It was no surprise for Mike Seay when he got yet another piece of junk mail from OfficeMax last week. It was a surprise that the letter was addressed to 'Mike Seay - Daughter killed in car crash.' What's more, the address was correct.
Seay's daughter was killed in a car crash last year, the LA Times reports. She was 17 when she died in the car with her boyfriend. This is public information as this local news story shows, but that it ended up in a piece of junk mail from OfficeMax stands as a cruel reminder of how personal information is sold bought and sold for marketing purposes today.
Seay spoke to the Times, upset and confused about why OfficeMax knew about his daughter's death and how she died.
I'm not a big OfficeMax customer. And I wouldn't have gone there and said anything to anybody there about it [the car crash]. That's not their business.
Why do they have that? What do they need that for? How she died, when she died? It's not really personal, but looking at them, it is. That's not something they would ever need.
Mike Seay goes into further detail in an interview with NBC5 Chicago, astutely wondering what other information OfficeMax may have beyond this on him, or what other information they have on all of us. You can watch that full interview right here.
The Seays do not plan on suing OfficeMax, but Mike Seay told the Times that his wife was "traumatized" by the letter ad is asking for an apology from OfficeMax's CEO.
OfficeMax released an official explanation of how the leak happened, stating it "is a result of a mailing list rented through a third-party provider." OfficeMax's corporate affairs office went on to issue a stock apology to Mr. Seay.
That's how marketing works these days, and that's also how information is tracked these days as well. It appears that if there is any information about you that can be tracked, it will be tracked. And if that information can be sold for making targeted marketing, it will be, even if that information is something as personal or unrelated as a daughter's death in a car crash and discounts on office supplies.