Boomers Get Personalized

Dear (YOUR FULL NAME HERE),
Have you noticed the preponderance of personalization permeating your personal snail mail and email these days? If so, you are far from alone. Once the purview of mail order businesses before they morphed into the world of e-commerce, now there is hardly an offer of any kind — whether delivered by the post office or into your inbox — that does not employ some form of name personalization.

Mister Boomer has received an increasing number of these lately, including charity requests for money, outright “cold call” sales offers (everything from auto warranty extenders to credit cards and cemetery plots!) or companies he has previously done business with thanking him for earlier business and begging for more. Mister B has observed, with some curiosity, that they fall into roughly three categories: First, the more traditional approach sticks with a formal letter greeting opening with a full, “Mister Boomer” personalization. These tend to not repeat the name personalization in every paragraph, but do generally conclude a plea by calling out the name. Secondly, there are those that may start out with a courteous salutation, but quickly transform into what can only be described as, “there, I said ‘hello,’ now we can call you by your first name.” Can you imagine that, (YOUR FIRST NAME HERE)? You are on first-name basis with people you don’t even know! The third are the ones that make no pretensions, and go directly to first name mentions throughout. These last two particularly irk Mister Boomer. Does it do the same for you, (YOUR FIRST NAME HERE)?

Of course, it wasn’t always this way. Once upon a time “personalization” was reserved for people we actually knew, either in terms of correspondence through the mail, or by in-person relationships. For many boomers, perhaps their first personalized letter came from Santa Claus. After writing a list of requests to jolly old St. Nick, many post offices offered a personalization service reply, direct from Santa, of course, mailed back to little Susie or Jimmy. Other than birthday cards from relatives, it was more than likely the first time they received a letter that was personalized. For Mister Boomer, one of the earliest memories of personalization is from an in-person interaction. When his mother walked him to the bank and opened a savings book account with him, each time he returned to the bank to make a deposit, the teller would cheerfully ask, “How are you today, Master Boomer?” Once Mister B turned 18, the bank tellers called him “Mister Boomer,” a practice that did not end until he moved from the area and changed banks. When he began frequenting local establishments in his twenties, he might be greeted with a friendly, “Mister Boomer” shout-out by a bartender or restaurant hostess or owner. When the relationship was solid enough, the correct etiquette for those situations, so we were taught, was to tell them in response to call you whatever first name or nickname you preferred, prefacing the response with, “please,” of course.

Boomers were taught to respect their elders and people in authority. Boomers would never call a friend’s parent by their first name. You didn’t do that when you were young, right (YOUR FIRST NAME)? Some later-year boomers may recall a “cool” teacher asking the class to call him by his first name (these types were usually males, for some reason), but that was never an option in the 1950s and ’60s. Teachers were always addressed as Mr., Mrs. or Miss, never Pete, Cheryl or Kathy. This may be one of the first instances Mister Boomer can conjure where name personalization precluded a longer-term association.

By the 1970s, the atmosphere became more relaxed for some boomers. Aunts, uncles, friends of parents and others allowed boomers under the age of 21 to call them by their first name, though it was still the exception to the rule. It was around this time that direct mail began its descent into the world of name personalization. Mister B thinks it may have started in earnest with that company that used to try to sell magazines through the mail by having an annual sweepstakes. All you had to do, (YOUR FULL NAME), was look inside the envelope and return the winning ticket. That’s right, the personalization started on the outside envelope. Once inside, the company quickly switched to a first-name basis, imploring the reader to make their order of magazines and send in the sweepstakes entry, or else miss out on winning more money than they dreamed possible. Mister Boomer’s mother used the sweepstakes as her opportunity to renew her Good Housekeeping or McCall’s magazines, so she wouldn’t miss her chance at becoming a big money winner. It worked in her case.

In a world where some top elected officials call other government officials by their first name, or worse, nickname, is it any wonder that this fake personalization practice continues to spread? To make matters worse, marketing data states that personalization works: people are more apt to answer email when their name appears in the subject line, and act on emails more often when their name is used in the body of the text. Even worse, Adage reports that in a recent survey of marketers, a full one-third said the most important tool for marketing in the near future is personalization. Thank goodness Mister Boomer readers have more sense than the average blog reader. (YOUR FIRST NAME HERE), you’d never fall for a blatant exploitation such as that, would you? Just because someone called you by name, doesn’t mean you’d share the info with all your friends and family and forward a blog URL through your social media, right (YOUR FIRST NAME HERE)?

