Spirited Reasoners know that the word “engagement” can have more than one meaning. In the case of this week’s blog post, I mean it in the sense of “constant interaction.” (Thank God I’m only engaged “with” rather than “to” my mortgage lender. But even that much is too much.)
It’s not just my mortgage lender. I’m also engaged with my auto/home insurance company, Facebook, LinkedIn, my wi-fi provider, a host of Congressional candidates running for office across these United States, and at least a dozen charities. There’s also that friendly company that keeps changing its phone number but never fails to call me to invite me to extend my expired vehicle warranty. (I’m convinced a certain large telecommunications company is well aware of, and facilitates, that spamming operation. Otherwise, how could the so-called warranty provider obtain new phone numbers so easily in so many states, even after prior numbers are blocked? But alas, I have no first-hand proof.)
Normally, such “engagement” wouldn’t bother me so much. After all, I’ve been receiving spam in the form of junk mail for all of my adult life. What’s the difference nowadays?
The difference lies not so much in the breadth or volume of engagement but rather in the depth. There’s an important difference between (a) dozens of mortgage lenders and insurance companies hoping to tempt me away from my current lender and/or insurance company and (b) my own mortgage lender and my own insurance company constantly insisting that I deepen my engagement with them.
Here’s an example:
Almost every day I can count on my mortgage lender to send me an email, telling me how low interest rates have gotten and how much I can save by refinancing my mortgage. This message is rotated with one begging me to borrow additional money via a home equity loan and another message offering me a personal loan with no strings attached. All this despite the fact that I refinanced last year at a rate lower than the one they are currently touting and I have made it clear to them that I have no desire to incur further debt at this time. The only reason I don’t block all communication with them is because they are, in fact, my mortgage lender, and continue to act as an escrow agent for property taxes and insurance. There is, therefore, always the rare chance that I might actually receive an important notice from them.
Then there’s my insurance company, which doesn’t seem to enjoy being in the insurance business. Otherwise, they wouldn’t insist on offering me points for purchasing services and merchandise via one or more of their promotional gimmicks. Every day, they keep me informed about the number of points I have earned (merely by paying my premiums and not making insurance claims), thereby entitling me to wonderful retail discounts on everything ranging from magazine subscriptions to travel services.
What worries Spirited Reasoners is that Americans count on these types of bedrock institutions to be there when the rest of the economy is headed south. Stock market crash? No problem. I’ve got my savings account. Natural disaster? No problem. My insurance company is there to help.
Or maybe there aren’t any bedrock institutions of that type anymore. Almost every consumer-oriented corporation is now in the spam-your-best-customer business.
Earlier this week, shares of stock in Facebook’s parent corporation feel precipitously. Spirited Reasoners wonder whether one reason might be that American consumers are growing increasingly weary of being corporately “engaged” all the time.