Don't Tell My Friend When I Use Their e-Gift Card

A small ask for Big Tech.

Businessman leaking confidential information over phone

I don’t expect privacy. I have given myself freely to the fact of being tracked, monitored, and advertised to. I’ve uncovered my computer camera. I assume my employers are actively watching me gossip in Slack, and that each of my key strokes is being kept in a file somewhere to one day embarrass me. Whatever. I don’t have the energy to pretend that caring about the fact that I’m being monitored at all times will change that fact that I’m being monitored to a greater extent than I could even imagine. But I do have one request.

Please stop telling my friends when I use their e-gift card.

Let me share a story. On a recent warm morning, I took a walk to my optometrist’s office to pick up a few months’ worth of contacts. I decided to celebrate with a gigantic iced coffee from Dunkin’ (née Donuts) styled my way: a thousand pounds of sugar, 40 liters of oat milk, so much ice that it becomes disgusting almost immediately. I was struck at that moment with the memory of a gift card given to me many months ago: $20 from a friend for this exact dining experience; nonessential repayment for a favor. A boon. I found the e-Gift card in my email, opened it, and allowed the Dunkin’ employee to scan its little scanny box. Easy.

The overall experience was so positive that later that day I told the friend who’d given me the e-gift card that I’d finally used it. “I know,” she said. “I got an email about it.”

… Excuse me?

The thing about force-forgetting your loss of privacy in the name of mental tranquility is that you assume your privacy is being taken and bought and traded by mysterious beings: corporations, the government, cops, Tim Cook, a guy in his basement who is watching you through your computer camera while jerking off (Mark Zuckerberg). And you assume this is being done for a reason. These entities are using your information for profit, or worse. They’re ghouls, and the pryingness of their ghoul eyes makes ghoulish sense. But you know what doesn’t make sense?

Telling my friends when I use their e-gift card.

I accept that a corporation is going to track when I use a gift card, or a credit card, along with what I purchase and the thoughts in my mind at that moment, because they can use this information to further extract money from the demoralized populace. But why does my friend have to know about it??

“It's officially a gift now! Kelly Conaboy has viewed the $20.00 Dunkin' e-gift Card that you sent on 21 Sep 2020.”

This is the email my friend got after I used her e-gift. It is unnecessary on its face, but I’d also like to note that the use of “viewed” here is misleading. I had already viewed an email notification of the existence of card and thanked my friend appropriately many months ago when I first received it; she also got an email about that viewing. (I asked if she still had the text from that email, and she did not. “However,” she said, “this one let me know that you waited 8 months to use the card which ... is your prerogative, i guess.” Indeed it is.) The only reason you would click further into the card would be to use it, as the link in the email directs you only to the QR code. And then the company fucking rats you out.

I’m trying to think what a person would want with this information. Maybe you’re stressed that the gift card didn’t land in your friend’s inbox, or perhaps that it went to spam, because they haven’t thanked you yet. In that case I would suggest relaxing. Your friend probably has a lot on their plate; know that they are grateful and will thank you in time, and that, moreover, you didn’t do this for the thanks. If days pass and still your friend does not acknowledge the card, I think a reasonable person would say something like, “Hey, did you get my gift card?” It’s fine. You don’t have to be a fuckin’ sneak about it. Sneaking around with Dunkin’ behind my back, spreading my private business!

Otherwise — what’s the reason? Why do you want to know? Why do companies assume you want to know? Why does this data need to be shared? I asked a QSR brand rep, Dunkin’s parent company, and after several emails telling me they were trying to find the information and would get back to me, they stopped responding. Hm. Very interesting.

The information that I have viewed or used an e-gift card is so useless that its existence is actively embarrassing to me, its subject, even though I had nothing to do with it and weren’t even alerted to the fact that it was being shared. Using my name, like I want my friend’s attention. Like I’m over here waving, HELLO, REMEMBER ME? LOOK AT ME! Like I’m screaming, OH, ME? I’M AT DUNKIN’!! JUST USING YOUR GIFT CARD. THINK ABOUT ME BEING HERE. I swear I don’t want you to know!

It is a small ask for big tech. You can still monitor my location. You can still tell me to buy different shapeless gowns, because I once accidentally lingered on an image of a shapeless gown for too long. You can still jerk off in your basement, Mark Zuckerberg. Just please stop embarrassing me in front of my friend about my use of her e-gift card.