I am a big believer in corporate transparency and personal privacy. As it currently stands in our society, the exact opposite trend is true.
My wife recently had to go through an embarrassing ordeal with a company that represents a new form of old greed: information greed. Many companies have recognized that information is power. The more market research you have, the better chances of selling what you want. The more email addresses you have, the more the company can send out marketing emails and coupons to try to get you to buy stuff.
This is not necessarily a bad thing in of itself. After all, if you’re in real need of a product, and a company happens to know this, they can market something to you just when you need it. It is creepy as hell, but at least its useful.
The problem is, marketing exists for two purposes: The first is brand awareness, and reminding people that yes, in the vast market of products (most of which are owned by the same companies, but that’s another story) their product does exist. If marketing only served this purpose, there wouldn’t be a problem.
The second purpose of marketing, however, is to convince someone to buy a product when they otherwise wouldn’t buy. As a salesperson would put it, to “bullshit someone into something.” When you give marketers your personal info, you’re inviting them to bullshit you into all kinds of things, and really, how often do you really need that extra pair of clothes or whatever else?
Opt in, not opt out
My wife actually had a negative experience in a mall in a store called “New York and Company.” When she went to exchange something for her sister, the sales clerk spent 10 minutes on her pitch to try to get my wife to get a credit card. “No thank you,” my wife would say repeatedly, and this lady just kept on the pressure, demanding reasons. My wife was 5 months pregnant at the time. The only reason she was even buying there was to pick up something for her sister. My wife told the clerk that she wouldn’t be able to use the clothes because she’s five months pregnant, and even then the clerk said something to the effect of “well why didn’t you get one before?” The clerk even went into a tangent about how her father has one and it’s so great.
The kicker to this, is the credit card stuff isn’t the most ridiculous part. The credit card B.S. is just what happens when companies like New York and Company, Target, etc (the list goes on and on) put pressure on their employees to try to talk people into getting credit cards, or trick them into it. Guess what stores? People don’t want your shitty cards anymore then the want the shitty cards that companies keep sending in the mail.
The ridiculous part is, after harassing my wife for nearly ten minutes about the credit card, my wife was finally able to pay for the new item and return the old. Then, the clerk asked for her email. My wife declined and said she didn’t want to give away her email. The cashier responded that it was required to make the sale.
Needless to say, she’s not setting foot in that store again. Asking for information should be opt in, not opt out. If it’s not, then something’s wrong. In order for my wife to leave the store with the items she purchased, the sales clerk had to call a manager over to override the system. That’s bad business. That’s business that disrespects your customers, and I’m writing this today because I hope the awareness either 1) hurts their business or 2) causes a positive change in the business. If you run a business like that, you don’t deserve success.