When an Option to Unsubscribe is really a F*ck You. (The Loot Company)

Recently, it looks like The Loot Company has taken over what used to be Loot Crate – I had purchased a crate long ago as a gift. As part of the takeover, they sent me this email highlighting that I could have my personal information removed from the database moving forward:

Loot Company.png

Sounds good right? Here’s where it falls apart:

1) I had to screenshot the email because I could not copy the text.

2) It seems logical that I could click the opt-out email address shown as a link to opt out. That area of the email is clickable but it just sends you to the website. That means you have to remember that email address and type it in manually (because you cannot copy the text) in a new email.

3) They are vague in the information you have to send for the opt-out. Any normal customer database only needs email as a unique identifier, yet they imply you may need to send more – this is an excuse to say they couldn’t remove your information later and blame it on you for not sending enough information. I’m supposed to know how their database works?

4) The most logical way to unsubscribe is to simply use the unsubscribe link at the very bottom of the email, but that unsubscribe turns out to be completely unrelated to this one.

I ended up emailing them, but it went to their support ticketing system – they could have easily set up an auto-unsubscribe process (remove any email address sending to that designated email address). I now have to wait a few days to see if they could figure out how to remove me.

Lawyers Cathy Hershcopf and Sarah Carnes at Cooley LLP claim they “totally respect your privacy so the decision is yours.” Lawyers are very precise in their work. Thus, while “totally” is perfectly fine when I’m emphasizing something to my friends, Cathy and Sarah are not my friends. Imagine a doctor telling you “it’s totally safe to operate.” It is safe or it is not. You respect my privacy or you do not.

The decision is mine, yet only if I can somehow get them the message (that they’ve made as hard as possible to do – physical letter? come on here! They use a digital communication tool to tell me to use a physical one in response. Insane.) I want out in the next 10 days. They ask you to send as much information as possible so they can find a way to remove you from the database. This is their respect for your privacy.

To the lawyers at Cooley LLP and The Loot Company – I hope when your personal information gets leaked through hack or privacy breach, and you wonder why those companies did not remove or protect your information better, you can look back at your own examples at where you “totally” respected others’ privacy.

(Update: As of one week later, October 17th, no confirmation that my information has been removed.)

(Update: As of one month later, November 12th, no confirmation that my information has been removed. I followed up with LootCrate over email and the social media accounts of both the law firm and LootCrate.)

Role of Governments: to Serve the People or to Control the People?

This recent podcast by NPR’s Planet Money reminded me of my own issues with the government, Episode 923: Good Teachers, Bad Deal:

A Department of Education program gives talented, up-and-coming teachers a grant, not a loan, to help them pay for college. The condition: After you graduate, you have to teach in a low-income school.

Thousands of teachers kept their end of that bargain but had their grants turned to loans anyway after sending in a required form a day late or accidentally missing a signature. Some are in crippling debt because of it.

Hearing about these teachers’ struggles reminded me of why people hate governments: governments act like they’re here to control or rule us, not to serve us (through the taxes we pay). It’s not supposed to be this way, at least not in the United States.

Chris Rock made a joke that when it comes to the police, you get what you pay for, and that got me thinking: if police were paid double, would you get more talent into the employee pool? Could we do more with fewer officers? People who would be open to trying new ideas, more efficient ways of keeping community? If job security were no longer a guarantee, as it is for many government employees, would that change how they treat people (who should be recognized as the customers)?

A year ago I received a citation from the City of San Jose about a car that was registered to someone with a similar name. There’s no number to call or person to talk to so you can resolve the issue directly. Instead, you are directed to pay first, and then appeal. I thought that was ridiculous, why should I pay first when this person is not me? There’s no proof it’s me included here either, like a title for the car showing me. I sent the letter below.

Dear City of San Jose,

I am sending this notice for your information. Previously, I was issued a parking violation citation issued under license plate ****.

As I mentioned before, I have no relationship to this vehicle. I have never heard of this vehicle (or owned or leased it) until I received the notice from the City of San Jose. Since then, I have conducted research with the DMV on this matter.

On Friday, February 16, 2018, I visited the Santa Clara DMV and called the DMV office at 1-800-777-0133.

Elvin (ID ****) and Georgett (Rep and Senior Technician) at the 1-800 DMV number helped me with the following information:

  • I have exactly one vehicle (2013 ****) registered under my name and address. This is clearly not the Red Nissan that was cited.
  • You may look up my vehicle information under license plate ****. I have included a DMV report of this vehicle (from February 23 CA DMV Visit in Santa Clara).
  • The release of liability for the Red Nissan lists a “Michael ****” and San Jose without a street address or additional identifying information. There is no information that ties the vehicle to me.
  • In the city of San Jose alone, there are 123 people under the name “Michael ****”. In California, there are 1191 people with my name.

