Not One Ding-a-ling

One of the blogs I follow, Musings from a Tangled Mind, is occasionally a rant against some stupidity of daily life – usually on a subject I agree deserves a tongue lashing. I’ve not seen, there, my target today.

I am rarely able to nap during the day, no matter how tired I feel. This afternoon, I succeeded to drop off – and scarcely half an hour later my phone rang with an automated call from Walgreen’s Pharmacy, a reminder about refilling a prescription that:
1) doesn’t have refills on it, and
2) I never signed up to have reminders about.

I grew up in an environment which functioned largely without telephones at all. My recollection is that we were on a multi-party line in Washington DC, before my father entered the Foreign Service and we decamped to Vietnam in 1956. There – and later in Paris – there was a phone in our home, but it was solely for my parents and for official use only. I did occasionally use the Paris phone to arrange to meet a friend, but tying up the line to chat was forbidden, the cost considered prohibitive.

Returned to the U.S. for college, I lived in a dorm with one phone for the entire floor, or pay phones in the lobby for calling home. Again no habit of phone conversation developed. By the time I was out of school, married and living in my own space, the telephone had become a tool for necessary contact and nothing more. Thus, when I moved to New Mexico and into an area with no phone lines available, I was not disconcerted. In the one instance when my parents urgently needed to get hold of me, they had me located by the State Police, who came out to my house to deliver the message that I needed to call back East.

With time, I moved to a more developed area and met phone lines in place. I was still on a system that was small enough for us to give out our numbers with only 5 digits (Santa Fe was either 982 or 983 prefix, so my phone number was 33474, although one had to dial the initial 98). By the time I moved to the Las Vegas area, Santa Fe had 988 and 471 also in place, but Las Vegas had only 425 or 454. Five digit numbers remained the norm until the late 1990s.

Over the past 15 years the entire state has “upgraded” its land lines and sprouted a plethora of different cell company connections. In order to have service in my “second” house (the land line only goes to the main dwelling) I’ve signed up for T-Mobile, upgraded to a “smart” phone and now get calls via WiFi.

None of which justifies Walgreen’s disrupting my nap with an automated call to alert me it is time to refill a prescription!

Especially when I did NOT ask for that service. In fact, I’ve opted out of it twice already. Apparently, each time I fill a new prescription, the refill reminder is set for thirty days out, no matter what the content of the prescription says – and each new prescription requires a new opt out.

Lesson learned – no new prescriptions will be filled at Walgreen’s unless/until their system allows me to put a block on unwanted calls.

Which brings me to the true topic of this rant – the presumption that we all want/need to be connected all the time, that if we miss a call we are expected to return it immediately, that it is okay to repeatedly troll for business even after being told not to call again and even when the number dialed is on a national do not call list. We have to opt out of everything we don’t want, rather than being invited in and allowed to not participate unless we request inclusion.

A similar presumption underlies online tracking of preferences, of sites visited, etc. so that “ads can be tailored to meet your needs.” Except that no ad ever meets my needs, because I’ve learned to ignore them. They are an intrusion into my time and space, or into my spam folder. I do not have TV reception and, though I do miss the occasional drama series and a few PBS programs, the amount of advertising I thus avoid more than balances the small amount of worthwhile content that I forgo.

At what point did we cease of be people with brains, worthy of respect and entitled to be asked our preferences? How did I miss the turning point where personal space, rights to solitude and to privacy disappeared from everyday interactions?

I am not so “old fashioned” as to devalue the benefits of having a cell phone. I do appreciate being able to text and to email and reach out to people more quickly and easily than when I had to walk from my home in Lamy to the train depot to make that call to my parents, using the only pay phone in the village. I am so old fashioned as to mind that, with the advent of easy connection, has come a culture of disregard of – nay disrespect for – those who are on the other end of the connection.

Yes I realize there were people, shortly after Mr. Bell made his revolutionary invention, who said then what I’m saying now. They had it right, to some extent. Cultural norms do need to be adapted to changes in technology but not to the point of eliminating basic respect for individuals’ privacy and control of their home environments.

Just because you want to contact me does not mean I am obliged to be available to you!

There is a time and a place for communication. During church service in the morning, and again when I am napping on a Sunday afternoon is neither the time nor the place for Walgreen’s to pester me about a prescription refill for which I am not even eligible!

What’s that old parting line after a job interview? Don’t call us, we’ll call you?

If I want information I’ll seek it out. If I need a refill I’ll ask for it. If I intend to purchase an item, I’ll find the stores or the online sites with the items I’m interested in. I know my own mind, what I want and when I want it.

If you want my business, show me the simple respect of allowing me to initiate the contact, and to choose what reminders or new information I desire.

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3 Responses to “Not One Ding-a-ling”

  1. Tal Hartsfeld Says:

    This is truly a world of total “default”.
    Hardly anything is a matter of free choice. All our “choices” have already been hand-picked by industries and businesses who only go by the advice of professional “market researchers”. There is no such thing as individual preference (it seems).

    I’ve seen a lot of good and useful products disappear and cease to exist, presumably (on my part) because they’re not the kind of item people frequently purchase, and, as such, the company is not as likely to reap huge profits from.
    Which is also why we’re so bombarded with all these useless/excessive trendy products the advertisers badger us so repeatedly to buy.

  2. Cheryl @ Artzzle Says:

    N, We just switched our internet to a company who requires us to have a land line again. (haven’t had one in years). So we abandoned one of our two cell phones and switched. Good thing: WE LOVE their internet service and their prices! Bad thing, immediately upon installing the phone, sales people, those roll-over calls and messages. MAN what a bummer. And they know we’re seniors because a lot of stuff is related to that. I’m almost ready to just not use that phone at all. Really haven’t given it out much 😦

  3. Musings from a Tangled Mind Says:

    Thank you for the kind “shout out,” it is most appreciated! And I couldn’t agree with you more! Regardless of what the person is selling, whether it’s prescriptions at Walgreens, Avon, solar panels, or religion (such as the visit I had recently from Jehovah Witnesses), if I want something, whatever it might be, I will go and seek it out. I do not need people to contact me by phone or showing up on my doorstep, interrupting a perfectly good nap, to sell it to me.

    I love your comment: “Just because you want to contact me does not mean I am obliged to be available to you!” This is so very true and something that places like Walgreens, and other business like them, simply fail to respect. If you want a service, you will sign up for it. There should be no “automatic trial period” that you need to unsubscribe from in order to get peace and quiet. If you would find it convenient, surely you can sign up for it yourself.

    I’m like you, I find such tactics have quite the opposite effect the business is hoping to garner, instead of being thankful and giving them more business, I simply get irritated and take my business elsewhere.

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