Photo by Alex Jones on Unsplash

The first thing you see is a photo of your house. YOUR house, in spring, so the leaves are full out, the lawn is green (well, hopefully, it depends) and you feel good, because, hey, it’s your castle, right? YOUR HOUSE. This is supposed to elicit a feeling of warmth and protectiveness about your safe abode. Right?


Until you open this letter to find out it’s a sales pitch from Allstate. In it they outline what they determined to be your home’s insured value, and offer you what looks like a good rate. Except it isn’t. Because like all loss-leaders, once you start discussing your actual situation, that number will rise, inevitably. Because you have to insure your stuff, and if you have a high-end gear collection like I do, it costs. It had better. Replacement cost would be overwhelming. So no, their quote is pure bullshit. And we both know it.

But that wasn’t the piece that got me. This -the second of two mailings from two different home insurance companies- indicate how deeply companies are willing to dig into public records, invade our privacy, dig up a photograph of our home and otherwise pry open what we like to think is between us and those who keep our records.

I can’t speak for all such homeowners, but I do know that for a Certain Generation (Baby Boomers and our parents) privacy is priceless.

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Allstate (if this is in fact Allstate) wants me to switch providers. Well my goodness, if they already know my inner leg measurement, my bra cup size and my mother’s maiden name, then surely they know that I’ve been with USAA since I left the Army back in 1978. There is no way I am going to switch, and price has far less to do with it than how I am treated by this company.

I was, and still am, incensed.

Because, in part, this:

“Over the past decade, the demise of privacy has been repeatedly pronounced by renowned technology executives such as Mark Zuckerberg, who have declared privacy to be passé and anachronistic — “so 20th century” — or the concern of old people”.

Now there’s an understatement, all right.

You’re goddamned right it’s the concern of old people, you (renowned for being an) arrogant ass, Zuckerberg, and for good reason. As we have all experienced your mindless, thoughtless, greedy, monumentally STUPID handling of our personal information (not that I have strong feelings about it but I digress). The attitude that being concerned about privacy is just so passe brings us to marketing techniques like Allstate’s. Breathtakingly invasive to people of my age, and frankly folks, we’re the ones with money to spend.

This is how you guarantee that we will never ever buy from you- just dig into our drawers without our permission. Make us feel as though our houses are being watched from the street.

Look, this marketing piece- in VERY SMALL PRINT- claims that they pulled the photo of my house from public records. Most older folks I know can’t read print that small. Precisely my point. You don’t understand your market.

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Sure. That gives me a real warm, friendly feeling about Allstate. And any other company that dips into my personal information.

This incredible lack of respect and regard for the preferences of many of my generation is what drives a marketing piece like this. We are the generation of relationships and connections. You can (rightfully) rail all you like about what’s wrong with Baby Boomers. It’s a favorite habit of anyone who wants to discuss any other generation’s faults so that their time is always the best time, of course. But if you plan to market to us, this isn’t the way to do it.

Older people in particular are scammed constantly for their savings. We’re uniquely vulnerable and the favorite target of increasingly sophisticated scammers. Here’s the top ten list: Nine out of every ten calls I receive is one of these scams. I know them by heart. However, it’s made me unwilling to answer any call whose number I don’t recognize. Except that doesn’t work either, because people’s private phone lines are being hijacked, as their emails are too. Including mine.

My best friend got call from someone at her local bank, informing her that all of her bank accounts had been compromised. The caller had all the correct numbers, all her private information. It wasn’t until she asked him where he worked- at her local branch where she has banked for decades- that the caller made a critical mistake. He claimed he worked at her branch.

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Jill knows everyone at that branch, and has for years. She made a polite excuse, called the bank. They were shocked at how much information this scammer had obtained. They changed all her accounts along with super secure passwords. The scammer almost got her. But her intimate knowledge of her bank employees- which characterizes my generation– saved her from making a huge mistake. She was shaken at how close she had been to losing all her money, and she’s as smart as they come.

So kindly, just exactly why on earth would you or any other salesperson who hopes to build trust, build a relationship, do such a damned fool thing as to invade our privacy to sell us something?

What an epic fail. That is, if you want to sell to Boomers, especially women, especially those of us who live alone, own our homes, and have a great deal to lose. Especially those of us who are in the cross hairs of hundreds of thousands of increasingly smart scammers, who are determined to crack the code to our savings. Salespeople and service providers need to see this from our perspective, not their need to sell us an insurance policy. Until you understand the incessant, endless attempts to rip us off, you cannot possibly appreciate what you

need to do to make a sale.

Emails, phone calls, people at my door- and now marketing mail disguised in a friendly package showing me my home. Giving me the powerful initial impression that I’m being stalked. Purported to be from a trusted name. Right. Sure. I believe that. No prob. Most of my neighbors, friends and business acquaintances feel the same way- there is a point after which using information gathering is like having the NSA install cameras in your bedroom.

Deposit photos

This article’s got a little age on it. Still, it still covers some good basic ground and I love their stories ( CRM is getting so creepy, so sneaky that it has all but turned off a great many people my age for the simple fact that it’s not flattering. It’s divisive, dishonest, and a perfect front for a scam. Rather than investing in getting to know your customers, you use a computer to do it. What that tells a generation which cares a great deal about the personal connection is that we’re not worth your investment. For a great many of us Baby Boomers, who are creeped out by a sales clerk who refuses to look us in the eyes, this is the wrong message.

I don’t frankly care that Allstate may or may not be behind it. Or the young woman, Haylee, who has a photo on this page. The invasive nature of the marketing piece itself, the feeling that I just had someone break into my home and look through my file drawers, leaves me so damned angry that I feel like taking a hike to her office and speaking with her in person.

Except that Haylee and her ilk aren’t worth my time. Here’s why. She may not even be real People use real companies to sideswipe our trust, especially those of us who grew up with well-established brand names. So Haylee may be a complete construct as part of a very good con game. Simple truth?

Great article topic. I’m sending her a copy- if in fact she exists. For the rest of us, know your market. Know what we prefer. If I wanted to sell to Millennials I am very clear I’d have to be a lot more adept at social media. Works both ways. Never, ever assume that the medium you’re comfortable with is the medium your target market wants you to use.



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