Deceptive Telemarketing

I don’t really have a problem with telemarketing. They are in the business of supplying a product and I assume they only want to reach out to people interested in their product or else they are just wasting everyone’s time.

So today I got a call on my personal cell phone from the number (312) 506-3688 – I didn’t recognize the number, but I answered anyway.

“Do you take credit cards?”

Well, since they didn’t identify themselves, I figure they have the wrong number.

“No, this is a personal cell phone, you must have the wrong number.”

“Well is this XXXX tenancy?”

“Nope, have a nice day.”

And I hung up. They actually had my last name right, but I’m not a business and don’t deal with tenants as I’m not a landlord.

Then I think, what would they have done if I had said yes? Give me their credit card info over the phone to a wrong number? So I did a quick google search on the phone number and found this interesting little service at www.800notes.com .

Apparently, this number belongs to a company called Landmark Merchant Solutions, and is in the habit of contacting people and asking if they accept credit cards.

A quick mental checklist of where my number was and how they might have gotten it turned up that yes, last month I had to acquire a business license from the city because I did some independent consulting last year as a computer programmer from my home. Since the city classified it as a home based business, I had to apply for a home occupancy permit and a business license ($150 and $102.95) retroactively. Even though this was done last year as a part-time gig between jobs, the government always gets their pound of flesh.

I used my last name and “Consulting” as the name of the company, and since I don’t ever answer my home phone these days (anyone who needs to get in contact with me knows to call the cell, and the only reason we currently have a home phone is for the DSL) I used my cell phone as the business number. So instead of consulting, I either heard tenancy, or that’s what they said.

Either way, I have to wonder how effective that is. Wouldn’t it be more straightforward to just say they are a telemarketer from this landmark solutions company and would like to know if I wanted to accept credit cards? Or maybe even a hello, congratulations on the new business, have you thought about accepting credit cards? If they had done that, I might have listened to them and even called them back if I ever decided to go back into the consulting gig again (after all, I’ve already got the business license for it!). Instead, there goes a minute of my cell phone time and I won’t call them back when I’m ready to accept credit cards because of this initial impression.

I have to wonder where the break even point for them pounding out calls to new businesses vs. cultivating a relationship with some common courtesy resides?

SharePoint Development–WSPBuilder

So there is a great tool that is up on CodePlex, makes things a lot simpler when packaging our WSP solutions.

The WSPbuilder is a console application that creates SharePoint Solutions files based on a folder structure. WSPBuilder will automatically traverse a "12" folder structure and creates a SharePoint solution manifest.xml and the wsp file based on the files it finds. Therefore you do not need the knowledge of how to create a solution manifest.xml and wsp file any more. The folder structure that WSPBuilder uses to build the wsp file is actually the same folder stucture you will find in: "%Program Files%\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\web server extensions\12". So all that you have to do, is the create a \12 folder in your project and add your files to that folder matching the same structure as if you where to put them directly into the "%Program Files%\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\web server extensions\12" folder manually.

WSPBuilder can be downloaded here: http://wspbuilder.codeplex.com/

The Branding Battleground

Last night my daughter and I went to the hardware store to get some drywall anchors. Earlier that evening she had been literally swinging from the drapes in the front room and managed to pull one of the curtain rods down on her head. Daddy was of course watching the football game. After checking to make sure she was all right and giving her the proper scolding about how the living room was not a jungle gym we set about to repair the damage.

Spackling the holes was about a 30 second job. Spackle is one of those items that is always handy to have around, whether you are a college student or the parent of a 3 year old, having a can of this wonder paste around the house is a must.

Once the spackle dried and my team was well on its way to winning the game, we headed out to the hardware store for some much needed heavy duty drywall anchors.

There are many places that I try to avoid in Wal-mart and Target because my wife and I are trying to make an attempt at raising a brand-free child. We have intentionally made a choice to limit the amount of branding and advertising that she is exposed to. I really didn’t think that I would need to start avoiding certain sections of the hardware store as well. But last night I realized that even in Man’s Sacred Cave of Wonders, certain aisles are to be avoided at all costs.

I swear my daughter can pick out a Cinderella or Dora character from a mile away, it’s like it’s her secret super-power. Walking down one of the aisles to the restroom I got hit with a “Wait, Daddy look at that, it’s so beautiful!” What she was referring to was a package of Disney Princess wall stickers.

There’s a double whammy – Disney princesses and stickers together! Two things that my daughter absolutely loves.

Then I really started looking around, and I realized that as parents we are subjected to branding from advertisers at every turn.

Colleen Kimmet recently wrote an article about Raising a Brand-Free Kid. In it she talks about the constant battle we as parents face dealing with marketers.

Parents as sitting ducks

All the parents interviewed said they feel targeted by advertisers, and indeed, the desire to make one’s child happy is a powerful marketing tool.

Verbrugge, who used to work as a consultant on projects related to children’s online activities, says she attended many marketing conferences as part of her job.

“It taught me how sophisticated marketers are in reaching people, and more and more how integrated marketing is in everything we see and do,” she says.

“I think we’re seen as consumers…how much wallet share do kids have, and how much can they influence our spending.”

The article also talks about a book that I am going to have to check out from the local library:

In her book Buy Buy Baby: How Consumer Culture Manipulates Parents and Harms Young Minds, Susan Gregory Thomas explores the widespread and controversial phenomenon of using spokes-characters in advertising to young children.

I thought that this quote was particular poignant:

The retired Grade 1 teacher says he regularly saw different trends and fads sweep through the school, but in his own class and home he tried to encourage individuality.

“While it lines the pockets of large corporations, branding undermines creativity and choices, in a sense,” he says.

“[Diversity] encourages the capacity to create something different.”

But at the end of the day, as the article points out, just like living organically, buying from sustainable resources, limiting processed foods and living the values you want and that you want your kids to have, it’s really all about making that conscious choice to do what you believe is best. And sometimes what’s best leaves you with a sobbing child who may never thank you for making that decision to walk away from the 2 foot tall Disney Princess wall stickers.