Grandma's Tales

October 16, 2006

How sacred is your To:field space

Filed under: Consumer caution,Society — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 9:27 pm

My Dollar Store, which has three branches in Chennai sent me a Diwali promo mail. Nothing really wrong with that. I get such mails from stores and organisations and think of it as information. The content of this e-mail was fine. It listed the new goodies that they were stocking for Diwali. What was not fine was the To: field. It had more than 155 e-mail IDs apart from mine.
Yes, we do get e-mails sent to groups. These are generally from friends and they carry jokes, messages and occasionally, a chain mail (Pass it on to 5 people and you’ll get blessed). Did a store ever send you mail with the To:field clogged with IDs? Of nearly 160 individuals and stores? I didn’t think that was right. I just had to protest. I wrote:


Dear Sir,
I am shocked to see the e-mail IDs of 150+ people in your To: field. Here is concentrated information. These are 150-odd people who buy stuff sold at your store. It tells me a lot about the buying habits of these people. You sure know what that means. What will stop one or more of them, me included, from selling this info to similar stores so they can go ahead and unleash a blitz of spam mails?
I don’t know how you got all these people to leave their e-mails with you. In my case it was done in good faith. I wanted info on Nature Valley bars and you said you would let me know about it in an e-mail. At that time I didn’t think you would put it in your mail list and parade it with the IDs of 150 others.
To me this is a breach of faith. But thanks for teaching me a lesson. I should have known. I was the one who wrote about loss of privacy (
Privacy at peril? – Metro Plus) and warned everyone against leaving their IDs with people they do not know.
Geeta Padmanabhan.

To their credit, the store sent a reply within a few hours.

Fri, 13 Oct 2006 14:47:17

Subject:My Dollar Store  

Dear Sir,
Sorry for that bulk email to: addresses. This was our first and last mistake. Anyway thanks for your advice, we would definately (sic) see that this will never be repeated.
Store Manager
My DollarStore.

What would your reaction be in a situation like this? Ok, let me ask: would you be tempted to sell the ID information? This may be a small example. But we do get to hear more and more stories of confidential information, and more alarmingly, intellectual property, being sold.
Even as I wrote down my mail ID at the Dollar Store, I noticed a lot of mobile numbers along with names of customers. Why would you leave your mobile number with a store? I’m not sure this is a good idea. As a cell phone owner, you certainly know the consequences of doing this.





  1. Hi Ma’m!
    This is my second message of the day. The article was innovative and something I had’nt even realised till today…We had done a chapter on consumers and COPRA in the eleventh and our teacher encourages research on consumer issues and laws especially reading the column ‘Caveat Emptor’in The Hindu which is fascinating. I mean such issues in the mob(mobile)era?!I got cracking on this pysche a long time back and my writing is focused on these contemporary social issues. Looking forward eagerly to the next class!
    p.s- I have posted a comment on the Grammar6 blog of October 8’o5 too.

    Comment by Karishma.D.Dodeja — October 17, 2006 @ 8:52 pm | Reply

  2. Hi Karishma,
    Consumer activists tell me all the time that it is our carelessness that is responsible for a lot of identity theft. We just need to be careful where we leave information about ourselves. And now it seems digital information goes on forever and it’s “virtually” impossible to erase the trail we leave behind when we use the Internet. Scary!
    Do remind me to take this issue up for a debate in the class!
    (I answered your other comment too!)

    Comment by Geeta Padmanabhan — October 17, 2006 @ 10:18 pm | Reply

  3. The title is of course, “How sacred is your To:field space? I tried to correct the mistake but I can’t! Would one of you help me, please?

    Comment by Geeta — October 18, 2006 @ 8:56 pm | Reply

  4. Dear G (I’ll keep it short, and repectful, so no offense is meant,)

    I used to live abroad (US) for some years and I noticed that most spam over email was entirely on one’s need for growth (physical) well after the growing ages (say 29 for men, and 25 for women.) I put in some key filters and managed to get rid of most of them. As the email providers started building robust filters, these emails started to dwindle and today I get only a few 100 🙂 spam a day. Coming back to your original question, everyone else is selling information on the double today. My mobile number is probably on most spam-maker’s list. And my email is most definitely with everyone who shouldn’t be writing me at all. I’ve tried hard not to share personal information at every opportunity of theirs. When the courier man asks for my phone number when delivering a package, I give a false number, when asked to leave a phone or email no./id down at a store, I say no and if the store keeper persists, I make up numbers so fast they can’t call my bluff. All the same, I am still subject to at least 15 minutes a day of attending to spam I never sought. The point is, like it happened in the US, a federal law must prohibit companies from calling indiscriminately. As for emails, however, I conclude that the less they are used, the better, for me anyway.

    An admirer,

    Comment by RockJongleur — October 20, 2006 @ 9:59 am | Reply

  5. Hi RJ,
    Thanks for stopping by. I don’t know why you want to keep your comments “short and respectful”. Excellent upbringing?
    You write very well, RJ. For a teacher of English in India reading prose like yours is like being given a favourite Diwali sweet. Go ahead and write all you want!
    Thanks for sharing all those tips about not leaving personal info with strangers. As you have so correctly pointed out, why should the courier man want your phone number? Why do bank deposit forms ask for a page of personal information with the word “optional” as its heading? If they can allow me to open an account without that info, why ask in the first place? Very fishy, or is it?
    The federal law looks like a good idea, but enforcement? How is this done? I once asked a telemarketer where she got my number from and she said sweetly “from the phone book”. Ha!
    Spam and unsolicited e-mails are a fact of life, sigh! What bothers me is the level of alertness expected of me to get through the daily business of living. What should my vigilance quotient be now?

    Comment by Geeta Padmanabhan — October 20, 2006 @ 7:45 pm | Reply

  6. I was surprised to find HDFC Bank did the same thing in a blast email to all their NRI clients. Your dollar store is in the big league!

    Comment by P R Ganapathy — October 25, 2006 @ 4:31 pm | Reply

  7. Hi PR Ganapathy,
    Welcome to the blog. Did anyone write to HDFC a stiff note complaining? Blast e-mails and other privacy violations will occur if we choose to keep quiet. And be careless about where we leave personal info. Heightened alertness is the price we pay for living in a techno-world. Sigh!

    Comment by Geeta Padmanabhan — October 25, 2006 @ 6:19 pm | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: