Hello companies that I already deal with: just a little note to say I don’t want everything to be a “push.”
Yes, yes, I know you’ve already got me where you want me — since I’m already a customer and you’ve got me on the phone or in your office, you can lean on what you think of as our “relationship” to try and get me to sign up for something new.
But I think I’m going to start pushing back. The truth is, I don’t really like you enough for you to think we’re friends.
What am I talking about?
A new credit card comes in the mail. All you have to do, it says, is dial a 1-800 number to activate the card. Do it, please. Do it right away.
So I do what’s suggested. Punch in some numbers, and away you go. But wait, no.
There’s a little delay while things get activated, and “while you’re waiting, here’s our new offer for credit card insurance — pennies a day for peace of mind.” No thanks — not interested. “Well, we’re still waiting for activation, so let me tell you more…”
I know and you know that it takes no time at all to “activate” the card. It’s been done before I even got to the insurance pitch. But since we’re waiting, and since your time has no value…
Or you go to the bank to handle the annual ins-and-outs of banking information. Not a year goes by that there isn’t something to sort out that needs a signature and a trip to the branch. “But oh — since you’re here, we noticed from your transactions that you must be using a different bank’s credit card as your principal card. Well, we have a card that will…”
I shake my head.
I’ve written before about the tollgate of the grocery or hardware store, but it bears mentioning again. I bristle inside when, right there at the cash register, the cashier is forced to ask, “And will you be donating a dollar for blind children/deaf puppies/much-needed medical equipment today?” Because, behind you in line, you imagine you can feel the raw disdain for Scrooge-y McGreedy-pants when you say, “No thanks, not this time.” (I console myself for my hard-heartedness by imagining the great corporate bosses of grocery governance totaling up the all the one and two dollar donations they get and saying “Well, this will be good for a great, big corporate charitable donation receipt.”)
I can only imagine how the cashiers feel; they don’t get a choice about their scripted “ask” — it’s, sadly, a requirement of their job, and they will be spoken to by management if they don’t ask, just like they can be written up for failing to ask for your customer bonus card.
What a concept — people forced to ask you for money, while you’re forced to be ashamed for your stinginess, even if, away from the grocery store, you donate to plenty of causes.
The point is a simple one. I know who my friends are — and corporations are not my friends. Don’t lean on the “relationship” that marketing gurus talk about, because the truth is, we really don’t have one. At best, it can be defined as “benign tolerance.”
I don’t want a “drink with that.” I don’t want an apple pie. If I did, I’d ask for it.
Now, I know that I’m a cranky guy already. I get that.
But remember: I’m the guy who hates the Charmin “Blue Bears” toilet paper advertisements so much, that I change the channel the moment they come on — and I’ve sworn to never buy even one single product from Charmin, not even if they were the last cushiony-soft toilet paper square on the face of the Earth.
Don’t “push” me.
Russell Wangersky is TC Media’s Atlantic regional columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org — Twitter: @Wangersky.