Hints From Heloise: Should shoppers Zip up?

October 28, 2013

Dear Readers: How many times have you gone shopping and, as you pay for the purchases, been ASKED FOR YOUR ZIP CODE? Did you ever wonder WHY the retailers are asking you for this information? Do you have to give it to them? Not really, unless using a credit card where the issuer requests a Zip code for security purposes.

It’s all about marketing and getting more information about you. Asking the Zip code gives a retailer easy access to your address, which helps it mail you advertisements, coupons and other junk mail from that store and maybe others if the retailer “shares” or sells its data.

However, at a gas station, you may be asked for your Zip code to prevent fraud. A thief probably would not know your Zip code (unless he or she stole your purse or wallet with other identifying information in there).

If you don’t want to give your Zip code, just say “No.” However, be aware that just by shopping with a credit card or rewards card, most of your buying habits already are being collected! -- Heloise

SELL-BY DATE

Dear Heloise: How important is the “sell by” date? My food-storage shelves have boxes of dry goods — cereal, crackers, etc. I buy these when they are on sale, more than we can consume before that date is up. The taste seems to be the same. -- Claire A. in Maryland

The sell-by date lets stores know when to take items off the shelves. You can eat the food safely beyond that date, but not years later! It all depends on the item. Crackers or cereal and other staples will be just fine after the sell-by date. However, when in doubt, throw it out.

CONTAINING DUST

Dear Heloise: A hint for keeping dust down while taking ashes (Heloise here: COLD ashes!) out of a wood-burning stove is to cut a piece of plywood slightly larger than the top of the metal ash bucket.

Wet one side of the plywood and use it to cover the bucket. Lift one side and quickly deposit shovelfuls of ashes in the bucket and then lower the plywood. As dust whirls around in the bucket, it becomes lodged on the wet cover. This cuts down on the need to dust the room. -- Jane K. in Pennsylvania

Be absolutely sure that the ashes are COLD! Don’t take a chance of starting an accidental fire. -- Heloise

COMPUTER CLEANING

Dear Heloise: Here is a hint that I have made part of my cleaning routine: When vacuuming, I use the attachment to clean my computer keyboard and tower. Keeping these areas free of dust keeps the computer running smoothly. -- Tracey K., via e-mail

EASY STORING

Dear Heloise: Whenever I go out, I store my earbuds in an old, hard-shelled eyeglass case to keep them safe. I even can get more than one set in a case when needed. -- Tracy F., via e-mail

Heloise’s column appears six days a week at www.washingtonpost.com/advice. Send a hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, Tex. 78279-5000, or e-mail it to Heloise@Heloise.com.

, King Features Syndicate

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