Her Ladyship

Notes from the gutter.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Thank you, Bartleby the Scrivener

Who knew that a terribly boring story you read in high school English would continue to have such relevance in your life? I know I've referenced "Bartleby" when discussing a previous job that was soul-suckingly awful. Now I am using his words - "I would prefer not to" - on what feels like a daily basis.

I am really irritated that nowadays, any time you want to conduct any kind of business transaction, you're expected to hand over your personal information. I'm not discussing data needed to verify your identity so that you can use a credit card - that, I have no problem with, I am big on cutting back on identify theft.

What I'm talking about is the insiduous need by companies for us to do their market research for them. How many times have you been asked for your zip code while trying to make a purchase? How often are you asked to hand over your contact information just to redeem a coupon?

For me, the breaking point came yesterday. GI Jane and I had gone down to the new museum here in SA, the Museo Alameda. It's affiliated with the Smithsonian and is supposed to "explore the Latino experience in America" (per their website's front page). It was free to get in, as it always is on Sundays. The front desk person handed us a slip of paper and asked for our last names and zip codes. When asked why, she demurred and said that it was for marketing purposes. You know what? You don't need that. Do your own goddamned research. And as always, when I politely declined to hand over my personal information, I was met with hostility on the other end and derision that I think "they" are monitoring me. You are taking my personal information down to track patterns of behavior, so yes, that is the definition of being monitored. Assholes.

Turned out that the museum is between exhibits, so there was only one room that actually had things in it to look at (an interesting perspective on protest posters). Of course the gift shop was chock-full.


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