The internet truly is a wondrous invention; nearly all of us owe a continuing debt to Al Gore for having invented it in the first place.
Many of us realize that not only is it a means to research and gather information about news, interests, activities and hobbies, but also it is handy for any distraction from shopping to reading books, magazines, editorials and (as was the case for me yesterday), everything from a curiosity about what happened to the venerable hotels of the “Borscht Belt” in the Catskills – some have reopened as religious retreats – , to whether the F-14 Tomcat of “Top Gun” fame still is in active service as a military jet fighter (overseas yes, but here, no).
So at some point yesterday afternoon, I was Googling reviews of Broadway shows. Specifically, one called “On Your Feet” which is supposed to be a biographical musical of Gloria Estefan. Not so much a fan the first time around, her music captivated me as the background soundtrack to one of my favorite all-time Disney World attractions; the Enchanted Tiki Room (which I understand now to be gone). The whole skit by the Tiki Bird animatronic puppets was set to her music, including Conga, One-Two-Three, Turn the Beat Around, etc. It was a special time-and-place for this then 43-year-old little boy.
So “On Your Feet” is coming to the Kennedy Center, and thought about getting tickets. However, I wanted to read a review of the show. I clicked through from my Google search, onto a review of the Broadway version of the show, on the New York Times web site, from two years ago. Well, one of those “the internet is not as free as you were led to believe” things happened, and my review-reading was interrupted by a splash screen asking me to subscribe to the New York Times. Hmm…
Now I knew that I could dump my cookies and clear my cache and restart that NYT cookie counter, but doing so usually is a pain because you have to log back into some half dozen or whatever web pages I use regularly (WordPress, here, among them). So while contemplating whether to bother going through all of that, I read the Times advertising come-on, which presented the following subscription options:
- I could pay $8 per month for a basic NYT subscription, which would entitle me to articles and whatnot, but not their crossword puzzle or recipes. Already I am a paid subscriber to online Washington Post (also $8 per month or so) and enjoy it; I also believe that people who work at the paper deserve a roof over their heads and the capability to pay for housing. So I knew $8 was not out of line, but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted the puzzle and recipes too, so I read on.
- I ALSO could spend only $8 a month and get the puzzles and recipes included. This was the NYT “Black Friday Special”, which came with its very own asterisk. I was intrigued for a moment, as this seemed like a better value. Of course, I also knew that asterisks can be bad, as anyone who ever has read a car dealership ad knows. So I searched for the asterisk and its fine print. I found that $8/month would balloon to $27 a month, automatically and without telling me, once a year (at $8 per month) was complete. Of course, I could “cancel anytime”, if I remembered to and figured out how.
It did not take long to feel that I hated gimmicky intro ads. What I quickly realized too, was that I simply expected more from the New York Times than such a transparent call-to-action. I was reminded of the Columbia House record club, for which I always had distaste.
Never having even begun to place an online order (no user name, password, email address, etc.), and I closed that tab and left the web site of the New York Times, my purpose (to read their review of “On Your Feet” unfulfilled). I thought that the episode of my being marketed to by the Old Gray Lady of the news media was concluded the moment I closed that tab in Chrome. I was, um, wrong.
Wouldn’t you know it, but bright and early this morning I was greeted with an unsolicited email from the circulation and subscription desk of the New York Times. Seems they noticed that I had an “uncompleted order” and they were here (in cyberspace) to help separate me from my money via email, online chat or telephone.
Mind you, once again, I offered no self-identification or contact information of any sort. They just “knew” it was me. Um, I should not really be surprised, but still, wow.
I believe that my active Google account must be the culprit, but its too inconvenient to spend my life in incognito mode, online. So I have acquiesced to the reality that every time I touch a button or click on a link, 192,463 different guys (no doubt all living in someplace like Mumbai and all named Patel) are adding me to yet another database they then endeavor to sell to companies worldwide for 5,000,000 names per rupee (2,200,000 per rupee if accompanied by a live email address). Sadly, it’s either to accept this uncomfortable reality than to actively fight against it.
I never did read that review. But I still think On Your Feet might be a good one to see.