Commentary

No Downside for List Brokers, Literally

In the most recent proof that there is in fact something lower than snake shit, a direct marketing company, Response Unlimited, is selling e-mail addresses of people who responded to a plea for financial support from the parents of Terri Schiavo.

"These compassionate pro-lifers donated toward Bob Schindler's legal battle to keep Terri's estranged husband from removing the feeding tube from Terri," says a description of the list on the firm's Web site, according to The New York Times, which points out the list offering makes "it likely that thousands of strangers moved by her plight will receive a steady stream of solicitations from anti-abortion and conservative groups."

Meanwhile, the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) announced that it has approved the formation of a new board-level committee to focus on corporate social responsibility issues. Is one of the issues the tastefulness of sending fund raising appeals to supporters of a dying woman? Nope. The DMA's Committee on Social Responsibility will be focused on "environmental issues."

When you think about it, if you have NO standards of decency, there are lots of places you could cull lists of people to annoy with direct mail or spam. Let's think of a few:

The guest books from funerals and wakes. "Dear friend/relative of a recently dead person: How would you like make certain YOUR bereaved ones aren't financially strapped because you didn't buy enough insurance. Fill out the enclosed card and..."

The police reports from the local paper. "Dear convicted felon: While you are in the Big House wouldn't it be nice to send fruit once a month to your long-suffering family..."

ISP subscribers. "We haven't seen your cookie lately, but I'll bet you'd still like to see explicit photos of sex-crazed hot young Croatian teens, so enclosed are..."

Home Foreclosings. "Dear Recent Home-Owner: Thousands of migrant workers and urban homeless have a comfortable night's sleep on the back seats of a General Motors vehicle. Visit our dealership Web site at..."

Registered Sex Offenders. "We at the Boy Scouts know a little something about child pornography, and thought that as a fellow traveler in this realm, you might consider a donation&"

TiVo subscribers: "We're not sure if you watched "Orange County" this week, (or if you did, saw all the cool commercials at 331/3 instead of 78 RPM) so enclosed are flyers from the show's advertisers&"

Perp Walks. "When you get home, you may want to walk in the door with a handful of flowers, so call this number now and &"

Small Claims Court. "OK, you lost this one, probably because you represented yourself. Next time try calling the law firm that specializes in&"

Grave Stones. "Now that you are free to date again, may we send you a selection of great looking widowers in your area who..."