Oxfam Unwrapped do a fabulous thing:
At Oxfam Unwrapped you can give real items that people living in poverty around the world need to change their lives for the better. You’ll receive a card to pass-on and your gift goes to those who need it most.
You ‘buy’ a goat, or a lamb, or a water purifying system, or other goods that will help impoverished people feed themselves or improve their circumstances. They receive the product you buy and you have a good feeling that you’ve done something worthwhile.
I don’t need more ‘stuff’
I like this idea: I definitely don’t need more ‘stuff’, and try to discourage my friends from giving me ‘things’. Billions of people in the world are much worse off than I am and desperately need the real gifts of clean water, chickens, tools for farming, and the like.
Why a phone number?
Today I was organising a gift for a friend through this charity. I chose the gift, selected an electronic card with customised message and moved on to the payment portion of the deal.
That’s where things went a little sour. I’m still undecided about whether or not to complete the transaction.
What happened? Well, they required my phone number.
This is an electronic transaction. I expect to hand over my credit card number and email address at some point. They’ll email the gift card to my friends, and I expect they’ll email me some kind of receipt and confirmation.
They also ask for my street address, but that’s standard practice for a credit card transaction.
Why do they require my phone number? Is it so their fundraisers can ring me at dinner time and ask for donations? I can tell you right now I don’t want them to do that.
Apparently they’ll use my personal data for the
purposes of supplying the goods. OK, that’s fine.
Under the Privacy Act 1993 any information you supply us with will be held by Oxfam and used to communicate with you about Oxfam’s work.
Ah, so they will ring me at dinner time to tell me about their work and solicit funds. Sounds like they may start mailing me stuff on paper, or by email too.
And look what else they don’t, or is it they do do:
We do not sell or pass our mailing lists on to other organisations.
Occasionally, with everyone’s agreement, we are able to approach supporters of other organisations and they ours. In these situations your privacy is assured because your name and address is not seen by anyone unless you respond to the approach.
If you prefer not to receive these one-off letters however, please tell us that you do not want to be contacted by other organisations.
So, they’re also going to send me ‘letters’ about the work of other organisations.
A one-time supporter
This is not OK. I want to do this one, single, thing. I want to support the work of the charity by giving a gift to a friend. I do not want to sign up to emails, letters and phonecalls about the charity or about what their friends do.
I support what Oxfam do. They do good works and deserve the donations they receive.
But I don’t want to sign up for spam. I really don’t.
Not the only ones
There are many other charitable organisations who also do good works and who also grab my contact details if I get within a mile of them. I’m not just picking on Oxfam. It’s just that they were the organisation I struck today.
Do I grit my teeth, hand over my phone number, separately email them to say: don’t add me to any mailing or calling lists? Or do I just abandon this transaction and try another charity?
They’re being sneaky
This is a bad way to go about things. They’re being sneaky. It’s not straightforward to find the information that they’ll use my contact details for anything beyond this single transaction. The wording about sharing my details with their friends is confusing.
There’s quite a little trail to follow to find that I’m opening myself up to communications I don’t want.
I’d like to see them being much more upfront about all this, and giving me explicit options to sign up for their guff (by default not checked, of course). I don’t want to be ‘captured’ by this or any other charity, however good their motives, however important their cause.
I refuse to be pressganged.