Posted by: chlost | September 9, 2011

Our Company sends best wishes to you on your _ (enter special occasion here)_!

When, exactly, did our personal information become a marketing tool?

Was it when the internet took over our lives? When the word “cookies” began to have a negative connotation rather than a yummy one? When Orwell’s  1984 predicted the loss of all personal privacy? When we willingly gave up all previously personal information in exchange for……what?

This week I celebrate a personal occasion. I am not going to be any more specific than that, because I don’t want that personal information to be any more widespread than it is already.

But here’s the thing…….I have received personal greetings in honor of this occasion from my bank, my insurance company, and the car dealership where we purchased a car this past summer. When I say personal greetings, I mean a voicemail message, a well wishing while at a drive-thru window, and a hand-signed greeting card.  If I’m not careful, I will receive more personalized greetings from places where I do business than from friends and relatives.

Perhaps I should just feel special that they remembered. Or maybe I should feel lucky that anyone noticed. Perhaps my cynical questioning of their motives is inappropriate, and I should just bask in the knowledge that I must be important enough to these businesses that they felt the need to personally congratulate me.

Nope. Can’t do it.

You and I both know the only reason this happened is that some big computer system in the sky (or wherever it may be) has the information somewhere in its little/humongous memory. Each business has decided that customers like to feel that the business is treating them as though they are a friend. They think  that it is good for their business. It is certainly easier to send out a few cards, make a few phone calls, than it is to ensure true customer service. It is a lot cheaper than manning a live person to answer the call center rather than a computerized instruction to “press 1 to hear which number to press next”.

I am just enough of a cynic to take my business elsewhere because they are reminding me of an occasion I might prefer to forget. It makes me uncomfortable to have strangers wish me well. Do they know something about me that I don’t? Perhaps that I need some good wishes from whatever source it may be?

Again, no. They don’t care enough about me to know anything, good or bad about me. I am an account  number. Their little information gathering gnome just placed a computerized sticky note near this date to give the company an opportunity to harass me.

As a marketing tool.

Just shows how little they know about me.



  1. Thank you, Thank You, THANK YOU!!! I thought I was the only person who feels this way, thank you for affirming that there is at least one other human being who thinks this stuff is annoying, smarmy, and a bit creepy.

    I don’t know when it all started either, but it seems to go along with the attitude I see in a lot of the “younger” (as in younger than me) folks I see everyday. I’ve actually had some of them get ticked at me for not wanting to divulge personal details to them … sorry, I’m not a relative or close friend and I’m not obligated to even talk to you, so no and please go away.

    If that makes me a bitch, so be it. 😉

  2. Those fake caring cards (never got a call and that I would find quite
    offensive) don’t bother me though they do go straight to the landfill. That we could really do with out.
    I would be tempted to write them back and say that next year you will only accept cash.
    Well I do hope your undisclosed occasion is a grand one. I have no ulterior motive writing that and can’t possibly gain by the acknowledgement. Don’t worry, I won’t rememeber this time next year. What I had for breakfast is a bit foggy

  3. Gee, I have never had a wish, good or not, from any company. I do exist!

  4. I love your ‘press 1 to find out which number to press next’! After I call the same place a few times I wish they would just let me enter the sum of the numbers I want to press so I could save time!

  5. They may have my maiden name, birthdate and social security number, but I got a coupon for $5 off my $20 purchase. Woo-hoo!

    Seriously, though I don’t reveal information that no one needs to know. My email account is set up with a fake birthdate and I never ever enter those drawings to win a free ‘whatever’. Don’t need it/don’t want it.

  6. I just don’t feel loved until I’m properly stalked. Anyway, happy/careful/somber personal/mysterious/monumental occasion to you, my dear. I hope it was/is/will be memorable/inexpensive/easy-to-clean.

  7. Once again, George Carlin covers this issue of advertising bullshit extremely well. Watch. (Runtime 4 min)

  8. I like these marketing ploys if they include a coupon or discount… or free little gift like Sephora gives you (I love their tiny junk). I know it’s just a pitch. But what if it’s the only birthday card you get? That’s so sad.

  9. I hear you! It drives me crazy when they get something totally wrong, like my sex and my habits. “We know men like you appreciate the sophistication of a good-smelling cigar…” What a waste of paper, but the corporations must think it profitable or they wouldn’t keep doing it.

  10. Excellent piece! I’m bothered by that sort of thing, too. Sometimes, when I’m trying to figure out where to point the finger for our economic situation and how many fingers I’ll need, I reserve a finger for the real life mad men and their perversion of psychology to accomplish their ends. They count on us not to think and it works. That, of course, means that there has to be a finger for us.

    And, Robert the Skeptic, thank you for the George Carlin film. Gosh, I miss him!

  11. I am so sorry….I was gonna send you a card marking your special occasion but I completely forgot. Which occasion was this again?….. Seriously, I know exactly what you mean. Say goodbye to all privacy. Even more reason why I am so slow to embrace all this new technology…

  12. I don’t mind giving out personal details, I don’t feel like I’m defined by my birth date, or the way my face looks, or my address. Maybe it’s my age? But they can have it all, I don’t really care.
    What I do care about, is whomever’s use of that data without my consent. Back home there is the possibility to put yourself on a list which excludes you from this type of ‘personal marketing’. Before sending out personalized messaging, companies need to check that list – they are not allowed to send you anything without your specific consent when you are on it. I find it makes life so much easier… not to mention all the paper being saved.

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