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Who Do You Think You Are?

Published: Jun 07 , 2018
Author: Stephen White

Some years ago, I inherited from an elderly uncle a scruffy handwritten family tree of my father’s forebears. Intrigued and interested I did some research and expanded it, including my mother’s family, and then my wife’s family. When the technology became available I used a web-based programme to put it online and make it accessible to others. As a result distant relatives I didn’t know existed contacted me and the tree grew even taller and wider. Genealogy had turned into one of my hobbies.

In this endeavour research is fundamental. Access to census and church records, immigration papers, newspaper archives and suchlike is available on the web, but the providers are all subscription-based services and their charges are substantial.

So, I was pleasantly surprised to get an email yesterday from My Heritage, one of the providers, whom I had used some years ago, offering me a year’s access to all their research resources at half price. I clicked through the email to the website, checked out the deal and decided to go for it. I clicked to accept and started to fill my details.

I got as far as my first name when the phone rang. ‘Hello, is that Stephen?’ Yes. ‘This is Roy from My Heritage. I know you used to be a subscriber and I have seen some recent activity from you on our website. I am calling to offer you an even better deal than the one you are considering now.’

Freaky coincidence? No, I don’t believe in that. Malware on my computer which is spying on me? No, I have all the necessary protection. This was marketing automation – technology enabling the website to hit me with a sales pitch as soon as activity from my IP address suggested I might be interested in buying.

My first reaction was indignation – who the hell did they think they were invading my privacy? Milliseconds later this was replaced by curiosity. What was the better deal?

Roy offered me a couple of extra freebies which were high priced but of little value to me, and a £15 gift voucher. I politely declined and asked instead for the half price deal to be extended for a second year. I was put on hold. He came back and offered me a small discount for the second year. I declined again and said I’d probably just go for the one year deal. I was put on hold again. He came back with a more substantial discount for the second year. I asked if I would get a £15 gift voucher for each year. He said he would have to call me back. He did and agreed. The deal was done. Both parties were satisfied - Roy earned his commission and I get to enjoy my hobby at a discount.

There is no doubt that I was more susceptible to a sales pitch at the point that Roy made the call. That is the point of the automation technology.  But susceptibility is not the same as surrender. There is often a better deal - if you look for it.

Stephen White

A new series of ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ started on BBC1 last night.


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Stephen White
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