Dealing with corporations

Sample American Express-type credit card featu...
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I’m getting worn out with the constant tricks of big corporations. It’s not that they cheat in some mammoth or direct way.  They simply use a gazillion little inconveniences to get their way, even when laws have been passed to give the consumer rights.

I suppose it’s what they call human engineering: making it easy for people to perform the behaviors that they want -that make money or suit their needs. And making it tedious or difficult to perform the behaviors that they don’t want us to do – but subtly, so we don’t notice.

Personal Information Privacy – I have a choice!

My credit card “Privacy” notice came today. It describes the various ways in which the company will collect information about me and then pass it along to a variety of other parties.  The turgid prose goes on for pages before describing my right to let them know that I don’t want them to share this information.

I don’t think they want to hear my preferences. They certainly don’t make it as easy to respond as they did to get the card in the first place.

Plan #1: Online banking. I thought I could change my preferences through their online banking site. Surely all the security there – enough to guard my credit – would be adequate for this! But no: it’s not possible.

Plan #2: Customer Service. I call the toll-free Customer Service number.  Reporting privacy preferences is not an option on the first-level  menu.  It isn’t on the second-level menu either.  I’m put on hold because my business is important to them.  I listen to bad music and recorded messages trying to sell me more credit products.  After 10 minutes, a click, then a voice. It does not greet me.  He says, “Our systems are updating, if you call back in 3 or 4 hours we can help you.”

Not sure if this was another recording, I asked, “Are you a person?”

“Yes,” he replied.

“I’m just calling to update my privacy preferences. Does that require the systems to be up? Or is there a direct number I could call back later, to bypass the waiting?”

“No,” he said, “You’ll just have to wait again.”

Plan #3: The U.S. Postal Service. I’m not used to mailing things to the credit card company – they convinced me to use online banking years ago. In fact, I haven’t used the US mail much lately. But I’m sure I can scrounge up a 44¢ stamp and an envelope.

Easy to apply.  I bet the same consultants who help them design the slick ads and easy-to-apply web sites to get folks to use their credit cards helped them design the black-and-white small print notice and hard-to-reply procedure for the privacy policy.


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