Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Oxymoron of the “Residential Customer”

Junk mail increasingly consumes more and more of the interior of my mail box daily. The first order of business after returning from the mail box is always going through the mail to remove the pieces of mail of actual value – bills and the occasional card or letter – from the ocean of junk mail.

 I don’t begrudge businesses the opportunity to try to solicit purchases through the use of the mail. But the level of junk mail any of us receives any given day – particularly during the endurance tests that our elections have become – is at times overwhelming and rarely of particular use to the average resident.

Thank G-d for recycling which allows all this wasted paper to actually be put to a good use.

One piece of today’s mail bore an address that I have undoubtedly seen before and never really noticed. It read “Residential Customer.” Of course, no one lives here by that name. This mail, an advertisement from a bank, was not mailed to me or my husband, it was simply mailed at potential customers en masse.

But what struck me this morning was the inherent conflict in this address. Residences are where people reside, where they seek shelter and solace from the hyperconsumerism that dominates our daily lives. We don’t go home to do business (except, perhaps, online), we go home to reside, to rest, to eat, sleep and recreate. Our homes are not marketplaces and we would hardly expect to do many of the things in a marketplace that routinely occur in our homes.

So how did I become a “Residential Customer?” I don’t recall ever checking a box on a form that said, “Yes, use my home as a place to sell products.” I don’t recall any zoning changes that allowed business activities to take place in a residential zone. And I don’t recall voting in any elections to provide businesses access to carry out their money making activities in my home.

Of course, the First Bank is hardly alone in presuming the right to invade my residence with their marketing. A check of the missed calls log on our telephone on any given day provides between 20 and 25 calls from marketers who must also see my husband and I as potential “Residential Customers.” We actually have to pay extra on our bill each month to be provided with caller ID to allow us to avoid unwanted solicitations. Why should we have to pay to not do business in our home?

Our home is surrounded with a dense hedge of trees, shrubs and lilies. The joke among our neighbors is “Rumor has it there is a house in there.” But even that clear disinvitation to solicitors does not prevent marketers from coming to our door at any time during the day and into the evening. They ring our doorbell and set our dogs on high alert to sell us everything from candy whose profits allow kids from the ghetto to go to Universal Studios for the day to alarm systems to keep people out of our house while we’re gone but not out of yard when sales are to be made. Where did they get the idea that they were invited to our home to conduct business?

Only in a free market fundamentalist society would one’s home be seen as one’s castle legally defendable by lethal force if one merely asserts that they felt threatened but in which junk mail, cold calls and door-to-door sales enjoy a special exemption from any kind of restrictions. This is a case of profoundly misguided values.

Contrary to Barbara Kruger’s critique of life in a hyperconsumerist society which cynically asserted “I Shop, Therefore I Am,” I do not live to engage in business transactions. My identity is not found in the shallow swamp of consumerism. And my home is not open for business, anyone’s business, other than my own.

A “Residential Customer” is an oxymoron.

Solicitors, you might consider the possibility that when you invade the privacy of people’s residences, you might actually get the opposite results of those you seek. If you have no more respect for my home than this, you’re not the kind of person with whom I want to do business. Indeed, the last thing I want to do is to fund inconsiderate business operations who presume the right to inappropriately inflict themselves upon me in this manner.  

The Rev. Harry Scott Coverston, J.D., Ph.D.
Member, Florida Bar (inactive status)
Priest, Episcopal Church (Dio. of El Camino Real, CA)
Instructor: Humanities, Religion, Philosophy of Law
University of Central Florida, Orlando

If the unexamined life is not worth living, surely an unexamined belief system, be it religious or political, is not worth holding.
Most things of value do not lend themselves to production in sound bytes. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

No comments: