Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Last Straw

I do not heart commercials.

I am a habitual user of the mute button, an arch rival of internet pop-ups, and a fervent advocate of the do-not-call list. And I particularly dislike being solicited by the schools through the mountains of handouts that are sent home each week in my kids backpacks.

So when my son's preschool sent home a packet of pictures in his backpack a couple of weeks ago, the proverbial camel was already groaning. I scratched my head, puzzled, as I could not recall ordering more pictures; I already had preschool pictures that had been taken back in the fall. I thought maybe it was a gift (silly girl!) and set them aside.

It wasn't until later, when I investigated the packet's contents more closely that I discovered the order form. Apparently, I needed to send money back to the school if I wanted to keep the pictures. They were extorting me with my own son's image!!

The whole situation reminded me of the one and only time I took my kids to the circus. After paying a king's ransom to enter, we were inundated with people trying to convince/guilt us into shelling out more money. They even stopped the show in the middle and the ringmaster, holding up the quality of toy you find at a Wal-Mart checkout lane, spent several minutes promoting the toys and encouraging the kids (i.e. the parents) to buy them (Hmmm...I dunno, should I purchase the inflatable spiderman for twenty dollars, the very same inflatable spiderman that they sell at the grocery store for a dollar??? Is this circus spiderman jewel-encrusted perhaps, and I've simply failed to notice???)

So there I was, irked to the extreme at being caught again in a guilt advertising campaign (Aww, look how cute he is! We simply must buy these pictures! He will hate us forever if we don't!!) I couldn't bring myself to return the packet in my son's backpack. At first, I was tempted to run them through the shredder and send them back in a baggie, perhaps with a mafia-style note. I considered for a time just keeping them and saying nothing, hoping that maybe Lifetouch would take the hint.

I finally settled on the following response:

May 13, 2009

Dear Lifetouch,

I am a stay-at-home mom with three school-age children. I felt it imperative to speak up for myself and other busy parents regarding your current marketing strategy.
I do not appreciate the practice of sending home picture packets that were not ordered to try to entice/guilt parents into purchasing what we don’t need. We are already being inundated with information/advertising/fundraising from the schools. This latest marketing strategy is simply the last straw.
Please be informed that my child’s backpack is sacred and is to be used for educational purposes only. It is not to be used to transport advertising into the home, as I did not give you my permission to use my child as your soliciting tool. One picture day notification per year (we only need one picture per school year) and one notification of the makeup day is acceptable. Twice a year is pushing it. Twice a year, with the spring packet being taken, printed, and presented to the child without my permission, is really irritating.
I attempted to express my dissatisfaction with this service over the phone in a polite and reasonable manner, both with the school and with the local Lifetouch office. Both entities suggested I anticipate when the packets would be sent out and send a note to the school each year requesting that my child’s picture not be taken and sent home. Neither was willing to make my life easier by exempting me from this “service”.
As I am more than happy to return the pictures to Lifetouch, you may send a self-addressed stamped envelope, or you may send a representative by my home to retrieve the picture packet in person. You may contact me at the number provided below to arrange for mail delivery or pick-up, whichever mode of retrieval is preferred.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.