Can you hear me now? Junk mail deafness

March 11, 2013

I suspect I'm not alone in dealing with the weekly amount of unwanted, unsolicited and annoying junk mail, particularly when you need to examine it to be certain that it does not contain any personal identity type information that could facilitate identity theft or further exploitation of your privacy. If you don't do this you really should before dumping it where anyone can get it.

In an attempt to limit what has been a recurring mailing from two Lewes companies that sell hearing aids, I recently went to one location to ask them to remove my name from their mailing lists. After stating my request a computer-generated letter was printed out as I stood there, telling me that the company employs a national mailing list allegedly generated from information given by consumers to "various companies" - whatever that means.

The letter advises me to contact this other organization to have my name removed from the national registry. What I was told essentially was this was a problem of my making, not theirs, so it's up to me to deal with it.  What's wrong with that picture?  They employ another company to get a list to send me unsolicited mail and they cannot stop it or remove my name?

The form letter on the office computer indicates to me that this company must have a continuing problem with people complaining about this issue and just sends the complainant away with a hollow excuse.

I went to the website in the letter to see what this process involved.  I suggest anyone interested in learning how much information others have about you should look at this site. Click on the category "mailing lists" and then on "consumer lists" to see a menu of what this organization says it can make available to others about you. Interestingly, in order to be removed from the list you must provide your name and address - understandable - but they also want a phone number and an email address.

There is no way to call or write them to have your name removed.

So before they will remove you from the mailing list you have to provide them with more information which will be added to your file so you are still vulnerable to spam mail and telephone marketing.  Additionally, if you go through that process they have the unmitigated nerve to suggest you may want to provide them with the email addresses for eight friends or family members so they too can be removed from any junk mailing lists - like that is going to happen. Now they have eight other names to add to their database to sell to others and you gave them to them.

This is just another example of the rampant consumer exploitation by unregulated, unaccountable and unsupervised data collection companies which every day probe deeper into our personal lives for their financial gain without regard to the privacy of those they target with their business practices and for those merchants who decide to use their services to target you.

Obviously the hearing aid company in Lewes I sought relief from was deaf to my concerns. Not surprising.

Matt Maher
Rehoboth Beach

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