Why I Hate Evite

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 7:19 pm

So picture me sitting around my house one afternoon, when suddenly I think to myself, “Hey, maybe I’ll call up a few friends, invite them over for dinner or a board game or something.”

Then the phone rings.

ME: Hello?

CALLER: Hey, don’t make that call just yet!

ME: Huh? Who is this?

CALLER: This is PhoneVite, the world’s most popular, 100% free phone-based invitation service!

ME: Who? PhoneWhat? How’d you get this number? Why are you calling me?

CALLER: We just wanted to offer you the chance to invite your friends over for dinner or a game tonight!

ME: Um, thanks, but that’s exactly what I was about to do when you interrupted me. I don’t need your help.

CALLER: Yeah, but you were just going to call them up. We’re offering to do it for you, the new, exciting PhoneVite way, for free!

ME: Meaning what, exactly?

CALLER: Well, instead of having to call all of your friends and invite them over, you just give all of their phone numbers to us. Then we call them all up for you and tell them to call a special PhoneVite number. Then when they call the number, they can listen to a special message from you telling them about the get-together! Then they can leave a message telling you whether they plan on coming, how many people they plan to bring, and anything else they think you ought to know. Then you call the number, and you can listen to all of the messages they left! It’s a snap!

ME: Hmm. Pardon my ignorance, but why in Christ’s name would I want to go through all that rigmarole instead of just picking up the damn phone and calling my friends?

CALLER: ‘Cuz then you wouldn’t be doing it the fast, fun PhoneVite way!

ME: Meaning….?

CALLER: Well, in addition to making all of the phone calls for you, we make the invitation fun!

ME: Through the process of….?

CALLER: We add cool music and sound effects and stuff to the phone call!

ME: Uh huh.

CALLER: PhoneVite takes all of the drudgery out of invitations!

ME: “Drudgery”?

CALLER: Sure! In the old days, if you called someone up to invite them over and they wanted to know who else was coming, they’d have to ask! With PhoneVite, all they have to do is call the special number, and we tell them who else is going to be there for you! Isn’t that great?

ME: Yeah, keen.

CALLER: And all for free!

ME: Actually, that’s another question I have. You don’t charge for any of this?

CALLER: Absolutely not! All 100% free!

ME: Why?

CALLER: Beg pardon?

ME: All of this stuff—the phone banks, the recording equipment, the music and sound effects—must cost a lot of money. Why are you doing this for free? What could possibly be your motivation?

CALLER: Oh—uh—because we love you!

ME: No, really.

CALLER: Welllll….we might just make a teensy bit of money on advertising.

ME: Advertising? Where does advertising come into this?

CALLER: Well, when your friends call back to hear about the invitation, they also get to hear about all the great products and services our partners have to offer!

ME: “Partners”??

CALLER: Oh, sure! Restaurants, mail-order catalogs, pharmaceutical companies, software vendors, consumer electronics manufacturers, sportswear suppliers, magazines, television networks, other phone-based service providers….y’know, cool stuff that hip, sophisticated people like you and your friends are just dying to hear more about!

ME: Uh huh. Look, who the hell are you people, anyway? Who owns PhoneVite?

CALLER: Oh, that’s a great story. PhoneVite was founded in 1998 by a couple of guys who just wanted to help folks keep in touch with each other!

ME: Yeah, great story. Who owns it now?

CALLER: Uh, well, it was acquired shortly thereafter by another highly respected conglomerate.

ME: Really? What else do they own?

CALLER: Oh, all sorts of stuff….hotel price finders….dating services….dial-a-joke numbers….er….TicketMaster….

ME: TicketMaster? The company that charges hundreds of percentages worth of markup for concert and other event tickets? The company well-known for its abusive privacy policy?

CALLER: Well, yeah….but some of those dial-a-jokes are really funny!

ME: So let me get this straight. You want me to hand the phone numbers of all of my friends over to some anonymous person on the phone, to do with as you please—

CALLER: Oh, no, we have a very strict privacy policy regarding the contact information we harvest—er, are given stewardship over by our customers. If you like, I can spend the next twenty minutes explaining it to you in exhaustive and bewildering detail, with lots of legal jargon!

ME: No thank you—to do with according to your current privacy policy, which might change at any moment—

CALLER: *Ahem* Well, yeah, sure….

ME: —in order to save me and my friends the horrible inconvenience of having to talk directly to each other about when and where we want to get together and who will be attending—

CALLER: Isn’t that great?

ME: —in exchange for which we will all be treated to a bunch of unsolicited advertising—

CALLER: And cool sound effects!

ME: —and cool sound effects. Have I got that all?

CALLER: You bet! So, who would you like us to call for you?

ME: I dunno, my lawyer? The cops? The Electronic Frontier Foundation?

CALLER: I don’t quite follow you.

ME: Allow me to elaborate. When I decide I want to give up valuable demographic information about all of my friends to a huge company with questionable practices in order to save myself the trouble of making a few phone calls, you’ll be the first people I contact. Until then, piss off.

CALLER: But—but we’re so easy and fun! And free!

ME: Buh-bye now.


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