List selling and swapping has been a common practice in the private sector for decades. My roommate, who subscribes to Details among other magazines, recently received a postcard informing him that he had been
"...selected to enjoy PLAYBOY for just $1 an issue, our absolute lowest price! And get a FREE DVD!"Now this is entertaining for numerous reasons I will not expand on in this post, but particularly because there are very few lists from which Playboy could have received his name. He owns a few credit cards, one of which is tied specifically to his superfluous expenditures at Express Men; he shops at Harris-Teeter and is a member of their "VIC" club; he subscribes to Details. And that's about it.
It's interesting that an organization that you provide not only with your name and contact information, but with your business, would just sell you out like that.
The above situation, however, is by no means limited to the cynic-ready corporate world. The liberal not-for-profits like The Sierra Club, ACLU, People for the American Way, etc., all seem to be operating from the same mailing lists, even though most people only sign up for one initially. As a member of the ACLU and having received a subscription to The Nation as a gift, I was suddenly inundated with material not only asking me for support or action, but money!
This is where the line crosses back once again from permission-based to interruption-based marketing, and it's more annoying than anything I've ever seen on TV. My relationship with the Sierra Club itself has generated so much paper waste that I'm betting we've already gone through at least one recycled forest by now.
In campaigns, the trend seems to be to respect their subscribers. Certainly, all who write on the subject recommend doing so. Dean refused to give up his half-a-million-plus e-mail addresses after the primary, but sent his endorsement of Kerry and repudiation of Nader -- among other campaign updates -- to the list himself and tranferred the list and his organization into an entirely new entity. It's only a matter of time, I fear, before one of my preferred candidates decides to sell me out for a few bucks after his or her political career has come to an end.
NOTE: If anyone has any information about the Playboy investigation above or if anyone is interested in the aforementioned offer, feel free to holla back.