Selling Our Souls (SOS)

Over the past several weeks, Spirited Reasoners have looked at how insurance companies and mortgage lenders have caved to the siren song of maximizing profits through the use of high-pressure sales strategies. Now, ‘tis the season to examine the enhanced marketing methods used by the largest tax preparation services.

Like many Spirited Reasoners, I’ve used the same tax preparer for the past several years. So, once again this year, I figured the small fee was worth it, given the time I would save, not to mention the peace of mind of knowing that a third-party computer had checked my figures before sending them off to the IRS.

This year, however, I discovered that the “small fee” would come with a host of strings attached. I was led to believe that I’d need to subscribe to an additional app if I wanted to receive my refund via direct deposit. And, unbeknownst to me, that new app was going to spam me daily via email, pushing me to opt in for their wonderful financial services, none of which I wanted or needed.

What worried me at first was the subtle implication that if I deleted the app or unsubscribed to the spam, then I wouldn’t receive my refund. Now that my refund is safely in the bank, I took the first step this morning of deleting the app from my phone and unsubscribing from future emails. We’ll see if that works.

My experiences with the insurance company, the mortgage lender, and the tax preparer have made me wonder whether there were any remaining providers of consumer services who haven’t already jumped on the spamwagon. For example, I figured it should still be safe to walk into a supermarket without being hawked at while rolling one’s cart up and down the aisles. But I’ve been told that these days there are, in fact, hawkers in the produce and meat departments, urging shoppers to choose this new hybrid apple or this expensive cut of meat. So, I figure it’s just a matter of time before it becomes impossible to buy groceries without divulging all your personal information to the supermarket’s headquarters and receiving daily email and/or text message spam.

Maybe it’s still safe to go to church. But as I write those words, it strikes me that we humans have already gone down the route of commercializing even that sacred space. In the second chapter of John’s gospel and the twenty-first chapter of Matthew’s, we read about Jesus driving the money changers out of the temple.

So here’s a deal for all Spirited Reasoners. If you can help me keep the money changers out of our churches, I’ve got a car warranty that I can sell you really cheaply. Our records show that yours has expired.