I just got a targeted phone pitch from the Washington Nationals season ticket office.
So targeted, in fact, that it reminded me of the recent Onion headline "Google Responds To Privacy Concerns With Unsettlingly Specific Apology."
Here's the transcript of the voicemail left on my cellphone this afternoon:
Hey Gregory, this is Adam Froemming with the Washington Nationals, calling for a couple reasons. One is I read your ... your ... I guess, article ... on the economic school of thought of the stolen base, and I thought it was fascinating. I'm a big stat geek myself, so I love breaking that sort of stuff down. The other thing is, you came a bunch of times to baseball games last year, and we have a lot of flex plans that I think would be good for you, because they are buy four games, and you get one free, and you already came to four games last year. So right off the bat, we're saving money, and as an economist, you're well aware of things like that. My direct number is 202-640-7691. Give me a call when you get this. Talk to you soon.Well, two can play this game! If the Washington Nationals can spy on me, I can spy on them right back.
Being a new blogger with relatively little traffic doesn't have many advantages, but one of them is that it's fairly easy to analyze your traffic reports and piece together how a specific person got to your site. Around the time of the voicemail, someone with a D.C. ISP address did a Google search for my e-mail address, and my blog was one of the top hits. This person clicked around for a while, and the last page he or she read was another post about baseball.
When you buy baseball tickets online, you are required to give your e-mail address and phone number. My phone number doesn't appear anywhere on this blog, so my best guess is that the Nationals are going down the list of people who bought tickets online last year, Googling people's e-mail addresses, trying to find some personal connection with them, and then calling them with a personalized pitch.
Interestingly, about half an hour before the voicemail from the Nationals, I also got two e-mails that were sent at the same instant: "Don't miss the Dodgers in Washington!" and "Don't miss the Padres in Washington!" Each had the dates of when the team would be in D.C. I follow both teams, as I grew up in Southern California. While I suppose I am the perfect audience for such a pitch, it's a bit unsettling that Major League Baseball knows enough about me to deduce that I live in Washington and that I like two teams in the NL West.
Now, for the usual economic analysis: is this type of marketing campaign worthwhile? He's right, I already went to a lot of games last year, and I'm surely going to several more this year, so any benefit to the team is only on the margin. In other words, if I would have spent $100 on Nationals tickets this year anyway and he persuades me to buy a $300 season ticket plan, the Nationals benefit by $200. Of course, we would also have to factor in how much my spending would change on parking, concessions, and merchandise, as well as whether I would be bringing more people with me to games.
I imagine that sales pitches like the one I received don't take much time to put together, maybe 10 minutes or so. The question then becomes: are the people being called going to go to enough additional games to justify the effort? This is wild speculation, but I think someone could justify his or her salary making these types of calls all day if they end up selling 5 or 6 season ticket plans each day.
However, I have to wonder if this kind of marketing might backfire. As I described, it's a little creepy knowing that MLB has so much information on you. And, what's more, I really hate it when people call me Gregory.
UPDATE 3/18 3:14 PM: The spy speaks ...
UPDATE 3/18 4:16 PM: Adam has e-mailed me, giving permission to provide his name and phone number. Have at it, you journos out there.