Not for Sale: One Digital Soul

September 26, 2011

Corporate America has offered to buy your digital soul.

I can tell that mine is worth something to them, because they constantly offer me points, rewards, discounts and freebies in order to get at it.

All I have to do is play along with their version of The Matrix.  If I’ll live in their database as a trackable consumer avatar, then I can have my real life for 2.5% off retail.

And what is it, exactly, that corporate America gets in return?  Data, of course.  Apparently it’s not enough for them to track their inventory and know how many iced coffee drinks they’ve sold.  They want to know that I bought them and what else I’m likely to buy.

There’s no crime in all this.  Whether or not people know they are participating in marketing research, most are happy to sign up and get trifling savings in exchange for their personal information.

But I’ve found it’s becoming socially unacceptable to not participate.  Almost everywhere I shop, I’m getting double-takes from cashiers when they ask any of their standard questions:

“May I have your telephone number?”

“May I have your rewards card?”

“Will this be on your [department store] credit card today?”

I smile and say:


The staff thinks that I must not have heard them properly.  Or I left my card at home.  They can’t imagine someone doesn’t want the savings.  It’s not possible.  I must want to save money.  They must save my money for me.  My stubbornness makes them angry.

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Once, I went several rounds with a department store associate over my disinterest in his store credit card.   He was incredulous, “I hope I have enough money one day, that I don’t need to save 10%.”

No.  I will not clutter my wallet and my credit report with useless store cards so I can save 10% on one purchase of a pair of socks and allow corporate moles to mine my personal digital space for all eternity.

One grocery store clerk lectured me during my checkout that I was a moron for not carrying the store savings card.  He tried to hide the application in my bag.  I fished it out and handed it back.  No.  I don’t want the grocery store to know that I’m the person who buys ten boxes of Lean Cuisine Chicken Fettucini every two weeks.  It’s embarrassing enough that my credit card company knows it.

Yes, I like to save money.  I’m not made of the stuff.  But I place a value on retaining some inkling of my privacy.  I place a value on not receiving corporate emails.  Not receiving corporate texts and voice mails.  Not finding their ads on my web pages (I get enough of that through online cookies).  Not finding their litter in my mailbox.  Not being tracked everywhere I go.

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It’s surprising to me is that companies either instruct or allow their employees to be so pushy on the topic.  If I’m willing to pay more money, why can’t they just take it and say thanks?  I would think that grocery stores—fending off obliteration by Wal-mart and Sam’s Club—would be happy for some customers willing (or stupid enough) to pay full price for things.

This is yet another quirk I’m practicing for use in my dotage.  Corporate America is unlikely to reverse this trend and I’m likely to become more crotchety on the topic as the years go on.  Stores will soon deny me service without appropriate store-issued identification.  Great Clips has already blackballed me because I won’t identify myself by my phone number.

I’ll buy my groceries at Aldi and my clothes at garage sales so I can avoid those whippersnappers who demand that I sync my phone to their database in order to pay cash for six eggs.

I, for one, will still refuse to sell my digital soul to those devils.

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  1. Good for you!!

  2. I thought you would like it, Cass, since you told me I could stop giving my phone number to people.

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