Join The Club? No Thanks!

Film, Great Britain, Observatory

Groucho Marx famously didn’t want to be a member of any club that would have him as a member. If he’d been around now he would have had no choice. Every day we’re enrolled in clubs we don’t want to be a part of.

Yesterday I went to buy some Nespresso coffee capsules. The fancy coffee sales-bar in the basement of Selfridges has red velvet ropes around it and snooty girls who ask if you’re a club member. If you say yes, she asks to see the leather key-ring they send you so she can swipe in your details. After much more of this faddling around you get to place an order for your coffee. They’ve got all these different types, but I can’t tell the different between any of them, beyond the fact that a couple taste a bit stronger.

I don’t want to make a spontaneous purchase from someone who needs my email address and postcode to sell me something.

Being a club member means they have all my lifestyle details and will target me online. The other day I had an email from my aftershave. Did I want to join its club? No – you’re scented alcohol in a bottle, not a treasured friend. Your sole attribute is smelling vaguely of lemons, like all aftershaves.

Last Saturday night I was meeting friends in Loungelover, a bar in Shoreditch that seems to be full of slightly hysterical women anxiously looking for bankers. Even before I got to the door I was met by a headset-lady who asked me what I wanted. Well, it’s a bar so she should have been able to work that part out. Then I had an interview with two more greeters, who asked whether I had reserved seating, who I was, who I was meeting, what their names were and how long I would be staying.

Eventually she allowed me to walk inside, but the pain didn’t end there. Although we were seated at the bar we had to order via a waitress, who took the order and told the barman next to us what it was. The barman made the drinks and set them on the counter, but we weren’t allowed to touch them until she came back, put them on a tray and walked them two feet to us. She took nearly twenty minutes to do this. The cocktails were great, the ‘club’ experience was miserable.

In his new book ‘The Fall of the House of Murdoch’ my friend Peter Jukes writes about Target stores in the US who assemble entire life profiles on everyone who walks through the door. But is this much information really currency? That’s what Facebook must be asking itself as it continues to sell the promise of information to the shadow economy.

What if we look back at this and see it as a noughties fad, eventually brought down by the determination of consumers to be unpredictable again? There must inevitably be a generation that will rebel against such invasions of privacy by simply heading offline.

But by that time, will any of us still have the willpower to give up?

11 comments on “Join The Club? No Thanks!”

  1. glasgow1975 says:

    I kept being asked for my postcode at the tills in Australia, my sister was perplexed but decided it must be because I was using a non Australian bank/credit card. Obviously I just gave hers rather than explain I didn’t have an Australian one as I was a visitor, so I’ve no idea what that does to their statistics. . .

  2. Dan Terrell says:

    Asking for the postal code is very common here. What it does is it helps the business target where people are coming from, or not, and they can then focus their adverts. For example, if they run a first-time advert. in a localized city paper and people from that code begin to come in soon afterwards, the business can be fairy sure the ad paid off.
    Postal codes also can also help verify that the person handing across the credit card is the card’s owner. Ask for the code, swipe the card, and instantly see a confirmation of the customer’s right to hold the card. My son has a store, three hightec computer-cash registers, two programmed in Ipads, and a Smartphone. Using all three linked together has greatly overhauled his inventory, ordering, customer assistance, and shop management. He can spend more time with his family, reorder in a snap, predict seasonal purchase requests, get customers in and out faster and for those customers who express willingness, he can enmail them that new items have come in that they may like And if they do hold them for the customer for a fixed time.
    Let me add a refer-back to Wolf Hall. I do like it like; it’s great, but a chew. And I intend to read Raising the Dead early next year. But last night in bed, I’m reading Wolf Hall and my left lens pops out! Any relation here to the effort to read the book?
    And, yes, i am buying new glasses next month.
    No time to proff….posting.

  3. andrea yang says:

    your cocktail experience sounds down right creepy to me…. I would have fled.

  4. Cat Eldridge says:

    The only question I get at Target is my postal code.

    I get more junk mail, of the email sort, as a reviewer than I do as a consumer.

  5. John Howard says:

    Hi Admin, buy your Nespresso online. It’s the best way. Just need to buy 50 at a time… Taking in previous posts you obviously have experienced the full range of drinking establishments. I suppose it is good to try a rubbish one from time to time just so that you appreciate the good ones.

  6. Helen Martin says:

    I thought you weren’t that fond of coffee, Admin. I wouldn’t go through that nonsense for anything. As for that Lounge, they don’t deserve to have customers. You’re coming in to meet friends for a drink or two, it’s not a life long relationship and what happens if you stay five minutes longer than your estimate? What if you try to leave ten minutes ahead of time? Who do they think they are?

  7. Jon Masters says:

    The best way to screw up any of these systems is simply to lie – rubbish data in = rubbish results out. Make it a game by seeing how many minutes it takes before they cotton on to your claims as they get more and more outrageous.

  8. Lee Van says:

    Coffee capsules are the new car keys. If you had succumbed to the velvet ropes of Selfridges you would have found yourself in a scene so obscene it wouldn’t have made the final cut of Eyes Wide Shut. Even Mr Benn shielded his sight away and left without his caffeine fix.

  9. Val says:

    Peter Jukes? Just finished The Invisible Code, surprised he’s still with us!

    Seriously, can’t believe the lack of publicity and availability of this fantastic book. I was upset with Amazon (they sold me a Satnav that killed my computer) when they notified me, so tried to buy it at Waterstones. No luck in 3 or 4 major stores, nor several WHSniths. Eventually couldn’t wait any longer and bought it from Amazon. Don’t your publishers or agent want you to achieve the sales you deserve? Been with Bryant and May from the start. When I mentioned them to the mother of the severely disabled boy I home tutored, she thought it rang a bell, and gave me a copy of Disturbia she had been given for her charity shops she runs for her son’s condition (ALD, as in the film Lorenzo’s Oil), and which she of course had had to read first.

    Long live B&M. I’d love to see them on TV, but would the delightful intricacies of the plots be lost? And finding actors able to give the series a long run before they died might be a problem…

  10. admin says:

    I like Jon’s solution. ‘My details? Why certainly. Christopher Flipflops, Dingly Dell, Neverland.’

  11. glasgow1975 says:

    Hmm, well giving my sister’s Australian postcode while using MY Scottish cards didn’t cause any problems so I’d assume it’s for advert targeting more than fraud prevention. . .
    As for junk mail, my sister has never had any until she had to sign up online to buy Disney On Ice tickets, for a kids party outing, now she’s got a spamtastic Inbox!

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