Jack TenneyExtra Point

by Jack Tenney, Publisher

January 2005

Punch Card

This past year, I found more "Privacy Notices" and credit card offers in my real mailbox than spam in my e-mail. For e-mail, I've got some pretty decent filters. So what's with this privacy stuff, anyway?

Consider your supermarket card. That's the one you need to take advantage of the special price on the bananas. I keep forgetting my card, so when I want bananas but they're offered at a special price for cardholders, I don't get the bananas. Why would I pay the regular price when I could have gotten the special price? My grandmother wasn't born in Edinburgh yesterday, you know. Obvious, right?

Well, the extra point is that when I do remember my card and bananas are a special price, I sometimes buy them even if I don't want them, just to save a few pennies. That's why they gave me (and you and everyone else) the card, I figure.

However, I figured wrong. They gave me the card so they can sell the data of all my purchases to resellers of data who are eager to know that I prefer Skippy dog food but private label peanut butter. I'm into diet cola sometimes Pepsi, sometimes Coke. I sometimes buy pickles and olives but never relish. For a while, I paid premium pennies for low-carb anything, but recently went back to Red Hen bread and an occasional frozen pizza.

The government might not know what library books we check out, but Homeland Security, PetsMart, Procter & Gamble, Citibank and darn near everyone else has a shot at knowing whether we're gaining or losing weight, entertaining or cocooning, cooking or nuking. I figure that even if everyone else knows, who cares, so long as we get a good price on the yogurt right now.

In case you're wondering, I'm an instant-gratification impulse buyer. You know those sandwich and coffee cards that have been around for years? Have your card punched 10 times and get a freebie? I not only don't use those cards, I avoid places that offer them. It's all about knowing yourself and your place in this world. I learned a long time ago (October 1989) that my highest value in the publishing world was to pick up lunch for all the working people in my office. I got the distinct impression, especially at deadline time, that I was neither a leader nor a coach. I was a distraction, an interruption and a traffic tier-upper; so I just quietly went around and took everyone's lunch order.

There was this new joint by Perry's Fish House that made fantastic sandwiches. Everyone at the office was into fancy breads and spiced mayos and whatall, so that's where I went. The clerk gave me a sandwich card with one punch.

"But I got seven sandwiches," I said.

"Yeah, but you only get one punch an order."

"When I do 10 orders, will I get seven free sandwiches?"

"No, just one."

I never went back. It closed. The company should have given me seven punches and sold the data. Privacy, smivacy!

Happy New Year.