Posts belonging to Category Privacy

Obnoxious Business Practices

I went into the local branch of Friedman’s Jewelers this afternoon in search of a new earring.  I found one and went to checkout when the clerk asked me for my name.  This immediately set off alarm bells because I could see no reason for them to have that info.  I asked him why it was needed and he said that he had to enter one to proceed through the sale.  I asked him what they were going to do with the info and told him that I didn’t want to be put on any lists or get any crap from them.  But I didn’t take the argument further, since he would be able to get my name from the credit card anyway.  At least he understood that I didn’t want my personal info in their system and skipped the phone number.

But after he’d rung everything up he pulled out this fingerprint pad and started into this spiel about how they were doing it to prevent fraud and identity theft.  I told him no way and that I’d void the sale if he insisted on a fingerprint.  I was furious.  When he saw my reaction he put the pad away and completed the sale anyway.  I was still tempted to cancel the sale, but by this time he’d already run the credit card and he wasn’t insisting on the fingerprint.

But after all that nonsense, I will never set foot in that store again.  Or any other branch of Friedman’s if that’s the way they run their business.  I refuse to be treated like a criminal just to make a simple purchase.

You Call That A Search?

When I took my sister and her kids to the airport for their return flight recently we made sure to leave plenty of time to deal with the “vaunted” TSA security measures.  Since they had gone to Level Orange (cue Orange Alert sirens…) they were performing vehicle “searches” at the airport entrance.  It’s no secret that I’m no fan of the TSA or any of the silly nonsense they put people through.  But if you’re going to become a police state, at least be serious about it.  The searches they were conducting seemed to be mostly peering into car windows and asking to look in truck toolboxes.  When I got the the front of the line they asked to look in the back of my truck (the Avalanche has an enclosed bed with a cover).  They never bothered to notice the TopBoxes (the side boxes on the rear quarterpanels).

If I’d wanted to smuggle something into the airport, they’d have never had a chance of finding it.  And don’t get me started on the TSA Einsteins who were watching a football game in the baggage claim area the week before when I was there to meet their incoming flight.

Sue The Bastards!

The Texas Attorney General, Greg Abbott, has filed suit against 15 companies in the state for violating the Texas do-not-call list.  Each company named in the suit has at least 10 violations reported against it.

As usual, the telemarketers are using lame excuses to try to get around the law:

Among them, four Houston area companies, including Jospeh C. Sparks Area Wide Auto Glass of Katy, Auto Finance 4 Pre-owned Cars of Stafford, Houston Allstate—a house siding company—and Lakefront Properties of Houston.

Nearly one million consumers have signed up for the do-not-call list. Of the companies named in the suit, each have received at least 10 complaints.

But as Houston Allstate President Jim LaGrappe is concerned, that’s news to him.

When asked if his company has been making illegal calls, he says “No, not that we know of, but evidently we have since we got this lawsuit.”

La Grappe says he just now received letter of the lawsuit, while his marketing director says the company has received the do-not-call list but it’s hard to understand.

“The list is a conglomeration of all different cities, not just Houston and the list is really hard to decipher,” Mike Thompson says.

I really fail to see just how hard a concept it is to not freakin’ call people on the damn list!  If their system is automated they can just feed the list in and compare each outgoing call against the list and move on to another number if the number they’re about to call is on the list.  This is a pretty simple operation for a computer, and most of these damn telemarketers are automated in such a way that the computers do all the dialing.

Lest you think Allstate is getting a bum rap here, consider this:

On the list, consumer Melinda Rohrer, who says when Houston Allstate called her she told them not to call back, but on the other end of the phone was laughter.

“I said ‘Well, we have no interest in your service. Please remove us from your call list,’ and he was still laughing when I hung up,” Rohrer says.

Right now I’m waiting for the next refresh of the Texas and national lists to go into effect so my new number will be off limits to these bastards.  In the meantime I’m having to answer every call and tell them to buzz off.  So far I haven’t encountered anyone who gave me any crap about telling them to put me on their do-not-call list.  I think they realize that they’re treading dangerous ground with us these days.  I’m on a hair trigger just waiting for one of them to give me any grief about it, because it’s become more sensitive on those days when I work from home and can’t afford to screen my calls. 

(The weird grammar in the quotes above is presented exactly as given on the News 24 Houston site.  I would suggest that maybe they need to hire an English major.)

Getting Under The Skin

Here we go again.

Applied Digital Solutions of Palm Beach, Fla., is hoping that Americans can be persuaded to implant RFID chips under their skin to identify themselves when going to a cash machine or in place of using a credit card. The surgical procedure, which is performed with local anesthetic, embeds a 12-by-2.1mm RFID tag in the flesh of a human arm.

I don’t forsee myself ever doing something like this.  I can just imagine that criminals will start using RFID scanners to digitally pick your pocket arm.  Or worse, hacking off someone’s limb to get at their RFID tag.  Applied Digital Solutions has been working really hard to come up with a use for this implantable technology, but so far no one has really bought into it (their first product was an implantable tracking device).  This sounds like another attempt to get some traction.  Frankly, I wouldn’t shed any tears for them if they flopped and went out of business.  I consider them distasteful in the extreme.

Playing Both Sides

Upon hearing the news that SpamCop had been bought by a company called IronPort I was a little concerned that they might change the way it operates.  The announcement on the front page of SpamCop assures it that this won’t happen, and that IronPort will beef up SpamCop’s defenses against DDOS attacks because IronPort relies on SpamCop’s blocklists.  However, this article worries me a bit. 

