Picture this whilst at the mall.
You: Hi, I’d like to purchase these clothes.
Attendant: Thats fine, here let me scan them for you. Thats £252.99.
You: Sure (and you pay with your credit card).
Attendant (before handing you the bag): I’d like to see your passport and your bank statement and/or the credit card statement for the card you just paid with. Please.
You: What the… ?
Funny right? Thats what I and a lot of others having been finding when shopping at ASOS lately. Under the pretext of ‘security validation‘, ASOS has been requesting several customers for these details. Usually businesses have valid reasons when they enforce something like this – because there is almost always a risk of sales falling or customers turning away when you ask them for personal details (let alone bank statements and passport copies!). So I tried to figure out what the reason was since I just couldn’t fathom why they would need these details. Here is the conversation I had over email.
ASOS: We’re sorry we’ve had to cancel your order. After checking the information provided, we haven’t been able to validate all your details. What’s next? You’ll need to send us the following: A copy of your passport, ID card or driving licence and a copy of your payment card statement dated within the last three months, clearly showing your name and billing address. Please blank out your card number, but leave the last four digits visible. Please ensure that the billing address on your account is the address associated with your payment card. Me: Why do you need this information? ASOS:Thanks for getting in touch about your order number xxxxxxx. I can confirm the emails you received requesting additional information are legitimate. Every order placed on our website goes through a series of validation checks and sadly in some cases it is not always possible for us to confirm all of the details - this is why we have requested additional information from you.In order to clear your account, please reply to our email with the requested information.Don’t worry - all your documents will be destroyed once the checks are complete. I’m sorry we had to cancel your order but I hope that you’ll understand that our validation checks are in place to ensure the security of all our customers.
Me: You have still not answered my question satisfactorily. I am intrigued to know what validation checks does an online shopping portal need to do such that it requires my most private details. You have been paid. So send the goods. You are selling clothes for God's sake, its not a bank account which I could use illegally or weapons of mass destruction that shouldn't go in the wrong hands! I do not think I will be sending my passport copy and bank statements to all the online shopping portals. Truth be told if everyone required it (which by the way noone besides you does) it will only put people off shopping online. You say my details will be destroyed. Apart from your word how am I to trust you? Even the CIA and NHS get hacked and data today gets leaked as easily as water from a tap.
ASOS: Firstly, I'm sorry to hear that we have not been able to complete your order. All orders placed with ASOS go through a series of validation checks and regrettably in some cases it is not always possible for us to confirm all of the details - this is why we have requested additional information from you. Once the requested documents have been received and verified, they will be destroyed. I will then be able to advise you on how to re-order the goods you require. Rest assured that all your documents will be destroyed once the checks are complete.
I’ve highlighted the bit that they are trained to reply with every time someone questions the process. Based on the above its quite clear their customer service have no clue what these checks are and why customers are being asked for these details. They also cancelled my order without once speaking to me. So I am left high and dry just before my holiday (so much for all that faff about reliability and customer comes first promises!)
I am still quite baffled and frankly don’t understand why they need these details. Working with processes is what I do for a living and validating who you are selling clothes to seems a bit of overkill especially when you have already been paid. I could be an alien from outer space or someone who just popped out of nowhere. I could be a criminal even. Why does it matter who you are selling clothes to?
This entire customer data collection for analytics, marketing or whatever other ‘security’ reasons businesses have have just gone too far. It first starts with validating your email – which sort of makes sense – you want to make sure the customer is contactable and you want to make sure he hasn’t had a fat finger moment while giving you his email address. Next you are after his telephone number for supposedly giving SMS alerts. Fine, I’ll go along with that too (not sure why you have to email and SMS at the same time but hey – I dont represent all the customer base, right?) You already have my postal or home address since the goods will be delivered there. Its not like I paid for someone else’s shopping just to play a prank! Even if I did, wouldn’t you love having such a prank being played on you? Anyway the point being, what more is my passport and bank statement going to validate? You already know where I live!
I wonder what people will be subjected to next. Carrying your passport to Tesco’s to buy a bottle of water and some crisps?