A long overdue separation [Rerun Sunday]

I got an email from the nice folks at Mitsubishi Motors today about “Important Windshield Wiper Tips.” I appreciate that Mitsubishi wants to keep me safe on the roads. Honest, I do. Though I’m not sure that they need to send me a special email full of tips to make this happen . . . especially when those “tips” actually boil down to a sales pitch to bring my Mitsubishi in to the dealer to get my wiper blades replaced.

But what really bugs me about this email is that “my Mitsubishi” is no longer mine. Not by a longshot. It gave up the ghost back in 2001 or so. Mitsubishi doesn’t seem to have noticed this, however, even though I have tried — over and over and over again — to get myself removed from their email lists. But the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of those friendly emails has never worked out. This time, it simply took me to a page that demanded my name and email — without any other explanatory assistance — in ways that suggested I would actually be inviting more advertising into my inbox if I filled it out.

Normally, I’d shrug this off. But today I was feeling ornery enough to try and push this unsubscription thing through. After more than a decade and three other cars (none of which were Mitsubishis), I figured I could afford to cut my ties with the big M completely. (Side note: I have no idea if anyone actually calls Mitsubishi “the big M,” even within the company.) Trouble is, that advertising email came from a “noreply” bot and was completely devoid of other directly helpful contact information.

So I wander over to the main Mitsubishi website. Which has lots of information if I want to buy a Mitsubishi or find a Mitsubishi dealer. But nothing at all obvious for extricating myself from (or, for that matter, adding myself to) their marketing database. I look back at the Wiper Tips email and notice a link to their privacy policy. Buried deep in that page, there’s a different link that offers me the chance to escape from (or join) their advertising lists. Hooray!

Except that the page in question contains a form that doesn’t actually work. I tried loading it in multiple browsers — just in case there was something about how their site interacts with all the pop-up blockers (etc.) that I have configured in Firefox — and none of them gave me a version of the page that actually allowed you to enter your contact information. The page contains apparently usable boxes for doing so, but those boxes don’t permit ordinary mortals to input text of any sort. And so it was back to their privacy policy page . . .

. . . where there was a phone number to call if you had questions or concerns about the policy. So I called. Not surprisingly, I found myself listening to a menu of options to direct my call. A very short menu. I could press “1” if I already had a Mitsubishi. Or “2” if I wanted to buy one. There was no option for anything else. Waiting the silence out eventually got me an error message about needing to press a number and then cycled me back to the start of the menu. Very helpful.

So I tried pressing “0” — a common default choice for “customer service” — which got me a new error message about how “0” wasn’t an available option . . . but then asked me to press “1” if I wanted customer service. Which I did.

The first thing that the very nice woman I spoke with there asked me for was my Vehicle Identification Number. I told her I didn’t have one, so she asked for my name. I gave it to her. She asked where my vehicle was registered. I told her that I didn’t have one and explained — more succinctly than I do above — that I was simply trying to get off their email list, and she was apparently my only option to do so.

She really was very nice. But she also explained to me that she needed my VIN in order to pull my records up in their database, since she couldn’t do so reliably using my email address or my name. I pointed out that I didn’t have ready access to a unique, difficult-to-memorize 17-digit number connected to a car I hadn’t laid eyes on this century. She asked for the phone number that I would have had back then — but the only old phone numbers I can recall with any accuracy at this point take me back to pre-teen childhood.

Then, surprisingly, she started describing my old car (lucky for me that Rodman isn’t a very common name) and she told me that she had changed their records to indicate that I was no longer the owner of the vehicle in question. So this story may have a happy ending — though it’s just as likely that their computer system will now inundate my with special offers to buy a new Mitsubishi, since I was clearly delighted to own my old one for 23 years . . .

You can find a brief explanation of “Rerun Sunday” here.

The post above originally appeared on 16 January 2013.

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