Saturday, June 6, 2009

"Personal and Confidential" Junk Mail

Junk mail is annoying on a number of levels. It's a waste of my time (I can't remember ever having purchased any good or service based on junk mail), a waste of paper, and it's effectively taxpayer subsidized in part. So the increasing practice of labelling junk mail as "confidential" or "urgent" (or similar terms) to induce recipients to open the envelopes before throwing the contents aside only bothers me further.

Yesterday I received in the mail the nondescript envelope pictured above marked only "Personal and Confidential." Because I happened to be waiting for something that might be contained in an envelope like that, I opened it, even though I knew that it was probably junk. Inside was a single page advertisement headed, "5 Great Reasons to Switch to Time Warner Cable." How is this "confidential," I thought, irked, or "personal" in any way, since it was addressed not to me by name, but rather to "Our Neighbor"?

Annoyed, I picked up the phone and, without thinking, dialled the customer service number on the ad. Here's the transcript of that call:
Mary: "Time Warner Cable, this is Mary. How can I help you?"

Me: "Hi Mary, I am not a current customer, but today I received an envelope in the mail labelled 'personal and confidential.' But inside there was only an ad titled '5 Great Reasons to Switch to Time Warner Cable' and it wasn't even addressed to me by name. Since that's neither 'personal' nor 'confidential,' I'm worried that my envelope was missing something important. So I'm calling to find out what."

[Long silence]

Mary: "Um........I'm not familiar with that specific........But I really wouldn't worry......"

[Another long silence]

Me: "Could I speak with a supervisor then Mary?"

Mary: "Sure. [Clearly relieved.] Please hold on."

[Another long pause. Maybe 2 minutes or so.]

Mary: "Actually, I am going to forward you to our marketing department."

Me: "Ok. Great."

Voicemail: "This is Karen ___ with the marketing department of Time Warner Cable. I'm not available to take your call. Please leave a message...."

Well, I sure showed them......
I hung up. A moment of reflection. My hands moved from my hips (posed, self-righteously) to scratching my head. Was I just dismissed as a crank? (And rightly so?.......)

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