In the checkout line: Debit? Credit? DNA sample?

It starts with Air Miles. Then, it’s your mom’s social insurance number. Scott Feschuk on the checkout line’s privacy intrusions

Four people and a skeleton in grocery store lineup

With tax, that comes to $23.18.

Okay. I’m going to pay with debit.

Great! Air Miles?

Nope. Just debit.

Do you have our rewards card?

No, I’d just like to pay with debit, thanks.

Great! Do you want to sign up for our rewards card? You’ll get 10 per cent off this purchase, five per cent off all future purchases and about a dozen emails from us every single day for the rest of your natural life.

No. Just debit, please.

Great! Can I get your postal code?

Why do you need my postal code?

I don’t know.

Let’s just skip that part, then.

Great! Would you like to donate $2 to the United Way?

Sure, I guess.

Great! Would you like to donate $5 to armless orphans?

Uh, I think I’ll just stick with the $2 donation.

Great! One quick question to help us give better service: Was it the “armlessness” or “orphanness” that made you refuse to give five measly dollars to little Gerald here [shows photo]?

Fine, I’ll give the five bucks.

Great! But the register won’t let me go back, so I’ll need to cancel this and start over.

Wait, no, don’t!

That’ll be $23.18. Air Miles?

[Twelve minutes later.]

I swear I didn’t have this beard when I came in.

Would you like to leave your business card for entry into a draw for a free lunch at Boston Pizza?

I don’t have a business card.

Would you like to leave your name for entry into a draw to win 100 free business cards?


Can I get your email address?

I’d rather not share that. Can I just pay, please? I’m in a bit of a hurry.

Sure, no problem. Let me just hand you the key pad and … can I please have your home phone number?


Favourite Beatle?


Blood type?


Would a quick stool sample be out of the question?

I will give you this watch and my wedding ring if you stop talking right now.

Great! Can I just get your mother’s Social Insurance Number?


The age at which you lost your virginity?


Great! But there’s no category for “No” so I’ll just put that down as, “Still a virgin.”

Wait, hang on…

Would you like to leave a DNA sample that will, in mankind’s final act of hubris, be combined with the genetic material of a grizzly bear and a mastodon to create a monstrous, blood-thirsty hybrid that will terrorize, subdue and ultimately rule over our Earth?

Sure, if that will speed things up.

Do you eat gluten?

For Pete’s sake! Enough already! How on fricking earth can it possibly be relevant to this purchase whether or not I fricking eat things that contain fricking gluten?!

It’s not, I was just curious. Sometimes I get a little queasy and I was wondering if it might be the gluten.

Listen to me carefully. The 84 people in line behind me, including the two babies born since this transaction began, would like to know: May I please just pay and get on with my life?

Absolutely! Just go ahead and swipe your debit card, and you can enter your PIN …  right after you take a quick survey about mangoes and type in a list of your fears.

[Three generations later.]

Great! Final step now: Would you like to sign up for our rewards card?

I already said no to that.

Actually, you’ve been standing here so long that we’ve introduced a new rewards card. It entitles you to 50 per cent off your first purchase.

Oh. That sounds pretty good, actually. Sure.

Great! Let’s start with your postal code.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.
  • By signing up, you agree to our terms of use and privacy policy. You may unsubscribe at any time.