Well fellow boomer (YOUR FIRST NAME HERE), how do you feel about this ongoing personalization trend? Is it “thumb’s up,” “thumb’s down” or “Eh? Makes no difference.”

Boomers Learned to Deal With Passcodes

Hard to believe, but Mister Boomer does not earn enough income from his site to support the lavish lifestyle to which he and his spouse have grown accustomed. Therefore, he works a full-time job. The restrooms at his place of employment are shared by other businesses on the same floor, so the doors have keypad locks on them for access, as does the door returning to his employee space. Mister Boomer realized, after mindlessly punching in the two codes, how common it is for all boomers these days to have committed passcodes and passwords of all types to memory, to the point that they become automatic reflexes — until, one day, the brain freezes and you develop a case of CRS (can’t remember “stuff”).

According to a recent study by Intel Security, the average person keeps track of 27 passwords for email, social media accounts, banking, phone access, online shopping, health insurance, computer logins, specialty sites and more. The same study states that 37 percent of people forget a password once a week. That would explain why the vast majority do not keep entirely different passwords for every account they have, a practice that lights warning signals among security experts.

For boomers still working, the password memory test is even worse. One study stated that the average business employee had to recall 191 passwords; computer logins, email, software access, printer access in some locations, proprietary system logins, and more, to say nothing of building and restroom access. In the department of teaching old dogs new tricks, the fact that boomers went with the flow over the past twenty years, and adapted to the new environs, seems pretty impressive to Mister Boomer. Yet it certainly wasn’t always this way for boomers.

In the boomer years, Password was a game show (1961-1975), where a celebrity and a “regular” person were teamed together to face another team. Members of the team traded giving each other one-word clues to guess the secret word — the “password.” Little did we know that the show was the blueprint for cyber hackers in years to come. And none of them had to prove they weren’t a robot.

Then there was the matter of locks for school. In Mister Boomer’s experience, boomers had to supply a lock for gym class. More often than not, the lock was a Master combination lock. The combination was printed on a piece of cardboard that was attached to the lock when it was purchased. Once in use, if the cardboard was misplaced or the combination forgotten, there was only one recourse to “recover” this password: clippers the size of the Jaws of Life were brought to bear on the offending lock, which was then snipped to oblivion and ergo, the “password” was reset by buying a new lock. Fortunately for Mister Boomer, he never had to suffer the humiliation of having his gym teacher slash the lock into scrap, an action that appeared to be a form of sadistic enjoyment for the Leader of the Jocks. Consequently, Mister B was able to keep the same lock (and therefore “password” combination) for all four years.

While the gym lockers required each student to supply a lock, his high school lockers had their own built-in locks. If a student forgot the combination, a trip to the school office could retrieve the code.

Then there was Mister Boomer’s bike lock, a chain permanently attached to a barrel combination lock. The numbers rolled around a cylinder like a primitive Rubik’s cube, until the right combination of numbers opened the lock. Again, it was one Mister Boomer kept for many, many years. So, in his school days, Mister B only needed three passwords: his school locker, gym lock and bike lock. Not too tasking on a young boomer’s brain.

Recently, Mister B ran across his combination lock in a box of his memorabilia. He had, with some foresight, written the combination on a piece of paper and poked the lock through it before he had locked it for what turned out to be decades. Nonetheless as he turned the tumbler: 24 left – 4 right – 13 left – 18 right; it all came back to him when the lock snapped open. In a flashback he saw himself opening the lock over and over. Then the combination to his bike lock appeared in his mind’s eye as well. He remembered them like it was yesterday. It occurred to Mister B that if he could remember his lock combinations all these years, then he had better change some of the umpteen passwords he has today to something he already knows. You won’t tell anyone, will you?

How have you solved the ongoing dilemma of creating distinct passwords, boomers?