Sunday, July 10, 2011

Dear Valued Customer

I guess I’m part of a very small minority that prefers the unvarnished truth over a slick, false marketing ploy. That’s why I love this commercial Personally, I need a mobile home about like I need malaria, but my first impulse upon seeing this commercial was to go buy one from this guy just to thank him for making an honest sales pitch.

Goofy, juvenile telemarketing tricks are to be expected out of businesses, politicians and fundraisers. They appeal to the emotions of people who want to do the right thing and sometimes they’ll even leach off the legitimacy of respected institutions to call you up and squeeze some money out of you (I’m looking at you, State Troopers). Don’t you love it when you get something official-looking in the mail from the “Federal” this or the “National” that and when you open it, thinking it may have something to do with your social security or latest tax return, it turns out to be from some huckster trying to sell you insurance or a vehicle maintenance warranty that you don’t need?

But there have to be some institutions that would never do that, right? You would think so. But for me, one more institution eliminated itself from that “cut above” category this month. I got a card in the mail from the Texas A&M Association of Former Students telling me I urgently needed to update my personal information in the directory. The card didn’t direct me to the Former Students locator webpage or anything like that, but it had a phone number for me to call. It seemed a little odd to me since my information hasn’t changed in the going-on six years I’ve lived here, but this is A&M, my school, my alma mater. This looked important and I figured I had better make sure I’m up to speed. So imagine how stupid I felt when I called and, after verifying the info they had on me was correct, the “database information updater” shifted into a slick sales pitch to sell me a bound, commemorative copy of the Former Students directory, renew my membership in the association, and all other manner of goodies. Oh, no. A telemarketer disguised as Texas A&M. Et tu, TAMU? A cheap snake-oil salesman trick? The telemarketer even had mastered the technique of re-defining the expectations of normal social interaction; the one where the guy huffily behaves as if you’ve violated some basic code of civil behavior when you have the temerity to say, “I just called to answer the request to update my info.”

So the banner on the bottom of the Association of Former Students website that reads, “Excellence, Integrity, Leadership, Loyalty, Respect, and Selfless Service” is just a collection of maroon-colored electrons; a smokescreen for bait-and-switch chicanery. I don’t know when Texas A&M University turned into TAMU, Inc., but I had missed it. I’ve scraped that window sticker, though, and I’m moving on.

Dang. Next thing you know we’ll find out Santa Claus doesn’t really fly around the whole world on Christmas Eve.