April 15, 2004 (Ira Pilgrim)


....in the United States, where the word honor, save when it is applied to the structural integrity of women, has only a comic significance. When one hears of the honor of politicians, of bankers, of lawyers, of the United States itself, everyone naturally laughs.


The above Mencken quote is, of course, correct, but it is incomplete. He left out merchants; people who sell things. Not only did he leave out merchants but, were he alive today, he would have had to included internet merchants especially.

When you deal with a local merchant, you know that he has a stake in treating you honestly. He wants you to come back and spend more money in his establishment. If he cheats you, or in some way betrays your trust, you will probably not patronize his establishment again and he will lose a customer. Not so on the internet, and especially if the vendor has only one product to sell. The principle of not trusting anyone who expects to sell you something only once, holds for any merchant. Any thief knows that he will only be able to victimize you once. As a consequence, expecting to be swindled is the only rational way to behave with those people. You can expect decent treatment from internet merchants who want to keep you as a customer.

I did not consider this when I ordered a one month free trial of a program called AdSubtract from interMute inc. that would eliminate pop up ads. They said in their ad that they "do not sell, trade or exchange our mailing list. Your personal information is kept confidential." After that, every time that I started my computer, there was an ad that told me that I should order and pay for the program now. Instead of other company's pop up ads, I now have their very own pop up ad. I purged their ad from my computer. The day after I ordered the program, I received an unsolicited ad from a loan company. Maybe it was just a coincidence.

All that it takes is a single sale of your address to an advertising company and you are screwed, because the agency that has your address will sell it or trade it with other ad agencies until you will have to take time to empty your e-mail box daily to get rid of massive amounts of garbage.

Even if the establishment is honest, there may be an employee who can make money on the side by selling your address to some company that deals in e-mail solicitation.

So, my advice to new users of the internet is to never, never, ever give your e-mail address to anyone except to your friends or merchants who you can expect to be honest because they want to keep you as a customer. If possible, have a separate e-mail box for vendors, because you are sure to have it filled with garbage before very long, and it will always be full no matter how frequently you empty it.

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