Tuesday, October 07, 2003

No More Phone Numbers…

All you merchants out there, listen up! If you require my phone number for me to make a purchase from you, we will not be doing business.

Many merchants try to pressure folks into giving out their phone number during a purchase. The telemarketing epidemic that has necessitated government interaction in the form of a “do not call” list is the result of tactics perpetrated in stores and online where a consumer’s phone number is required to enable a purchase. It is also the result of consumers’ unquestioning and misplaced trust in merchants to handle that information. We haven’t asked ourselves why they needed my phone number and what they were going to do with it. Until now.

Many problems consumers are facing in this electronic age are the result of our own actions in conjunction with someone out there who has a new and novel way to make money. We don’t ask ourselves why someone wants a particular piece of information or analyze what they might possibly want to do with it. Is the phone number really necessary to verify an order? Is there some other way that the merchant can contact me that might be more accessible? Do I really need this product or service badly enough that I’m willing to sacrifice peace in my own home i.e., the ability to eat supper or watch a TV show without the incessant ringing of the phone? I certainly have started asking myself those questions before giving any merchant my phone number, and it is a practice I will continue.

I went to Avid.com to download a free copy of Avid DV onto my Windows computer to satisfy my curiosity as a video editor about Avid products. I began to fill out the “required” info to get the download until I saw they “required” my phone number. I backed away. Avid may argue that they have a right to market to me if I download their software. They don’t; they have a desire to market to me and are trying to market to me using the phone and e-mail rather than letting their product speak for itself. As a result, I will not be downloading Avid DV Free.

I’m taking that stance with a lot of merchants and products I am looking at. If we all did that, it wouldn’t be long before merchants would get that telemarketing is on its way out. But if we want to make that happen, then we consumers must be the ones who take action. They call us because they think there’s money in it. Only we can ensure that there’s not.