I believe this provides clarity that your citation is a mistake.

Sincerely,

Michael ****

No response from the City. 1 year later, earlier this year, I received notice that San Jose made a claim on my taxes. I called the City to protest this. The person I talked to confirmed that they received my letter a year ago but since I had not paid the fine, they would not review my complaint. I reiterated everything mentioned in the letter and told them, but the employee had this “I don’t care, that’s your problem” attitude and could not give any evidence about why they believed the car was mine. She said there was proof it was mine, but did not go into more detail – her case was it’s your name, why would we be wrong? She said I could write a letter to the City, but in a “yeah right, good luck” way.

I asked her what she would do if she had gone through the process I had to prove that the person in question was not me, and she had nothing to say but to dismiss me.

I wrote the city again after that, and a few months later, I got a check for the amount that had been taken from me in the fine. However, there was no information in the letter, no message saying this had been a mistake, that the fine had been cancelled. My concern is what if I get another notice next year that I have another claim on taxes for an unpaid fine, how am I supposed to provide evidence that the issue has been cleared?

There’s no transparency, no responsibility for the government with its constituents. As a citizen, I’ve been treated like a pain in the ass the government is trying to get rid of, and when you listen to the Planet Money podcast, that’s exactly how it feels.

And this makes me question, why do we pay taxes, what is the government’s relationship with its citizens?

Finding the Harvey Weinstein in Me

As the Weinstein allegations start to go Cosby, I wonder about my role as a man. Am I part of the problem, part of the solution? How do I know, other than boosting my own ego thinking, “I couldn’t possibly be part of the problem!”

When I was living in Vietnam at the beginning of this decade, a friend told me of this story of Weinstein. I didn’t know the person involved, or Weinstein, but should I have done something? What could I have done?

Perhaps you’ve heard of the casting couch. It seems like common knowledge today that women, whether in show business or not, are going to be harassed / coerced / manipulated, but is having this knowledge improving anything in society? In the Vietnam incident, my thought was more along the lines of “Well, I guess that seems to be the price of admission.” I wasn’t happy or being humorous, but that seemed to be it in terms of my involvement.

My sister-in-law is a successful fashion model, and that’s where those thoughts return. While I want to be outraged at what’s going on (to women), at the same time, I just do not want to think about it because I don’t know what I can do.

I feel castrated in my possible reactions. What is the civilized way to fight back, to really have impact?

And yet, I’m not an innocent in this discussion. I have my own story of guilt: 20 years ago in high school, I was going online during the starting days of the internet, the time when people started transitioning away from AOL and finding the internet: Yahoo, Google, Excite. E-Mail was a miracle. This was Web 1.0, the early days of Geocities, where anyone could create his own website and show off a cool animated “hits” counter to show off the number of page visits.

As many teenage boys do, I gawked at the attractive girls in my classes. I had an idea of naming the most attractive girls in my year and putting it on a website for everyone to see.

I learned basic HTML, scanned photos from my yearbook and put it up. Scraping emails from group threads among classmates, I executed my first example of spam / mass emailing / grassroots marketing. I didn’t ask permission from any of the girls, being scared of them (never had I talked to most of them) and their possible responses, yet still wanted the site out there, getting attention.

As that was, perhaps it wasn’t so bad and I started to get some hits. I can’t remember all the details at this point, but I’m sure I continued working on the site, seeing how I could adjust things. Some friends of mine gave feedback, and this is where I made the wrong decision.

A friend mentioned (paraphrased) that one girl had a physical feature that would be great for oral sex. I don’t think I really knew what that meant, but I thought, hey, more content, and something to put on the website.

And so I did. I remember showing the website to my dad at this point, and he made a very astute comment (as usual) that I should reconsider putting comments like that on the website.

But I wanted the attention, I wanted people to visit the site and have a reaction (even though I truly feared a negative one), so I kept it. A few days later, some anonymous students had a negative reaction to the site and I was actually harassed (pretty stressful for my teenage self) for it. I do not know if they were doing so in defense of one of the girls, or some other reason. It does not matter.

I clearly put my need for attention over something that was not nice to put in full public view. It could have affected one of the girls negatively, and it was a form of harassment.

I don’t quite remember what happened after this. I am fairly sure I removed that one comment that was out of line, but probably kept the site up for some months after.

But…”I couldn’t possibly be part of the problem!”