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Database Nation by Simson Garfinkel

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Taking Direct Action against direct Marketing

Take a moment to imagine our nightmarish future if direct marketing continues on its current path:

You're planning a trip to New York City for Valentine's Day with your sweetheart. You call up your travel agent to make a reservation, then go out for lunch. When you return, you discover that your email inbox is filled. There are more than 5,000 restaurants in the Big Apple, and a third of them have sent you electronic coupons offering you 15% off your entrée if you visit them sometime during your big trip.

You pick up your phone. You want to call your travel agent and yell at her for selling your name. But you don't have a chance: instead of hearing a dial tone, you find yourself speaking with a representative from United Airlines. Your travel agent ticketed you on American, the representative informs you. "We discovered it by scanning the reservation system. If you'll ticket your next business trip on United, we'll honor your American ticket and give you a complimentary upgrade to business class as well."

The United offer seems too good to pass up. But over the next 15 minutes, you find out that there are so many caveats and restrictions that you decide to keep your ticket on American. Then you look at the clock and discover that you are 10 minutes late for a meeting. As you get up, your phone rings again. The Caller ID box says that it's from your sweetie, so you take the call.

Surprise! This time the call is from a local travel agent (who ...

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