So Long, Dinosaur…

While the world and even many in Bangladesh are going paperless, some are adamant about killing trees and sending snail mail by courier, which has a 50 percent rate of successful delivery.

"Oh, you didn't get my invitation?"

"I'm afraid not."

"Damn these incompetent courier companies!"

Not sure which side of the statistics this courier company falls into, but I wouldn't be surprised it being a perfect sacrificial lamb to cover the host's faux pas of forgetting to invite you in the first place.

And then, while the West successfully retires the fat yellow pages, we have a ceremony akin to christening a ship, of launching the "member directory", which in essence looks like a family tree starting from the year 1125 with a collection of mugshots, devoid of alphabetical order, but sticking to our obsession of hierarchies starting with the founder members, then the life members and so on. Trying to find someone means having an a priori knowledge of his membership number or joining date, otherwise, good luck thumbing through 500 pages, trying to find a needle in a haystack, or should I say in today's digital age, trying to find a SIM card in a backpack. Oh, 50 of those pages are ads adding another half-inch to the directory. And that is another mission: how to take the definition of a member directory and shoehorning it into being related to CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) so as to tap into the vast CSR funds out there. 

And then, the courier service delivers the directories, ready to gather dust. But some of the rare, lucky copies (the directories also have hierarchies) actually DO make it to the member directory heaven—the spammers who at least are smart enough to not kill any further trees. They call you, and, for some reason, the telemarketers all have the same, high-pitched voice. 

I am polite, but assertive: "No thank you, I'm not interested in your travel club membership. By the way, where did you get my number from?" 

"Sir, from…"—that few, the proud, the elite member directories that have "somehow" made it to the call centre. 

Aha! I knew there was a need for "member" directories—to CREATE "members". I usually follow up with a polite email to the president of the club/association as to how/why a directory ends up at this totally unrelated place. Of course, I get no response, as the email is checked by the PS to the PS of the president. Sometimes I call the president directly and I get the standard answer, "Oh, these things happen. Hey, even I get these calls…"

Now comes the fun part: the spam emails. First of all, it's from a Gmail account while the company has a website, i.e. its own domain. And let's not even get to the structure, syntax, grammar and context of the email.

So, I get this email, with the whole member directly in the "To" field. Really? You're now exposing a thousand people's email addresses to potentially a hundred new spams? And the sender's "signature" section is five times longer than the mailing list, listing all his degrees, including "IT Singapore". Wow! I'm impressed—a phoren degree (certificate from a week-long course). 

And then, a few respond by "TAKE ME OFF THE LIST!" But when we yell, we like to "create a scene", like when at a wedding we are served a cold chicken roast, just to show the prowess of our vocal chords and illustrious vocabulary. When responding to the email, we click the "reply all" button to show everyone our wrath.

Second chance to collect your own customised spam list!

But again, I am polite. I email back, and no, I just press "reply", and not the "reply all" button, and courteously ask the gentleman with a caravan of degrees to kindly take me off his mailing list. 

I then get another response, with thankfully a brand new subject header (as opposed to our usual practice of picking an old email with the subject "Wedding" while the email contains the news of getting a flat tire), interestingly though, starting with "my pleasure". That's right, all small letters. The email is auto-generated, thanking me (profusely) for my "inquiry" and that "he" will respond to me as soon as possible. 

Of course, I never get a subsequent "response". I decide to call the learned manager. He answers and then I give him my advice (it's free) about at least putting the emails in the "Bcc" section, for the sake of privacy. He goes ballistic and goes on a tirade. 

"I was a lecturer at […] University for seven years…this is called marketing, in case you don't know!" (Well, it's actually called spamming.) "I object to what you are saying…I have no time to talk to you!" 

And he hangs up.

Wow. And he is the sales/marketing manager? I guess, I, the (potential) customer, am not necessarily always right.

Why blame him? We have to pay to pay our bills. We have to pay to pay our dues. We have to pay to pay our respects. We have to pay to pay to be right. We have to pay to be a grateful customer to earn the privilege of being served, or should I say, to be doled out UN relief items.

But remember, when a product or service becomes a commodity, the only differentiator is the service quality. And this spammer is from a dying industry—he is a sales manager at a-dime-a-dozen travel agency.

So long, dinosaur…  

Naveed Mahbub is an engineer at Ford & Qualcomm USA and CEO of IBM & Nokia Siemens Networks Bangladesh turned comedian (by choice), the host of ATN Bangla's The Naveed Mahbub Show and ABC Radio's Good Morning Bangladesh, and the founder of Naveed's Comedy Club. 

Email: [email protected]

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