Friday, March 2, 2007


On the subject of cellphone ringtones, I could go on at length about how much I hate the way they've evolved - how my new phone came with far fewer useful ring sounds than the old one because the new one is set up to make you pay to download something decent. But to my ears, none of these mp3 ringtones sound decent played trough those tiny, tinny speakers. It's rare to hear a cellphone ring that doesn't make me cringe.

But that's not my point. Yesterday, I happened to pick my cheapy, non-flip-phone up from my pocket and noticed that it was about to start downloading my purchase! Obviously, I had forgotten to "lock" the keys and buttons had gotten pushed. Curiously, it turned out to be very easy for them to get pushed in such a way that I was suddenly buying something from the good folks at Cingular. Because I panicked and immediately hung the phone up when I saw the message, I have no idea what I was actually downloading although I think I saw the words mp3 flash by. Unless this was all a sleep-deprivation induced mirage, I'm assuming that this is the sort of accident that is no accident.

And that's my point. We all know that companies are happy when mistakes go in their favor, but it makes me wonder how often people sit in meetings and actually say out loud, "what can we implement into our design/system/product that will make people accidentally give us money?" I'm sure that the whole rebate system is based largely on this idea which is really only a very small step away from stealing money directly from people's pockets. It's probably worse because it's much more pervasive.

So as I anxiously await the e-reply from Cingular to my inquiry about what happened, I just wonder what it's like to design this sort of legal theft, and also I wonder to what degree these companies openly talk about what they're doing. Is that what business school is all about, learning how to pretend that such techniques are sales strategies, not grifts? Meanwhile, I just hope I didn't accidentally download a ringtone from Haydn's Creation.

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