Friday, August 18, 2006

Your Mailing List Needs Vetting

As most of you who live in Peoria know, there's also a Peoria, Arizona, that's a suburb of Phoenix. (It is so named because its first settlers were transplants from Peoria, Illinois.) It mostly intrudes on my life when I try to google up something like "Peoria carpenters" or "Peoria Italian food" and my first six results are all for Arizona. It happens about 1/4 of the time, just enough to be irritating, but not enough to remind me to type "Peoria IL" every time I search for a local business.

I get a lot of random-ass junk mail (I'm sorry, THIRD-CLASS mail) at my business address because I'm automatically listed in a half-dozen public directories by being registered with the state Supreme Court, being a member of the state bar association, and having malpractice insurance, all of which are public records, more or less. Some of it's kind-of interesting - there's this forensics place that teaches CSI-type classes for laymen in related fields. A lot of it is a little strange, almost like a snail-mail version of e-mail spam - multilevel marketing scams, "buy this book and make $1,000,000" stuff, things like that. (What kind of return must they be getting on those scams from lawyer lists to justify paying postage? How naive ARE my colleagues?)

But the ones that persistently crack me up are ones I get about twice a week: property solicitations from Realtors in Peoria, Arizona. "Our new office is open!" or "Thinking of buying a new home?" or "We have a business property that will suit you perfectly, Peoria business owner!" Exactly the same sorts of things I get from my ACTUAL Realtor here in Peoria, Illinois, and from local Realty companies that are expanding or moving or whatever.

How poorly-designed is their database program that it can't sort out useless addresses by state or ZIP code? How much postage are they wasting, here? And why does every Realtor in Peoria, Arizona, appear to be using the same moronic database program??? It's not like I get mail from one particular Realtor. I get it from DOZENS.

It makes me think of when I was in college at Notre Dame, and NARAL appeared to have bought the entire student-body mailing list, to send us all pro-choice advocacy donate-money letters monthly. I was mind-boggled. What kind of return could they be getting from a Catholic university where something like 90% of students were ACTIVELY pro-life? (And most of the remaining 10% loosely so.) Do their donators know about this spectacular waste of resources? Personally, I'd be ticked off if I knew a charity I supported was sending monthly mailings to 10,000 people who OBVIOUSLY wouldn't respond. Once, fine. MONTHLY? You've got to be kidding me.

Discover Card was the other big offender at Notre Dame. We'd all get frequent solicitations from them (as from all credit card companies), and they'd say:

Joe Student
University of Notre Dame
123 Dorm Room
Notre Dame, Indiana 46556

Dear Saint Mary's College student:

I loved that: "Dear Saint Mary's College student." St. Mary's was the college across the street. I can see how an individual might be a little bit confused, but how did their database manage to address all the letters with "University of Notre Dame" in the address and right below that, "Dear Saint Mary's College student"? Am I really going to trust them with my money when they make such glaringly obvious errors? (Answer: No.)

So anyway, corporate and charitable America, vet your mailing lists and check your databases. And please note that I do not live in Arizona and am therefore unlikely to rent an office in Phoenix.


C. J. Summers said...

I had to look it up, so just in case anyone else was wondering:

vet, v. (vetted, vetting) (trans.) make a careful and critical examination of (something): proposals for vetting large takeover bids.

-- New Oxford American Dictionary

Anonymous said...

I used to have a dog that needed vetting quite often - worms it was.