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TJX holds sale related to breach of consumer data

By Jenn Abelson
Globe Staff / January 22, 2009
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Framingham discounter TJX Cos. today is holding its long-anticipated "Customer Appreciation" sale, related to the massive consumer data breach that compromised as many as 100 million accounts.

The one-day promotion, advertised yesterday for the first time, gives customers 15 percent off purchases, excluding gift cards and layaways. The sale is being held at more than 2,100 TJ Maxx, Marshalls, HomeGoods, and A.J. Wright stores nationwide.

"TJX has chosen to hold a previously planned, one-time Customer Appreciation Day to express our appreciation to our customers for their continued support and patronage following the criminal attack(s) on our computer systems announced two years ago," Sherry Lang, a TJX spokeswoman, said in a statement.

Hackers stole millions of credit and debit card numbers, along with hundreds of thousands of driver's license numbers, from TJX's systems dating back to 2002 in the largest theft of personal data ever reported. A Ukrainian man who authorities allege played a key role in the breach was sentenced to 30 years in prison in Turkey this month in an unrelated case.

The customer appreciation sale was initially negotiated as part of a court settlement connected to the breach, which was first disclosed by TJX in January 2007. Ultimately, the sale was not included in the court agreement, but TJX - which rarely holds storewide sales - said it decided to hold the promotion anyway.

Today's sale comes just after a New Jersey credit card processor, Heartland Payment Systems Inc., revealed a data breach that may eclipse the TJX incident as the largest loss of consumer data.

But company officials at Heartland Payment Systems Inc. said they could not yet estimate how many customer records were compromised.

Several TJX customers who had their credit and debit cards canceled because of the security breach said they had heard nothing about the sale and were disappointed it wasn't being held on a weekend or during the holiday shopping season when customers could have benefited more from the discount.

Allison Bumsted of Milford said she stopped shopping at TJX stores for a year after the data breach led Bank of America Corp. to freeze her bank account and cancel her Visa card. She made a few purchases - mostly in cash - at the company's stores during the recent holiday shopping season and said she was surprised to find out a sale was being held today.

"I haven't heard a peep about the customer appreciation day, and frankly, given the state of the economy and the status of my own employment, I will not be shopping," Bumsted said. "No incentive could compel me to help the TJX Companies increase their bottom line when I'm worrying about my own."

Jenn Abelson can be reached at abelson@globe.com.

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