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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Free Magazine Meltdown

Today, when I got home from work and checked my mail, there were two issues of "Parenting, Early Years" waiting for me. I never subscribed to this magazine, but here it was, with my full name and address on it, like I would be waiting with bated breath for it to arrive in my mail. But more confounding than the mystery subscription is the subject matter of the publication - I am not a parent.

I flipped one open to the masthead and found the number for subscription customer service and gave them a call. When I finally navigated my way through the automated menu to a human, she looked up my info and told me that I was subscribed automatically from an order I had placed on an online shopping site.

So the customer service representative gives me the number for the marketing company who handles subscriptions for the site I ordered from. So I call it - a bleak automated system that does not allow any talking to an actual human. My address and demographics were shared by the online company to the marketing group, and that I didn't even need to click any boxes at the end of my order for this. Apparently, my subscription was a 'gift' and 'costs me nothing' and was a 'courtesy.'

Courtesy? Courtesy?! Let's think about this: Your jerk demographics analysts assume that because I am a thirtysomething, married female that I must have small children at home. Well fuck you very much, demographics mongers, but I don't have kids. And I don't want children, yet. (Because then I could not freely say 'fuck you very much' without worry of it being parroted by a toddler, among other far more reasonable reasons I don't want to be a parent yet.) It's bad enough people assume that I want to have kids just because I'm thirtysomething and married, when it's really none of their business what goes on in my uterus. I don't need my mailbox trying to send me hints too.

But further - what if I couldn't have children? What if it was my biggest wish, my hugest desire, and it was impossible for me, and you and your demographic marketing geniuses are sending me this magazine assuming that I can? How about pouring battery acid into my eye sockets? Or stabbing me with rusty tools after my 10 year tetanus shot limit has run out and I haven't gotten a booster? I imagine that's about as nice as it would feel to someone struggling to procreate getting parenting magazines in the mail. Hey, prisoner chained to the wall and starving to death, let's dangle this amazing steak two inches too far away from you. I bet that doesn't show up on your numerical age-gender-marital-status printouts, does it?

Let's really think about this - I'm a thirtysomething married female. There are plenty of benign magazine subjects that you could have chosen from besides parenting. Chances are, you send me a fashion magazine or an interior decorating magazine, I'll eat that shit right up. And be less inclined to send you an angry letter, write an angry blog post, and call your 800 number all angry. And, by the way, lose you that subscription you forced on me.

I feel bad for that, because Parenting Magazine is, I'm sure, a fine publication. I've worked in the publishing industry for years, and I know how valuable a subscription is. I just don't think this marketing company is doing the magazine any justice by forcing it on people based on their demographics.

I gave the magazines to my sister, who is a thirtysomethibng mother of two. Maybe she'll subscribe, and the balance will be restored. Either that, or some online company will send her "SciFi Monthly" and we can trade.

Updated - 1/31/11

Remember THE ABOVE, wherein I vented my frustration about my demographics being presumptive and how I found that, let's say, mildly annoying?

Well, it continues. Last week I received the latest issue of 'Parenting, Early Years' magazine. Even after calling and canceling my 'free complimentary subscription' just after writing that blog post. Not only did they not cancel my subscription, but it has my new address on it. Not forwarded, like the rest of my magazines; my actual new address, printed right on the front of it - 3000 miles away from my previous address. So maybe they did cancel my subscription, and this is a new subscription, and they're just stalking me. Either way, in the four months since that last blog post, I still don't have kids, and don't plan on having kids.

For the second time, I called the company that first signed me up for the magazine. (Whom I didn't call out in the previous blog post, but I will here: it was VistaPrint, whose products I love and use often.) I told them what a regular customer I am, and how I appreciate them thinking of me, but I expressed my displeasure with having to call a second time to cancel a magazine that I didn't even sign up for. They assured me that they would cancel the subscription for me. We shall see.

