Monday, October 26, 2009

Stub Hub and the creepy feeling of being watched.

Even though I come from the creative side of the business, I’m a big fan of customer data. There’s no better way to build a relationship than using data to personalize communications according to a customer’s past buying habits.

Amazon, of course, does a great job of this. So does iTunes. But is there such a thing as going too far in the personalization of communications? In essence, getting too personal with your customers? I think so and here’s why:

I am not a regular customer of the online ticket reseller site Stub Hub, but I have used their service once or twice in the past. Occasionally I go to the site to see just how outrageous the ticket prices are for the game or show I can’t get into.

A case in point was a recent show by the rock band Social Distortion. After realizing the event was sold out in my area, I went to Stub Hub to check out the ticket prices. They were selling at a minimum of 4 times the face value of the ticket so I declined.

Sure enough, the next day in my inbox, I received a personalized e-mail from Stub Hub. It’s subject: “Social Distortion Tickets in a Flash!” The body of the e-mail read:

Hey Tom,
We noticed Social Distortion tickets were on your radar. Great tickets are still available, but act fast. Head back to and use our interactive maps to find your perfect seats.

Which would have been cool. Except I hadn’t sign up for Social Distortion ticket alerts—or any other kind of alerts for that matter. All I had done was a quick search for tickets and left the site. And a day later Stub Hub had come back to me with a personalized pitch.

Did Stub Hub go too far in trying to engage me in a dialog?

My take: If they had sent me an e-mail merely pitching their service I would not have minded. But reporting back to me on my searching behavior seemed wrong. What else did their little cookie know? It felt like I was being watched in a creepy “there’s a guy staring at me through my living room window” kind of way.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not surprised me that Stub Hub knew about my search or that they had the capability to push the information back to me in an e-mail. But in the words of an old Hall & Oates song, some things are better left unsaid.

This post originally appeared on Loyalty Truth, October 19, 2009. Tom Rapsas is an independent Creative Director/Writer/Strategist and can be reached at and via Twitter @tomrapsas.


  1. I think it would've been slightly better if they gave you an awesome deal on Social Distortion tickets - much like the deals that occur when you turn your back on a garage sale attendant when they refuse to lower the price on a subpar table.

  2. I agree, if they wanted to give me a break on the awesomely high ticket prices, I wouldn't mind quite so much!