wants you to join the community! (Oh, and we’ll track what you do)

via Techdirt via Computer Associates, Sears is inviting you to “join the My SHC Community!” when you visit their site. What is My SHC? It stands for “Sears Holding Companies”, which includes According to their site, it allows you to, with my comments in italics:

  • Create the future of in-store, on-line, and service experiences that are right for you and your changing needs – provide free market research
  • Membership is FREE, community functions are fun and always voluntary – um, talk about Sears and Kmart products? really, I want to do this?
  • Be the first to try new products and take advantage of special offers and promotions – Read as: you’re our focus group!
  • Enjoy special content: how-to guides, buying tips, and user forums tailored to a wide variety of interests – Stuff we should put on our site but will withhold. This worked really well for the newspapers, so we’ll give it a shot.
  • Gain access to free planning and household budgeting tools that enable you to save even if you don’t shop with us – This stuff is already available through other sites, but we’ll brand it and make you think it’s exclusive.
  • And don’t forget, enter to win cash and fabulous prizes in sweepstakes drawings held many times throughout the year! Ok, we’ve set aside a few bucks and free products that we would’ve sent to the media or used on other marketing functions.

Aside from trying to collect shopping habits and get free focus group feedback, l I don’t see what the benefit is for the consumer. Sears already offers up tons of specials via affiliate programs, so there’s no price incentive. Bazaarvoice and Epinions already offer product reviews. Sites like iVillage already offer up message boards, where folks offer up their opinion and advice. I do recall there being a lame program to get me to watch ads in exchange for what accounts to 1/1,000th of a penny, but as folks are realizing the best you can hope for is one free roundtrip ticket in exchange for what amounts to thousands of dollars of free focus group and consumer feedback. No thanks.

What makes the Sears program an absolute sham is that they’re installing spyware on your computer and partnered with metrics company comScore to report back what you’re actually doing. That’s right, the software that’s required to install to join the program is tracking software that gets reported back to comScore. I understand that there are issues with metrics online. I get that. But this is not the ethical way to do it, folks. According to Techdirt, the software will also track what are thought to be secure transactions, like on your bank’s web site, and report them back to comScore. I’d love to hear from someone at comScore, Sears, or even someone who’s part of the “community” to explain.

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