Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Ahhhhhrnold wins…

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s win of the California Gubernatorial Race demonstrates only that American voters elect their politicians based solely on image and that the idea a politician had to have a true platform disappeared with the advent of television. Unfortunately, just like in their personal lives, Americans have yet to learn that what you see is not always what you get.

What happens now is up to Schwarzenegger. He won’t be able to fake the result or act his way out of California’s problems. His personal life and his standards of conduct will be under more scrutiny than ever before. Hopefully, the prize of his election win will not turn out to be personal and political defeat.

Do the voters of California understand that by electing him as Governor they guaranteed no more Schwarzenegger movies? Or was that just another reason why they did it?

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.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Free speech, my axx…

When the Direct Marketing Association won a hearing in U.S. Federal Court in Denver saying that the Federal “Do Not Call” list violated their right to free speech, my first reaction—like that of many Americans—was “Free speech, my axx!” (or something thereabouts). Once I read that the opinion had been based on the fact that charities had been permitted to call despite the list, I understood what the judge was looking at.

The bigger question is where the line for free speech is drawn. Telemarketers have abused the system. I put the telephone in here so friends, family, bosses, and clients could get in touch with me when necessary, not so every marketer in the country could play hell with my evenings. And why would I believe the DMA’s rhetoric that telemarketers won’t call people who don’t want to be called when these guys have consistently shown already that they will blatantly break the law. Current law forbids these guys from calling after 9 p.m.; we get calls as late as 9:45 p.m. here. Not only that, but I believe it’s against the law for these guys not to tell you what organization they’re with, and I just had a telemarketer with a blocked number do just that.

I just ordered Anonymous Call Rejection from Southwestern Bell. That’ll cut off all the ones who block their numbers and let me see the numbers of those who call anyway. I intend to complain to the Federal Communications Commission about each and every one of them.

Not as it appears…

I was talking with a young friend of mine who had voted for President Bush in the last election, and we were discussing Bush’s current problems with credibility. My friend said he had voted for Bush so he would bring some honesty and integrity to the White House. But he was having a hard time believing Bush anymore and was leaning away from voting for him in the next election.

Not a problem for me.

Too much about Bush has always struck me as somewhat insincere, as if somehow one poked beneath the surface, one would not find much depth. Bush rose to the occasion during 9/11 and showed himself a somewhat capable Commander in Chief ; but at the same time, he seemed to lack the maturity one would expect of a President, often acting more like a teenager who didn’t understand the fight he was in or what its consequences could be. As my young friend noted, since Bush has been President, world tensions with the U.S. have increased; and Bush’s “axis of evil” and “bring them on” sound bites were almost beyond belief.

If you had asked me a year ago if I thought Bush could be defeated in the next election, I would have said “no”. But Bush’s lack of credibility and his near neglect of conditions at home have made him vulnerable. War can only deflect a citizenry’s attention for so long. Bush may be running quickly out of time.