thinglets: How The Word "Official" Became Dead to Me

The word "Official" became dead to me today.

In an envelope that came marked "Official Consumer Product Survey of Ontario", in a recycled beige envelope reminiscent of actual government mailings, with an image of the province of Ontario, marked inauspiciously with an official-looking bar code stripe that looks like it wraps from the front to the back, but actually stops as far to the back as on the front. With an official-looking red stamp warning "DO NOT BEND" on the front, and an upper corner greeting from Diane Simon of the Consumer Research Centre, I felt it was almost my civic duty for me to complete anything that might be inside. Surely it was easily as important as the census or an election.

I hastily opened the envelope and was presented with a document that looked like federal tax forms, or voter registration. I started feeling patriotic and considered how special I must be to be one of the #138 people to receive such a request in my local constabulary. Surely I must be a trend setter, an influencer of markets, or, as the Spanish as a Second Language people say: El Grando Consumerino Importanto!

And then, to bastardize a Yeats pearl, "things fell apart."

I took a quick look back at the envelope and discovered it was sent to Main Grocery Shopper. Well, I am the main grocery shopper, so perhaps a proper name wasn't required. I then scanned the bottom of the envelope and found out I could win prizes... prizes... I don't remember my government ever offering me prizes for filling out my taxes. I remember them offering to send me to jail if I didn't do my taxes. Maybe my government was getting nicer? Maybe this was a public works project to help me during this depression. I was somewhat relieved that the envelope and all subsequent survey information was lovingly inscribed by Diane... but perhaps this was just to lull me into a sense of false security.

Upon closer perusal of the "survey" itself, I was prepared to see complicated legislative questions and room for anecdotal commentary on tax reform. Instead, the first bold category that popped up in front of was the inauspicious "LAUNDRY DETERGENT". Scattered over the first few pages of survey were similarly inspiring categories like Adult Nutritional Beverages, Yogurt, Seasonings and Marinades, Shredded Cheeses, Feminine Hygiene. And then I discovered some categories that seemed buried amidst the innocuous like personal medical information: Pain Relievers, Denture Care, Vision Care, Severe Allergies, Snoring, Bedwetting, a long list of check boxes asking about Family Health. In fact almost two full pages of personal medical information requests that further included Diabetes, Athlete's Foot, Multiple Sclerosis, Psoriasis and Rheumatoid Arthritis.

The last page included Vehicle Ownership, Insurance, Banking, Mortgages and General Information. 

General Information!?!

You already know what makes up my stool whenever I go to the bathroom and when I'm going to have the bank foreclose on my house. You already can surmise why fills my nightmares and when I'll probably die from congestive heart failure. Your character sketch of me has more detail than the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and you want General Information?

Oh sure, I could elect not to share all of the medical information with your member companies, but then my odds would probably go down to win the $2,500 dollar "Lucky Early Bird" prize or $5,000 Grand Prize which I plan on using to buy all of the awesome product on the survey. I have to. The interior note tells me to "Fill it out NOW - while it's in your hands." The opposite side of this note includes an inspirational quote by Diane Simon: "Please don't throw this survey away! It's really more important than you may realize!"

I soon realized my hands were shaking. Could my brain's protestation win over the patriotism of my heart and soul calling me to do my civic and perhaps legal duty to complete these important document?

Upon scanning the last document in the envelope which included stirring endorsements from C.P of Kensington, PEI, S.F. of Toronto, ON, D.S. of Medicine Hat, AB, and P.J. of Sechelt, BC, I start to wonder who the hell endorses a survey? And I suppose what really made up my mind was when kindly Diane pointed me (via Post Script) to the company's privacy policy. Via the website I read:

Legal Requests: In addition to the disclosure of your personal information noted above, we may use and disclose any information about you to law enforcement, other government officials or other third parties as we in our sole discretion believe necessary or appropriate, in connection with an investigation of fraud, intellectual property infringement, or other activity that is illegal or may expose us to legal liability.

We may also disclose such information to third parties as we believe necessary or appropriate, in connection with any merger or consolidation with, or sale of substantially all of our assets or the assets of a line of our business to, a third party, provided that such a third party agrees to comply with the privacy policy that applies to your personal information and that appropriate notices are provided to you.

And so I had the proof I finally needed. If my so-called friend, Diane, was going to send my information to the government - THEY COULDN'T BE THE GOVERNMENT! It was all a ruse. I felt betrayed by Diane and her deceptive attempts at getting my to fork over my innocuous spending habits and serious medical conditions. I don't think I can ever trust the word "official" again - foul temptress.
4 responses
hey we recieved this in the mail and my husband totallly fell for the prize thing... he did not realize how much pers0nal information they are asking fpr her is a response
I receive this in the mail every year, and I throw it in the garbage every year.
Thanks for this..... I was ready to fall for the research gimimck up until I read the last page. Then, I hit the computer and found this.
I have filled it out in the past, but then I didn't have a house, loan, etc.....and I don't remember it asking for SO MUCH information! the more questions it asked the the more I got to thinking........with all this info, someone could put together a full profile on me, and they'd know where I bank and who holds my credit dcards,insurance etc......someone could walk right off with my identity and I'd have given them everything they need! SCARY STUFF