How the selling machine collects copious information about you

Telephone directories, customer records, lists from chambers of commerce, call centers, e-mail and telephone text messages become tools in the hands of small and large businesses that target consumers directly. Marketing professionals note that the targets are not only groups of people, but also prospective individual customers. «The process presupposes a direct approach to the customer and understanding their needs so you can completely fulfill their desires,» says Xenophon Hasapis of Boussias Communications company. To achieve that, each firm tries to maintain databases that contain not only the customer’s name, address and telephone number but also their preferences. That information usually comes from questionnaires filled in by consumers, although private information is often used for commercial purposes without the prospective buyer’s consent. «Data about subgroups of customers has to be processed properly. Otherwise, there are instances where a bank will try to advertise a housing loan to someone who owns their own house, or insurance companies selling pension plans to people who are already collecting their pensions. Such cases create a bad impression,» says Hasapis. As Howard Draft of Draft Inc, a leading marketing firm in the US told Kathimerini in an earlier interview: «Bombarding customers with unwanted messages makes them react against any service that is offered. Marketing tactics that forcibly invade people’s lives are counterproductive.» Customer lists have become so highly sought after that new companies keep springing up for the sole purpose of drawing up names of consumers and stores for commercial purposes. Giorgos Papadopoulos, owner of Attractive, a company that draws up lists of possible «targets» from existing directories, such as those of the telephone company or chambers of commerce, said: «The data we collect is bought by marketing companies or by call centers that do marketing on behalf of third parties.» These call centers are a basic link in the chain of direct advertising. Professionals in the field say the telephone is at the top of the communication scale, as it is the most successful marketing method. They say that they use names of customers that interested businesses keep in their files and that they themselves do not register the data. «We don’t collect, we don’t pass on and we don’t register data. It is there and remains at the disposal of the agent, for example, a bank that approaches us,» explains Anastassios Theofilou of Call Center Hellas. Common swindlers The risk of consumers gaining a distorted view of modern marketing methods due to the rapid development of companies in the field and the activities of common swindlers was pointed out by Dimitris Paximadis, a member of the direct marketing department of the Association of Advertising and Communications Firms (EDEE). «Of all the direct marketing firms in Greece, fewer than 10 really do serious work,» he said, «while even common swindlers use direct marketing methods such as letters and e-mail.»