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Tuesday, October 09, 2007


If you think of it, junk mailers require a crowd of customers to make their business work. They send out 100 advertisements to get just one or two orders. (But here’s what that does to the environment) When you equate this to the millions of pieces of mail that arrive in mailboxes each year, the junk mail industry is really at the mercy of the crowd mentality. Many of these companies know your buying habits, so they send you catalogs about things you have purchased before. They also know your lifestyle patterns, and direct their advertisements to behavioral conduct like what books or magazines you read, or what music you listen to. Since junk mail and non-junk mail firms are aware of what ailments you suffer from, and what medications you take, you receive offers for self improvement, or blatant attempts to switch you from one kind of prescription medicine to another. Your financial habits are an open-book, so credit card companies inundate you with offers for another credit card you do not need. The minute you apply for a new mortgage, fourteen other mortgage companies contact you by mail or telephone to try and convince you that their service is better. You move into your new home and mail pours in for carpeting, draperies, and gardening services. All of this is accomplished by selection techniques that sort out your private information and then blend this together to create the intimate details of your daily habits. (See my recent post) The crowd mentality rules when you do respond and buy, and then something very unique happens that is not prevalent in most other advertising mediums. Your name and personal data are collected, and become an extremely valuable commodity to the world of junk mailers. As a by-product to all those products and services you purchase, your name and private information are marketed for $4 billion each year. In some cases your sensitive data is worth more than the products and services for sale by these organizations. This would all be a very good thing, if only for one missing link. Throughout the process, you should be in control of your name and personal data, and you should be compensated when it is sold from that annual amount of $4 billion. And, of course, you aren’t. But the time has come to turn this crowd mentality around, and force my concept of control to happen with a grass-roots movement from the American consumer. Whether you are a junk mail shopper or not, your name and private information are compiled and sold. That’s right, all approximately 109 million households are in the cross-hairs of the data collectors, and what’s worse is the fact that all this sensitive data is up for grabs by identity thieves. You could become a victim just to satisfy the greedy profit centers of the list business. Junk mailers will meet at the end of this week in Chicago for the Direct Marketing Assn. (DMA) annual convention. If any of you Chicagoans are around McCormack Place West between October 13 and 18, ask to speak to DMA President, John Greco. Ask him why you shouldn’t have control over your name and personal data.

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