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Are You In The System Yet, Sir?

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Yesterday, I popped into town to fetch a bottle of Lamy’s Turquoise ink in the local pen shop. I’ve had my eye on that particular turquoise for a while now. The individual cartridges, designed for the Safari, are useless for my Lamy 2000, and I got tired of Iroshizuku’s depressing blue-black color. Somehow, the turquoise (which produces an excellent sheen effect, by the way), makes me smile more.

As I was about to pay, the sales clerk asked are you in the system yet, sir? No. Let’s see then, address, name, right, do you want me to put you in the system, sir? No. I just want to buy something and get out of here! I didn’t dare to say that, but it had crossed my mind. I interpreted the original question as can I get your data for free, sir? Because that’s the only reason they’re interested in me in the first place.

I’m getting pretty tired of having to answer that annoying question with no thank you at every single store. No, I don’t have a discount card, and no I don’t want one. Sometimes, the response is met with disdain. In some stores, where I know the clerk, I just can’t bring myself to firmly say no. Instead, I mumble I forgot my discount card and they usually response with tsjk tsjk, you shouldn’t! I’ll put the discount on the receipt for this one time. It sound silly, but sometimes, I even avoid that store entirely, just because of that.

A few weeks ago, we wanted to buy museum tickets at a tourism office. They asked a variant of the question: do you have an e-mail address, sir? No. There, conversation ended! But really, what kind of a question is that, who doesn’t these days? Most of the times though, the question is which e-mail address should I enter, sir? and then I come up with one of my spam e-mail accounts. Isn’t it a bit silly to even need those?

My wife’s previous job included a Volkswagen company car I once brought to the local garage for a routine maintenance check-up. Years—and multiple cars—later, Volkswagen still manages to spam us with their annoying mails because I was stupid enough to leave my e-mail address behind “in case they’re done early and need to contact me”. Once you’re in “the system”, there seems to be no way out. Who knows, your data might even get sold to other companies looking to advertise.

Some supermarkets, like Carrefour, make it very difficult to shop without handing over data. Self-scanning is just impossible without a card with a barcode, which is of course coupled to your personal information. Expect more ads in your mail, specifically targeting things you bought. Others, like Albert Heijn, are more privacy-friendly: the barcode can be coupled to your data for “extra (negligible) discounts”, but it is not necessary. But it seems that no-one really cares.

In the end, abusing our personal data has the opposite effect: we’re disgusted by companies that won’t leave us alone, even if we mail, call, and yell at them to please remove our data in accordance with the GDPR. Some bigger multimedia stores even ask for your ID card “to put the reductions on”. When queuing up at the cash register, I see 90% of the people in front of me whipping out their ID and handing it over, where it gets “scanned” somewhere behind the counter. All it takes is a no, although admittedly, I could do without the stress.

Just leave us alone. Be happy that we buy your stuff at your store and not at someone else’s. I can’t even seem to buy a simple bottle of ink for €10 without having to say no.

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I'm Wouter Groeneveld, a Brain Baker, and I love the smell of freshly baked thoughts (and bread) in the morning. I sometimes convince others to bake their brain (and bread) too.

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