I called Home Depot’s customer service phone line to ask for a slight change to my credit card. The rep who answered asked for my date of birth. I gave him the day and month but not the year. He passed me along to his supervisor.
Niki (she withheld her last name) insisted I provide my birth year. I declined and quoted from a story I wrote last year for the Coast Reporter newspaper:
. . . Other than in surveys you may refuse to answer and in cases of reasonable justification, a business that provides services cannot ask people over 19 for their age.
“Doing so could be grounds for a human rights complaint,” Tiffany Nelson, communications manager from the Office of the Attorney General emailed to me . . .
I told Niki I had complained to Telus about a similar issue, so they asked for my driver’s license number instead. Since Telus could do that, I didn’t see how Home Depot could be justified in demanding my age.
Niki refused the driver’s license option, saying birth-year identification is Home Depot’s policy. “This is the terms and conditions of our card, and unfortunately the date of birth is part of the verification procedure. If you don’t want to do that, that’s fine, but we can’t continue having an account with you,” she said today.
I said I considered that discrimination.
Niki said, “It’s not discrimination. We already have your date of birth on file.”
I asked her to remove it from Home Depot’s records. She refused.
I asked if Home Depot would ask someone for their race.
“Your race has nothing to do with your verification,” she said.
Of course not, but neither should age. Niki and other 45-year-olds wouldn’t know. They probably have twenty-odd years to wait before they understand ageism. Regardless of Home Depot’s policies, reminding a customer of rampant marginalization can sting.
According to the World Health Organization, “Ageism is everywhere, yet it is the most socially ‘normalized’ of any prejudice, and is not widely countered– like racism or sexism.”
Large companies including Home Depot can stop perpetuating it in an instant. Just don’t ask the year of birth question. There are many alternatives.