Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Picture this: you visit an online personals site. The posts are hit or miss, but you're optimistic. One seems like it might be interesting, but the picture is fuzzy. You click on it, and you find Mistress Hildy's profile:

Hi guys! Do you like amputees? Do you want mommy to put you over her knee and spank you? Did you soil your diapers like a naughty boy?

You close the page as soon as possible and literally five seconds later you get an email saying, "Hi! THIS IS MISTRESS HILDY! DID SOMEBODY POOP THEIR JEANS? DID SOMEBODY POOP THEIR JEANS?"

Oddly, this is how an increasing number of websites work these days. (1) They give you very little information; (2) you click to find out more; (3) as the photos fill in and details appear you're smacked with the horrifying realization that you were duped into looking at crap that isn't remotely close to what you want; and then (4) you get emails for the rest of your life with subject lines like, "HEY, ROMAN! MISTRESS HILDY IS STILL WAITING TO GIVE YOU THE ENEMA YOU DESERVE!"

My bath towels were looking a little threadbare so I used Google to see what my options were. Their top recommendation was Kmart, so I went there to investigate. They had a myriad of choices: polyester with embroidered butterflies, rayon with embroidered mushrooms, and dacron with gingham Holly Hobby silhouettes. I closed the window as quickly as possible but a few hours later I got an email from Kmart saying, "We saw you browsing our online aisles and thought you might be interested in these!"

And below are photographs of cardboard shoes, books about Jesus, and selections from Nicki Minaj's new clothing line for dogs.

It doesn't quite link up in my head. I mean, I didn't buy what I needed at Kmart, so they should probably have realized that I wasn't going to buy random shit. In fact, I was pretty much sitting there thinking, "Christ, what kind of desperate, douche-ass operation tries to flog all this bargain-basement crap?" It confirmed that if indeed there was a Kmart customer, it sure as hell wasn't me.

I got tickets for a talk on Eventbrite so naturally that signed me up for a news blast announcing every future event on the Eastern seaboard. The events weren't artistic. The locations weren't convenient. In fact, even EventBrite realized their suggestions had little in common with the event I chose. "YOU LIKE TO GO OUTSIDE," read the email's subject line. "HERE ARE OTHER EVENTS HAPPENING OUTSIDE YOUR HOUSE!"

I don't know what the fuck is up with LivingSocial. I'd heard they were a Groupon-style shopping portal that sent daily notifications about online deals, so I signed up. When their suggested deals weren't exactly my cup of tea, I followed their advice and customized my deal preferences. I spent literally hours filling out their six-hundred item "Personal Interests" checklist telling them things I barely admit to myself. Dogs don't like me, my gums are receding, I have a rather extensive collection of animated GIFs of Jon Hamm from the waist down.

And then every eight minutes for the next year I got email from them headlined, "CHOSEN ESPECIALLY FOR YOU!" that offered discounts at colon therapy and electrolysis salons. I'm not sure if the fault is accidental or intentional: though they ask yea or nay on Portuguese-Alaskan vegan-fusion restaurants, they neglect to inquire if you're unable to poop or are entirely covered in hair. I'm an atheist without a car, yet for some reason they think I'm itching to make a three-hour bus ride to New Brunswick, New Jersey, to see a play called, "Oy! Plotzing with a Yiddish Mama." Click on anything for additional info and they'll never let you forget it: a few hours later you'll see the email, "JUST BECAUSE YOU DIDN'T BUY IT DOESN'T MEAN YOU DON'T NEED A BRAZILIAN WAX!"

Even Change.Org -- the allegedly-altruistic petition site -- is full of shit. You sign one petition to protest bullying at a New Jersey preschool and literally seconds later the deluge begins. Now you get daily emails with headlines like, "Hey, Mr. Bleeding Heart, don't you give a fuck about the Boko Haram?"

I'm not sure what can be done about this irritating new trend. Businesses might pretend that those follow-up emails are a customer service, but when you get a hundred a day it seems more like punishment for visiting their website in the first place.

If you really want to sell me something, then, make a mouse that'll take back my last few clicks. "Excuse me," it'll broadcast to Change.Org, "I apologize for giving a shit." "Oops," it'll say to Kmart, "I'm not looking for fabrics made by DuPont." "Sorry," it'll tell Mistress Hildy, "I thought that was a mustache on your upper lip."

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