A scene in the not too distant future…
Location: Staples Advanced Marketing Division office. Two men are working before a large computer screen.
Young Marketing Intern: “OK, it’s 3 in the afternoon and target market “Peg” is napping.” (screen before him shows middle aged woman, face down on the quarterly tax return documents spread all over her desk. She is drooling slightly.)
Order Fulfillment Supervisor: “Access last 3 months buying history.”
Intern: “Program is working, working… target has purchased lots of paper, ink…”
Supervisor: “Integrate online viewing history.”
Intern: “Integrating data…looks like just yesterday her mouse hovered for 4.8 seconds over the HP LaserJet P2035n printer. Wait a minute, wait a minute… (voice rises excitedly) AND the HP LaserJet P2055dn for 3.7 minutes. Repeat, 3.7 minutes! Looks like we’ve got a live one here, boss!”
Supervisor: (hunkers down in executive chair like Captain Kirk getting set to outrun the Klingons) “OK, this is where it gets tricky. Access target’s online movie viewing and music selections for the last 2 months.” (screen splits to show sleeping woman, along with columns of data scrolling down.) “Hmmm. Listens to classic America, Bread, Three Dog Night, … aha! John Denver! Cue the Nature Lover Dream, lowest sound and sensory emanation from her desktop. A little louder, a little louder…careful, for pete’s sake, do you want to wake her up?”
The atmosphere is tense in the office as the intern types rapidly. The screen changes, comes into focus. Picture shows the target’s dream. She is reclining in a field of clover on a bright, summer day. Slowly, like the Cheshire Cat, the HP LaserJet P2055dn printer appears next to her under the tree.
Several moments pass. The woman on screen shows no interest in the printer. “Peg” continues to weave daisy chains and hum “Rocky Mountain High”, slightly off key. The Supervisor frowns.
Supervisor: “She’s not going for it. Access Personal Online Viewing After-Hours-When-Boss-is-Gone history.”
Intern: (looks uneasy, hesitates.) “Do you think we should? I mean, isn’t that kind of illegal?”
Supervisor: (grips arms of chair, shouts) “Just do it, man! I’m not letting this one slip away.”
(Hazy split screen comes into focus, various images flash quickly by.)
Supervisor: (face breaks into an evil smile) “Bingo! We’ve got her now.”
On screen, a man riding a black stallion comes through the field toward the reclining woman. They reach the fence and the horse rears up, then settles down as the man vaults lightly from its back. He is a large man with a flowing mane of hair, skintight black pants and high boots, and a poet/pirate shirt unbuttoned to the navel.
It is Fabio of romance novel and I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Not-Butter fame.
Fabio approaches the reclining woman, lifts her effortlessly in his mammoth arms and sets her tenderly atop the HP LaserJet P2055dn printer.
Fabio begins nibbling her neck and murmurs in a low, seductive growl “…quiet function and ink-saving capabilities mean that you’ll get 35ppm at 1200 x 1200 dpi, with a duty cycle of up to 50,000 pages…”
As the screen shot fades, the woman’s head falls back on his strong shoulder. She moans, softly.
I get emails from Staples with special coupons and deals on office supplies. In recent months, they have sent emails requesting my feedback on many of the specific products I have purchased, whether online or in the local store. That kind of tracking is worrisome. Last week I got an email extolling the virtues of two printers. Why these two? I had specifically looked at their features on the Staples’ website the day before.
Be afraid. Be very afraid.