In addition to selling spam filtering services (and hardware), IronPort also builds specialized hardware for sending out millions of spam emails at a time (one source quoted in the article called them ‘spam cannons’).  This does not exactly give me a warm fuzzy feeling inside as someone who has paid for SpamCop’s services.  I suppose it remains to be seen just how long IronPort will resist the temptation to futz with SpamCop’s blocklists to get one of its slimy spammer clients off of it.  Of course, reputation is key in the antispam game, so IronPort will have a lot to lose if it scares away customers by interfering with the integrity of SpamCop.

Spam Again

As if we didn’t need more proof that spammers are vile scum, I got a spam today at the email address I set aside for the sole purpose of reporting spam to SpamCop.  Some spammer who got reported obviously decided to add my SpamCop address to their spam list.  I hope this bastard is having fun searching for a new ISP right now…

Methinks They Doth Like It Too Much

If big marketing groups like the DMA are supporting the latest antispam bill that’s a good sign that it’s a bad bill.  In this case, the bill would still allow unsolicited email advertisments as long as there is an “opt-out” method.  This is utter crap because the opt-out requirement will guarantee that your inbox will still be deluged with unwanted email.  What these people fail to comprehend is that there’s a volume problem here.  While it sounds simple for them to do an opt-out, it’s more problematic for the end-user.  There are thousands of businesses that would love to send email if they thought they could get away with it and you’d have to wade through all of them to opt-out of each one. 

As far as I’m concerned, the only viable method that will ensure the continued survival of commercial email is opt-in.  I am willing to entertain certain opt-in emails (in fact I get a few now).  However, I will never, ever accept unsolicited emails from businesses (I don’t even accept emails from businesses I already have a relationship with unless I’ve opted in to them).  The potential for abuse is too great and the volume of them would make them impractical for most people to deal with.

Telemarketing Vultures

Now that I’ve moved into a new house and have a new phone number I feel a little bit like roadkill being eyed by a flock of vultures.  I’ve entered my new number in both the Texas and national do-not-call lists, but being government-run entities they move slowly.  It’ll be early next year before either list takes effect on the new number.  In the meantime I’m getting 3 to 5 telemarketing calls per day and I’ve been forced to resort to caller-id screening.

I have noticed a few changes from the old telemarketing pitches that I used to get at the old number, though.  They seem to be a lot more aggressive now, with one even leaving a message that was a bald-faced lie (claiming they were responding to my request for “vacation and resort information” or some such nonsense).  I think part of it is that they market more aggressively to homeowners than they do to non-homeowners, thinking that we have more money.  Perhaps I used to, but I’m a homeowner now.  smile

Anyway, I may start answering them, just to have the satisfaction of telling them that I never do business with telemarketers, and they’ve just put their business on my permanent shit-list.  Especially those pushy bastards at Hawk Security, who have been very persistent about calling at least once a day.

No Escape From Telemarketing

One of the companies that makes CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software is updating their product.  One of the changes is for a good reason:

The San Mateo, Calif.-based company discussed the new applications, which are shipping with Epiphany version 6.5, on Monday. One new software program is Epiphany Telesales, which is designed to help companies comply with the new do-not-call telephone regulations that went into effect earlier this month. The program also incorporates tools intended to help telemarketers create targeted calling lists and works with high-volume automated dialer systems, Epiphany said.  (Emphasis mine)

However, at the same time, they’re going to make things even more annoying when you call in for customer service.

A new version of Epiphany’s call-center systems includes programs designed to increase the sales savvy of call-center agents. When someone calls for customer service at a company, the software can prompt call-center staff to encourage the callers to purchase additional products, Epiphany said. The software also allows agents to book new orders and keep track of sales leads.

I’d heard that some companies were planning to increase the number of sales pitches when you called in for service to compensate for the do-not-call list.  I’d just hoped that they would come to their senses and not actually do it. 

When a customer is calling for service is most likely the worst time to try to market to them, given that the reason for the call is usually because the customer is having some kind of problem.  I know that I’m usually a bit more irritated than when I started the call by the time I’ve navigated the VRU maze to get to a live human (and now those even more annoying voice recognition systems—I absolutely positively hate and loathe these bastard demon-spawn abominations).  Do you really want to be marketing to someone who is calling because of a problem and is irritated about the horrible phone systems and long hold times they’ve just endured?

Since most of these damn VRU systems these days demand your account number or some other identifying information, they should add a flag to the customer’s account that says not to market to this person.  The “curmudgeon flag” would indicate to the calltaker that trying to market crap to this person will only irritate them further.  Of course, this only works if the company has fully integrated callcenters, where the data for the call is passed along with the call to all of the calltakers.  If a company is as disorganized as TXU Gas when it comes to their call centers, it would never work.  Their system makes you speak to it to determine who you are, then loses your information when you finally get to a point where you can say “agent” to speak to a live person, who asks you the same information all over again.

What’s In A Name?

I mentioned Gator a few days ago in relation to their lawsuits against companies that referred to their product as spyware.  I guess their strategy wasn’t as helpful as they’d hoped, because they’ve now decided to change their name.  They will now be called Claria Communications.  That certainly sounds much nicer and more cuddly than Gator.  However, it still doesn’t change the foul nature of their product. 

As someone pointed out in this thread on Slashdot:

Crap by and[sic] another name still sticks to the bottom of your shoe and smells bad…