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8/31/2009
12:27 PM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
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USAirways And Barclays Send Creepy Credit-Card Message

A couple of friends and I recently met for beers at Slattery's and I paid the bill with a USAirways MasterCard from Barclays Bank. So imagine my surprise a couple days later when I got an email message from USAirways bearing the subject line, "How was Slattery's Midtown Pub?"

A couple of friends and I recently met for beers at Slattery's and I paid the bill with a USAirways MasterCard from Barclays Bank. So imagine my surprise a couple days later when I got an email message from USAirways bearing the subject line, "How was Slattery's Midtown Pub?"I realize that these days privacy is in the eye of the beholder, but this is the first time I've ever had a credit-card company inject itself into my personal life. Like everybody, I've had occasions when the credit-card company checks with a merchant when a pending purchase sits too far outside my purchasing profile, and I never minded those because there's a clear intent there to avoid fraud and protect me and the bank issuing my card.

But this was different: "How was Slattery's Midtown Pub?" I certainly don't mind getting that question from my wife, or from my friends, or even from the bartender-but from a credit-card company?? The only consolation I took was when my colleague Paul McDougall said, "Hey, at least it didn't say 'How was the porno theater?' and auto-post to your Facebook page."

Now, superficially--very superficially-USAirways and Barclays can try to explain this away by saying they were just trying to make me aware that Slattery's participates in some dining-for-miles thing that USAirways is involved in, and they wanted me to know that next time I could get twice the mileage credit, or something like that. Here's their tone-deaf pitch under the "How was Slattery's Midtown Pub?" subject line:

Thank you for participating in Dividend Miles Dining. You recently earned Dividend Miles, but did you know you can earn more? Dine out with us on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays and we'll give you double Dividend Miles! Yes, DOUBLE! . . . . Well, you've had your meal and earned your Dividend Miles, but aren't you forgetting something? Don't forget you have 60 days to complete your dining survey!

I realize that the credit-card business has been turned upside-down by the new White House-driven legislation that will make everyone responsible for paying the bills of credit-card deadbeats, but I'm not sure that the solution is for the issuers to enhance that assault on their legitimate customers by invading and abusing their privacy. There is, after all, a limit to what most people will take.

So I'd like the folks at USAirways MasterCard and Barclays Bank to know that while I generally try to keep my knickers unknotted, you can keep your mileage credits and above all you can keep your marketing probes out of my credit-card business.

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