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Thursday, May 26, 2005

Junk Mail 101: Junk Mailers Believe They Own Your Name II

In my last post, I promised to name names (of junk mail companies) and quote prices (for the sale of your name) to show the extravagancies of this process. But first let me give you some background. Your name and personal information go through an intricate process in their journey to the ubiquitous auction block. I won’t bore you with the finest details but the basic facts should both interest and concern you.

You make a simple purchase from Acme Mail Order Merchandise. The second your name hits their doorstep, the primary motivation is to prepare your name, along with any accompanying private data, for sale to other junk mail companies. It is rushed through a series of computers until it reaches the list people who hawk your name. Your moniker could be on the market within hours, defined as a “hotline” name for sale. As such, it draws a premium price, as compared to buyers that are several months old. By the way, how long did it take you to receive that order?

During all this time, your name and personal information is in several hands; some negligent, some incompetent, but the majority, reasonably capable. It is the former two I worry about and find potentially the most dangerous. In my list brokerage firm we had something called the “banana’ award for having to deal with the “monkey” mentality among list suppliers. It was a trophy that was given at least once a day and often reviled by some who thought it was an insult to the monkeys. But you get the idea…and can begin to understand what happened at ChoicePoint, LexisNexis, Bank of America, etc.

Since the junk mailers’ first consideration is $’s, then more $’s, when it comes to your name, you should know what they are charging that allows them to achieve an annual take of $4 billion. If you weren’t already concerned with the negligence and incompetence, this bit of math should drive you right up the wall.

The average name sells for around 12 cents. Doesn’t sound like much but keep your eye on the $4 billion. Like I said in an earlier post, I’m going to show you how this could supplement your Social Security in a future post. Right now, let’s focus on the 12 cents.

Do you shop from the Sharper Image catalog? If you do, your name generally sells for around 23 cents, almost twice the average. Their list is managed by ALC of New York. And then there’s Coldwater Creek at 21 cents, managed by Millard Group, with Bloomingdale’s close behind at almost 19.5 cents, managed by Mokrynskidirect.

All the computer products aficionados who buy from TigerDirect cost 19 cents, managed by 21st Century Marketing. And if you are a subscriber to PC Magazine (Email William_Michalopoulos@ziffdavis.com) and on their Email list, you’re worth 21.5 cents, and they are managed by Walter Karl.

These junk mailers were picked, based on their pricing of names in excess of the overall average of 12 cents.

As a matter of background, a list manager is like an agent for actors or writers. They handle all the grunt work in representing lists of names to be sold in the marketplace. They share in the process of determining the price of a name and collect all the money. They are highlighted, above, along with the junk mailers, for easy access, if you want to contact them. If you do, some suggestions:

Ask them if they think they own your name. If they say yes, inquire on what legal basis. If they say no, ask them why they sell it without your approval.

And if they try to tell you the sale of your name is built into the price of their products, ask them how they can do this without your permission.

If you will share your results with me, they will be included in future posts. The idea is to open communications with the junk mail industry and solicit reactions to my premise that you should have 100% control over your name and personal data. More junk mailers can be added for contact if the interest is high enough. Good luck!

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