Today upon checking the mail, hoping my new California drivers license will finally be here after three months of waiting, I find that Gerber Life Insurance has started sending me junk mail that starts with the sentence 'Caring mothers like you know how important it is to plan ahead for your baby's future.' If by 'baby' you mean 'cat,' then we're on the same page. I called Gerber to request being removed from their mailing list, and they were very friendly about it, but said I could not have a policy for my cat. (Oh well, it was worth a shot.)

Every time I log into Facebook and go to my profile page, there are a series of ads that run down the side of the right column. For the last year, there has consistently been at least one ad about 'my baby' or 'being a mommy.' Facebook gives you the option to click out of the ad, and give them feedback so that they can 'find ads that better suit your interests.' And every time a baby ad comes up, I click out of it, and put in the 'other' category "I AM NOT A MOM! TAKE YOUR STUPID DEMOGRAPHICS AND SHOVE THEM!" I do it in all caps, just like that, but sometimes I change up the wording, to keep them guessing. Sometimes it has swears. By sometimes I mean all the times.

Am I going to be continuously barraged with baby mail now, just because I am thirty-something and married in Demographicland? I love my sisters' kids and my friends' kids, but I am cool with being the fun aunt and the fun mom's friend for now. Why does the Big Brother of Marketing think that my clock should be ticking? Why does society? Maybe not all of us want to be mommies. That's okay, you know. I like sleeping in, and traveling, and sleeping through the night, and not changing diapers, and that whole sleeping thing. After watching my sisters be mommies I can say I have a healthy respect for how hard mommies work, and how much joy they get out of it. But it's just not for me. Maybe someday I will change my mind, but as of right now, I hear no ticking. Clock is quiet. And I get to sleep in.

You know, Big Brother of Marketing, there are a lots of things about me that skew your all-knowing demographics. No matter what you think you have in your database about me, you can't figure me out. Really. Sure, I'm a thirty-something married female, but I love SciFi and Pro-Wrestling, not designer handbags and chick flicks. I'd much rather watch Ghost Hunters than Gilmore Girls, and I have never, ever seen an episode of Oprah. And if you asked me, I could name any Buffalo Bills player from the 1992-1995 seasons by number, but I can't name every character from 'Sex In The City.'

But don't worry, Big Brother of Marketing, there is one thing that fits my demographic with me that you can feel free to send me. I will give you this: I love HGTV, and I love interior design magazines. You send me those, and we will be best friends. Can we just go that route instead, and call it even? Please? If not for me, then for the environment. Think of all the paper, ink and envelopes wasted on your all-knowing demographics.

Save a tree. And leave my biological clock out of this.

UPDATED 2/24/11

(Refer to THE ABOVE for previous discussions about this topic.)

Had another issue of 'Parenting: Early Years' show up in my mail today, after calling VistaPrint three times in the last six months to tell them to unsubscribe me from this "free courtesy subscription." I hope they recorded today's customer service call for posterity because it's the last time I'm going to be even remotely nice about it.

It makes me wonder how many companies are wasting time, money, and resources on these magical 'demographics' numbers, and how many of them completely miss the mark like in this particular instance. How many other people like me out there are being crapped on by statistics, and are they speaking up about it too? Maybe I'm the only one, though I find that hard to believe. And even if the majority rules, in this instance, that doesn't mean that we demographics-skewers should have to be quiet and just accept the junk mail and the irritating assumptions of companies out to make a buck.

But most importantly, how much waste is this creating? How much wasted ink and paper? How much wasted time? How much wasted effort? Is it really worth it?

Maybe this is why I ended up with a 'C' in Intro to Business.


Anonymous said...


BobbaLew said...

Way to go, Marcy.
Pick that shovel up and start slingin’.

BobbaLew said...

Don’t forget, Marcy.
I’m getting invitations to support Sarah-baby on Facebook.
What in the wide, wide world prompted that?
The demographics that prompted that are outta this world!

BobbaLew said...

I should add that every time my wife orders dog-food online at JB Wholesale, we get free cat-treats.
Um, guys...... We don’t own a cat.