I get mail. I like getting mail. Most of it is lovely. Not being much of a controversial columnist, I'm rarely inundated with the hateful stuff that some of my colleagues receive. We trade stories; we compare trolls. And the hate crosses all lines and all papers. And while I agree with the line of thinking that most people read things they already agree with, and that this is unfortunate because we could all afford to be a little more open-minded, I will never understand reading things you know you could never agree with, but then going on to getting so incensed and upset that you rip the writer up in a personal attack. And yes, this is how it goes. Intelligent debate never had a chance, with some people. That's a shame, actually. There are plenty of brilliant minds that I disagree with on many levels, and my brain and world are made better for it. Guys like Christopher Hitchens. Women like Ann Coulter. Okay, now you know I'm just checking to see if you're reading. Ann Coulter. Shudder.
Anyway. I wrote a fairly innocuous column last week on comparing insurance rates. At least I thought I had. It was a basic reminder to check around, as rates are climbing and brand loyalty might not be serving you well. I tagged a site you can check your own rates on (www.insurancehotline.com). It's owned by Torstar; it also happens to be the only online comparison site not owned by insurance companies or brokers, which is a good thing. They're neutral.
You plug in your info, up pops a rate. I did it a few times to test it. I went on to say in my column, as it says on the website, that if you want to know which company is offering to discuss that rate with you, you fill in your phone number and they'll contact you. At that point, it's between you and the company. I never put in my number; my test was complete.
I got a note from a ::cough:: gentleman demanding to know why a company had called him. I flipped him a reply instantly (I'm nice that way) saying I'd check it out. Turns out he'd put in his phone number; I steered him to the line in my column explaining that (which, funnily enough, was followed by a line telling people to do their homework - you know, like reading carefully). I also contacted the company, who politely explained it again, with a screenshot depicting that by popping in your phone number, you may be contacted. As this indicated you were interested in further information.
I forwarded it all the Mr. Gentleman. For your reading pleasure, this is his reply to me:
"I entered my phone number and now wish I had not... I am still not happy with what occurred and it is now very likely that the Star will lose my subscription because of this; as the Star is ultimately responsible for what has happened and you can be assured that I will never ever respond to any more stuff the Star puts out! If I get any more contacts of this kind, I will consult with the Star editorial people in no uncertain terms! Regardless, this was an invasion of privacy!
I hope this is a 'lesson learned' for you!Quite frankly the Star is a disgusting 'left wing' newspaper..."
It went on.
And yes, I've learned a lesson. I'm sure it's not the one he intended, but it's a lesson anyway. I will save my prompt, kind replies for readers who deserve them.