By Ray Field Tennenbaum
The final pages of a credit card privacy statement are no joke. Except in this case.
(continued from page 7)
…upon your ability to pay no matter how many times the bear attacks.
Incidentally, not a single word of this is binding on us. The statutory rights and responsibilities that bear on you (no pun intended) after you have fully read and understood it may vary from state to state. This Privacy Statement may contain misleading or deceptive claims.
Confused? Allow us:
What’s this all about?
To effectively furnish you our services, we learn many interesting things about you, things your friends or relations couldn’t imagine. Unlike them, our knowing these facts doesn’t change how we feel about you.
What do you mean? What do you know about me?
Well, if we didn’t know your account balances and PIN number, we couldn’t run our business very well, could we now, dimwit? Honestly.
Okay, there’s old report cards, eviction proceedings, hazing incidents, a rough estimate of your digestion calendar—things only guilty people need to worry about, and which you might not think a company like us needs. Unless you’re a shareholder.
What is “nonpublic personal information”?
“Nonpublic personal information” does not include things like your address, credit history, or lifetime slugging percentage.
It may be information about you that we obtained in connection with providing a product or service to you—such as eliminating someone so cleverly that the cops would never suspect you, remember?
It may be anything we know that you might think we don’t, like what you did with Anthony Santocroce’s sister in the eighth grade. Or—it may not be! Third base. Don’t ask how we know. Are we invading your privacy? No. Have you ever considered that we simply find you interesting?
Why is it okay for you to know all this stuff about me, but my wife won’t say why she trembles and changes the subject whenever she hears the name “Eric”?
The answer to that question may or may not lie in nonpublic personal information that we have about her. We would never disclose to you any information without compelling reasons, usually around 10,000 or so of them.
What sort of personal information are you likely to disclose to third parties?
If we have your consent, probably not much. Without it, as much as the law permits. (Hint: we spend about $8 million a year on lobbyists and lawyers. What was your budget for PACs last year?)
Okay, relax. We probably don’t disclose very much about you at all. It’s not really all that interesting: seen one dishonorable discharge, seen ’em all. You haven’t got anything to be ashamed of.
Maybe the sperm count thing.
Where do you get all this from?
Don’t you think we’re entitled to some privacy?! Jesus! It just so happens that we receive personal information about you from a number of sources, Mr. “Puts-His-Pants-On-Both-Legs-At-Once.”
Well, okay. They might be: some of your former partners (as many in number as there may or may not be), hospitals, debt collectors, hall monitors, and the woman who works in Motor Vehicles who saw you looking down the front of her dress. Don’t try to deny it.
What do you use all this for?
You’re really happier not knowing. I mean, do you care how we determine which artwork on our direct-mail fliers you’ll like better, the one with the sailors or the weird print with the fake-looking birds? You think it was a mistake there were big blue anchors all over this letter, there, Hornblower? Just let us do our thing here, and you keep walking around your house wearing nothing but that Cap’n Crunch hat.
How do you protect this information?
Some things, like your bra size and frequent-flier mileage totals, are on a mainframe in a server farm located in Mobile, Alabama, guarded by a seven-letter alphanumeric password that’s so case-sensitive you could never guess it in a jillion years.
Others, like your purchases of contraceptives, gambling receipts, and psychiatric records are known only to this guy, Joe, who works in the cubicle by the washroom. Don’t worry, no one talks to him. He’s socially inept.
Still, when Joe’s semi-annual breakdown does happen, we’ll do everything in our power to make sure you don’t find out.
Isn’t there supposed to be some form I can submit to keep you from using any of this information?
You could try that if you want to prolong the charade that you aren’t dying to hear from a whole new batch of fashionable but lonely women from overseas.
Go ahead and send it, and if it doesn’t get shredded, you can count on the fact that in six to seven business years, your average number of daily credit card solicitations in your mail will drop from 3.4 to 3.1. Remember, though, if you did that, it’d be tremendously hurtful. In any letter you do send, be polite, courteous, and be sure to send it to the attention of “Eric.”