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Monday, September 03, 2007


During my 35 years in junk mail, I got used to being referred to as a list prostitute. That was because of the way some individuals did business similar to the ladies on New York’s Lexington Ave. They would do anything to turn a name. Once they got your business, they would do anything to keep it. Those days are probably passed—I’ve been out of the junk mail business several years now—but they are still fighting over your names and personal data. Industry publication, Direct, recently reported on the Chapter 11 bankruptcy of list broker, Mal Dunn, who owes close to $9.3 million and has assets of around $4.4 million. It’s hard to understand how a company with such a generous commission structure—between 10 and 20 percent—could falter like this until you think again of that infamous nickname. Hookers are always ready to negotiate, and this has either forced some list firms out of the business, or compelled others to consolidate. In either case, it’s your sensitive data that is the nucleus of the struggle, and, of course, you have no control over the money owed, which, by the way, was generated from selling your sensitive data. Some of Mal Dunn’s top creditors include Gevalia Coffee, Checks Unlimited, Dun & Bradstreet and OSHA, to which money is owed for names and private information. Your names and private information. My point is that you, the name-holder, should have been a part of this whole process from the beginning. With control over your name and personal data, you would be compensated for its sale long before the list company got into financial trouble. I’m sorry to see this happen to Mal Dunn, but I’m sorrier that the consumer was never a part of the financial equation.


William Morriss said...

If the consumer had been part of the financial equation, how much would that change things? For example, if the consumer had sold his or her personal information for a nickel, would your objections to the subsequent resale of that information disappear?

Jack E. Dunning said...

In answer to the Wm. Morriss question, the quick answer is a qualified yes. The key here is consumer control over their names and private information, and subsequently to be compensated when this is sold. With my concept of control, the individual would have the right to decide what data is for sale, as well as the typical name/address. Most would hopefully elect to eliminate anything personal enough to cause them a problem with the protection of their identity, thus, what is sold is very general in nature. In the case of the Mal Dunn bankruptcy, and many more like it over the last several years, the consumer was never allowed any control or right to compensation, which, to me, is an insult to the name-holder, since it is their sensitive data that is in question in this litigation.

Jack E. Dunning
The Dunning Letter