“Lady/ Assaulted As Teenager/ Or Current Business”

By now you’ve likely heard about Mike Seay, the man in Ohio who, in the middle of grieving for his 17-year-old daughter, received a promo letter from OfficeMax addressed to “Mike Seay/Daughter Killed in Car Crash/Or Current Business.” Amy Merrick at the New Yorker has written a good encapsulation of where so-called “life-stage marketing” has taken us: marketers “sell[ing] lists of rape victims and AIDS patients,” women receiving endless coupons for baby gear two months after they miscarried.

Mike Seay’s case is made even more unnerving by the company’s response: “We were not seeking personal information and did not ask for it.” Seay pointed out that the wording is so precise that “a human being most likely wrote the phrase that appeared on the letter,” which conjures a certain George Saunders-ish image of a trauma-logging ad team, recording horrific pain off Facebook and then taking coffee breaks. That will be my mental image until there’s more transparency about how this sort of thing happens! Right now OfficeMax is refusing to let on, and Seay’s considering getting a lawyer to compel them to tell him.

“Jia Tolentino/ Insecure In Winter/ Or Current Business.” Damn, I’m still stuck on that “lists of rape victims” thing. Isn’t it fun how solid the odds would be if a company just put any woman’s name in that blank and paired it with sexual trauma? One in four, maybe more. “Lady/ Assaulted As Teenager/ Or Current Business.” But what will you sell us that you haven’t already tried? [New Yorker]