Nordstrom Is Trying To Contact Individual Customers In Typhoid Case

Nordstrom (NYSE:JWN) is trying to directly contact customers who might have been exposed to typhoid fever in one San Francisco store, but that's proving more challenging than expected, a spokesperson for the chain said on Monday (May 6).

"We actually are in the process of trying to determine customers who ate in the Cafe during the days of exposure by pulling purchasing information" from the point of sale system, said Tara Darrow, public affairs director at Nordstrom. "The process to do this is not as easy as we hoped it would be, but we're hoping that we can make that happen and communicate direct with those customers this week."

Late last Thursday (April 2), the San Francisco health department notified Nordstrom that a line cook in the Nordstrom Cafe in its store in the Stonestown Galleria mall in San Francisco tested positive for typhoid. Based on the progress of the disease and the days the cook worked, the health department said customers who ate there on April 16, 17, 18, 20 or 27 should watch out for signs of the disease. Those are the customers Nordstrom is trying to identify now.

The dates stretch back more than two weeks because typhoid fever symptoms develop slowly, and until the cook felt sick enough to get medical help he wouldn't have known he had typhoid, which is rare in the U.S.

As of Monday afternoon, no additional cases of typhoid have been reported, according to the San Francisco health department.

Darrow didn't elaborate on the issues the effort to identify exposed customers is having. However, the biggest problem is likely the fact that payment cards are designed to take customer details out of the hands of retailers. Between PCI security requirements and state laws, there's only a limited range of personal information that a retailer can keep on a customer with an ordinary in-store transaction. To its credit, Nordstrom began trying to contact potentially exposed staff and customers as soon as it learned of the situation, but bank-based payment card systems just aren't designed for this.

For more:

- See this San Francisco Business Times story
- See this NBC Bay Area story

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