I've always resented those little "warranty registration" cards that show up in any new product you buy. They usually come with some urgent message like "Send in this card IMMEDIATELY!" - as though failing to do so is some sort of crime. You're expected to fill out a bunch of personal information, too, like how much money you make, how many children live at your house, and what your hobbies are. What does your age and marital status have to do with the warranty on that new microwave you just bought?
Well, it turns out that the "warranty" you get by sending in those cards generally doesn't provide you any protection that you're not already entitled to by law. It's just a means of gathering personal information about you that will be used to target direct mail advertisements and telephone solicitations.
Shortly after buying our first home in November 1996, we purchased a new entertainment center cabinet. It has a nice, natural wood finish and makes a good home for the TV, VCR, and stereo. It also came with (big surprise) a warranty registration card!
I decided to have a little fun. Rather than putting my name on the registration, I used the name of Max - our beloved family cat. As far as the furniture company knows, that cabinet was purchased for the home of one Max W. Gavaghan ("W" for "Wild Thing").
The registration card also asked for a lot of personal information like income and hobbies. I told them that Max earns over $500,000 per year, is married, has five children under 18, owns a boat and vacation home, and is self-employed. His interests include international travel, stocks and investing, aviation, and auto racing. He also has grandchildren and drives a Lexus.
In the box for "sex" the choices were "male" or "female." I felt a little uneasy about checking "male," but, alas, "neuter" was not an option!
I left "phone number" blank. I don't really mind junk mail, but I hate telemarketers. I hoped that omission would prevent phone calls and only result in junk mail to Max.
I dropped the card in the mailbox and waited to see what sort of junk mail the apparently wealthy and successful Max W. Gavaghan would receive.
After about two months, the junk mail started trickling in. It was slow at first. He got a couple of sweepstakes offers and one or two catalogs. But, pretty soon, word got around about this worldly gentleman with a wad of money to spend. Of course, nobody knew he's really a cat!
AOL wanted to give him 30 free hours online. Playboy magazine wanted to sell him a subscription (see, "neuter" should have been an option!) He was offered membership at a country club and was invited into the frequent flyer program of some airline. Peapod, Inc. even wanted Max to order his groceries over the Internet and have them delivered to his doorstep! There were countless other offers that I can't remember.
All of this from a single warranty registration card!
Among all the other junk mail, Max has gotten countless offers for various credit cards. The most interesting was an offer he received for an MBNA MasterCard (or was it a Visa?) They "pre-approved" him for a Platinum Card with a $100,000 credit limit. Now, what could be more ridiculous than pre-approving a cat for a credit card? Read on.
On that very same day, MBNA offered me a MasterCard, too. Apparently, Max and I got picked for the same junk mail campaign. The kicker is that they only offered me a Gold Card with a $50,000 limit! These people think that I'm more of a credit risk than the cat!
For crying out loud! Max has no education and has never worked an honest day in his life! He licks his butt, can't change his own litter box, and falls asleep on the window sill! What? Do they think he gets paid just for looking cute?
Our family cat gets pre-approved for a $100,000 credit limit, but I only get $50,000. How insulting!
Maybe I should look at this from MBNA's point of view. My wife, Debbie, and I have a mortgage, a consumer loan, two car loans, and four student loans. We're in debt up to our eyeballs. We'll no sooner be out of debt and then we'll have to take out more loans to put our kids through college.
Max, on the other hand, has never been late on his bills. He has absolutely no debt, lives rent free, and someone else buys his food.
Maybe I should get him the credit card, get a cash advance, and then pay off the mortgage? Hmmm....
As I said before, I intentionally omitted our telephone number from the warranty registration card. Getting junk mail in Max's name is fun, but I didn't want to invite telephone solicitations. Unfortunately, some company was so hot for Max's business they looked up the phone number. Now, Max, of course, doesn't have a listing in the phone book. Our guess is that they just matched up the last name (we're the only Gavaghan in the book) and the address.
Some telemarketer calls up and says, "May I speak to Max, please?"
Debbie answered the phone, and she's far too nice with telemarketers. Nicer than I would be. She just politely replied "Max can't talk right now." No joke he can't talk - he's a cat!
Undeterred, the telemarketer still tried to drum up business. After learning that Max was unavailable, the caller asked Debbie...
"Oh, are you his wife?"
Debbie just laughed as she hung up.