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?