the argument for doing this is to draw attention to the stores. However, the malls do not understand that doing this is not like grocery stores putting the milk and most commonly bought products in the back or further reaches of a single store.
Many malls fail to have enough directories, especially near the various entrances. Instead of tracking the cell phone whereabouts of patrons, perhaps helping them find the store(s) they are most interested in would be a better priority.
Worse yet, this story claims that major retailers such as J.C. Penney and Home Depot "have considered" using this technology. Whether for the sake of this story angle or as a matter of fact, each company seemed as if they are not ready to use this yet. The fact that it is a possibility is alarming. Suppose information that you are, at this moment, in the Home Depot by the home security devices, got into the wrong hands.
The Frustrated Consumer has an idea for the short term. Let's all turn off our cell phones just before we walk into a mall. With no data to show for their time and efforts, just maybe the malls and major retailers would consider checking inventory reports to see what sold and when. Not who bought them.