This Credit Card Offer Fiasco Shows The Perils of Renting Mailing Lists

renting mailing lists

Imagine renting a mailing list for marketing purposes, and finding your company publicly embarrassed on Twitter over it. That’s exactly what one bank faced recently.

A San Francisco freelance writer got a credit card offer in the mail from Bank of America, addressed to “Lisa Is A Slut McIntire.”

Actually, McIntire’s mother got the mailer on her behalf.   After informing her daughter that she had received this offer in the mail, the self-described feminist writer set out to discover how she got her new middle name. According to a Chicago Tribune report and tweets that McIntire sent to her followers, fault is being pinned on an honors society she joined in college:

The Golden Key International Honour Society partnered with Bank of America to jointly market a card to its members. A letter inside the addressed envelope even has the same unfortunate name tagged in paragraphs to make it sound more personal, like: “Lisa Is A Slut McIntire, you have earned this special ….”

After her tweets went viral, it prompted some quick apologetic responses from the honor society and Bank of America. The honor society has accepted blame for the mix-up.

To its credit, Bank of America tweeted an apology to McIntire and contacted her directly by phone, too. Golden Key says that McIntire’s middle name was changed in the records sometime between 2004 and 2008. The bank says its mailing system is on the lookout for profanity. Apparently, this instance was missed, however.

Luckily for both Bank of America and the Golden Key Honour Society, McIntire has taken the whole incident rather lightly:

For businesses, the incident is a reminder of the perils of renting mailing lists for direct marketing.  Obviously the honor society and the bank were both embarrassed.

But beyond that, consider that the information used to send McIntire her credit card solicitation hadn’t been scrubbed in up to 10 years old.  How useful could that information be?

Oops Photo via Shutterstock

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Joshua Sophy Joshua Sophy is the Editor for Small Business Trends and the Head of Content Partnerships. A journalist with 20 years of experience in traditional and online media, he is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists. He founded his own local newspaper, the Pottsville Free Press, covering his hometown.

4 Reactions
  1. Goes to show that programmatic filters are only as good as the people running them (and that a real person needs to check them every now and again).

    • That’s right. This is not something that can easily be filtered by a machine. But if you don’t manually check everything, you run the risk of being publicly embarassed. This is an interesting story but it also provides a lesson to all those companies who buy their mailing lists.

  2. I would be concerned about a list where a change had been made between 2004 and 2008, and hadn’t been caught by now (2014). That seems to suggest a pretty stale list ….

  3. I’m a bit confused. Where did those words originally come from? The Golden Key International Honour Society? And who within the society chose to use something so disrespectful?

    Was Lisa a part of the society?