Marketing, marketing, all is marketing. I got a credit card in the mail last night, replacing one about to expire, and it had a large purple sticker on the front of it saying "DO NOT ATTEMPT TO USE YOUR CARD UNTIL YOU CALL" and the obligatory 800 number. "Card activation," said the sticker, "protects you against fraud."

Well, okay. I dialed the number from my home phone, as they requested, and apparently they used the output from Caller ID to pull up the card number. As a fraud preventative, it's small, but perhaps useful. Then came the kicker: "While we process your activation, please answer the following questions." Four questions followed, one purely for demographics, and three offering services of dubious value they'd dearly love to sell me — including one of those ubiquitous "credit protection plans" that will pay my Minimum Payment in case of disability exceeding X number of days. I assure you, if I'm off work for a month, I'll be worried about things a lot more serious than where I'm going to come up with $38 to send to [fill in name of card]. And, of course, I can't hang up on the silly machine because it will thwart the activation process and the card will be rejected everywhere. (Yes, I tried this once before, from a different issuer, as an experiment. You don't want to know the gory details.) Card activation, as the sticker doesn't say, doesn't protect you against bottom-feeder marketing schemes. Had I the bucks to spare, I'd pay off these people this month and send them both halves of their card - and both halves of their damned sticker.

I realize that we live in a Global Marketplace®, and that it is the putative Will of God that I subject myself to all manner of sales pitches for the benefit of all — or at least the benefit of some. On the other hand, there's a lot to be said for heresy.

The Vent

9 March 1999

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 Copyright © 1999 by Charles G. Hill