Impersonal personalization

Who wants a “happy birthday” call from a stranger on behalf of a business?

Five years ago I bought a used car. Since then, I’ve taken it back to the dealer for routine maintenance.

Just now I got a phone call from someone at the dealership, wishing me a happy birthday. (It’s tomorrow.) The caller wasn’t anyone I’d dealt with, and didn’t even bother to give his name. It was like getting a “happy birthday” robo-call.

I can’t imagine who might find getting that call rewarding rather than annoying. My hope is that whoever came up with this idea was simply making a mistake; that happens. If it’s really true that there are people so starved for personal recognition that they’re pleased to get impersonal birthday wishes on behalf of a business, I’ll have to take another look at the “Bowling Alone” hypothesis.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: