The Immortal Mailing List

Has it ever been your hope to leave an indelible mark or have your name live on after you’ve taken your last breath? Fear not. It’s easier than you may think. Simply make a donation or buy on credit. Once your name is harvested, entered, merged and electronically propagated on mailing lists ad infinitum, you’re pretty well assured of immortality.

It’s been almost two years since my father passed away, and yet, I receive mail addressed to him almost every week: “one-time” offers for hearing aids, low A.P.R. credit cards, guaranteed savings on car insurance, surveys from companies wanting his opinion as a valued customer. He even received three dollars to record his television viewing habits.

During the last election, several candidates “personally” asked if they could count on his generous support to slay the dragons obstructing the path to responsible government.

My father also continues to receive personalized mailing labels, note pads and calendars – nice to know there are a few diehards not caught up in “green” mania.

For several months, I made a serious effort to stem the flow of marketing and fund-raising materials. I had success, but found some organizations aren’t interested in saving paper and postage. In attempting to contact one organization by way of the Internet, I actually made matters worse. Now in addition to regular mailings, my father is receiving e-mail updates. When materials began arriving from new sources, I gave up and resigned myself to purchasing a heavy-duty paper shredder.

Every business and organization must cultivate new customers and retain existing ones to survive and grow. That requires some form of regular correspondence. I have no problem with that. What I find unpalatable is the intrusive presence of unseen mega-entities operating at a distance. Giant corporations and associations that have no connection to or understanding of the people they doggedly pursue for money.

A traditional small business knows whether its customers are alive or dead. Details about where a customer grew up, his or her hobbies, number of children and so on is instantly accessible from personal memory, not computer RAM. I doubt some multi-tentacled merchandising machines even know where southern Minnesota is located or that its inhabitants do not wear snowshoes to bed.

The disconnect is undoubtedly the reason why it’s nearly impossible to turn around without having a customer survey thrust into one’s face. Why the interest? Does the CEO of some multi-billion dollar operation want me to join him at the corner bar for a few beers? I think not. Is it an attempt to quantify my every burp and hiccup to squeeze more blood from the turnip? Absolutely.

Like it or not, I believe we have arrived at a place and time where people are valued more for what they consume than what they produce. If being remembered as a good consumer is the ultimate claim to fame, I’ll choose anonymity.

Wishing you a rewarding New Year,
Jeff Irish

Connect Business Magazine received many excellent nominations for Business Person of the Year and greatly appreciates the participation of the MSU College of Business professors who served as our independent panel of judges.

Area manufacturers and advocates for expanded manufacturing employment opportunities may find common ground and support in the newly formed Region 9 Chapter of the Minnesota Precision Manufacturing Association.

Jeff Irish

Jeff Irish

Founder and former publisher of Connect Business Magazine.

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