A startup called KipCall might—just might—have a possible way around this impasse, where it uses a Facebook API to hide consumers' numbers and gives them a way of shutting out retailers the instant they feel like it. When consumers want to be left alone by a chain, they simply "unfriend" that merchant and the retailer has no way to reestablish contact. If this approach works—and it's a fairly big if—it might greatly help retailers get phone contact information, because consumers would have less reason to fear handing over their number. There's one catch: If the consumer opts to purchase anything from that retailer directly from a mobile device, there's a good chance the customer's actual phone number will be seen, thereby undercutting the whole exercise. Still, it's a creative way to deal with this impasse.
Retailers have always longed for consumers' phone numbers, but consumers know that a phone number is very hard to take back once given. Unless customers change their number, they're giving merchants access for a very long time. With mobile growth today and the ability to also text, never has the divide been more pronounced: retailers want to collect this info more and consumers are resisting giving it out more.