Guess who’s selling your personal information….

Yesterday I received a “Personal Invitation” to a “Wenatex Event” in Bundaberg. The email went to my name but at my Dad’s address which is quite disturbing because I’ve had no dealings with this company, and how the hell did they get my Dad’s address?

So I called Wenatex and apparently they are a european company that makes mattresses. My personal invitation included a complimentary dinner (read as: marketing seminar) at the Bert Hinkler Motor Inn for myself and a friend, and 2 $20 “free-gift” vouchers which required me to write down my name, home phone, mobile number, email address, date attended, what I had for breakfast and the consultants initials before I could claim them.

I wasn’t really impressed with these people getting my Dad’s address through me so in typical fasion I layed into the poor girl on the other end of the phone and she told me they get their names and addresses from 2 sources:

  • The phone book.
  • Data Solutions. (a direct marketing company in Sydney)

Now, my name isn’t in the phone book, and if it was it wouldn’t be under my Dad’s address. So I found Data Solutions and gave them a call. Once again, a happy-go-lucky young girl answered the phone and I stated my issue with her company and then demanded to know how they got my Dad’s address.

This is the best bit, she said:

“The Australian Electoral Register.”

My response was: “Hang on, you are telling me the government sells THE definitave list of all people over 18 in this country (compulsory voting here) to direct marketing companies?”

Her response: “Yep.”

My response: (you can probably guess)

So I told her to take my name, my Dad’s name and his address out of her database, and she said that won’t stop other direct marketing companies unless I register for this:

The Australian Direct Marketing Association’s Do Not Call list

But what does it say?? That’s right folks, it’s not a goverment initiative. Its just something set up by the direct marketing companies to try and STOP a government initiative like they have in the UK and US.

“Oh please, you don’t have to stop us with legislation! We’ll just regulate ourselves…yes, see all better now. Except of course that we can’t really force anyone to abide by our rules.”

So next time you open your letterbox to find its stuffed to the brim with shit from companies you’ve never heard of selling you crap you don’t need or want…. thank the government.

=== UPDATE ===

Rather than sit arounnd being pissed off I decided to call the AEC and have a go at them. They informed me that as of the 21st of July 2004, the AEC database is no longer up for sale.

They used to sell it for $22 per electorate in either paper-based (easily scan-able) or microfiche forms. So, considering there are about 150 electorates, a big company like Data Solutions only had to fork out $3300 to get the home address of every adult Australian.

So I’m glad they stopped selling this data, but it doesn’t stop companies who have the database from 2 years ago from using it now. 🙁

41 thoughts on “Guess who’s selling your personal information….

  1. Trav

    Wow, i recieved an invitation last month to an event in Ballarat. (i didn’t attend) I had no idea how they got my info.

  2. greg

    I was alittle suprised to about how they got my details too but it isnt anything new as recently I recieved a points card from a pet shop after I moved house without having my mail redirected so its not just this wenatex mob that have everyones details.I did attend a wenatex dinner and I was impressed.They supply a really nice dinner and have a profesional set up and if you dont want to buy there sleep system you dont have to so do yourself a favour if you have some free time and go get a free meal and get some interesting info about sleep.Its not a scam just a different sales aproach new to Australia.

  3. Timbo Post author

    Dear “greg”.

    Some advice mate: If you wish to defend your company’s behaviour, while making out like you are just some random person, could you perhaps try connecting from an IP address that’s NOT owned by Wenatex:

    Author : greg (IP: 165.228.71.218 , wenate1.lnk.telstra.net)

    Thanks for the “different sales approach” but its just as invasive as all the rest to me. I don’t want your shit in my, or my Dad’s mailbox. Thanks.

  4. sandy

    i just attended one and i was wondering how they got my details but i sure liked what i heard and saw.
    most of the people were blown away by how comfortable it is
    although the price is equally amazing. memory not good but 300 for a pillow. the most comfortable ever tried though

  5. sandy

    although i was interested in the product, particularly for some of my friends and family with severe asthama, what i didnt like was
    1. the initial invitation told u only that it was a seminar type thing on sleep research. yes u could guess they had something to sell, but certainly not exactly what and certainly not the prices.
    2. the hard sell, ie buy NOW at at 25% discount on the night ONLY. more in line with those real estate and financial management lot wanting them to sign up before doing any homework.
    doesnt leave u feeling they have confidence in their own product that you will still want it in the light of the next day?

    or in the case of those i could have recommended it to they are not eligible for the huge discount unless they are “randomly” invited to a seminar.

    i know if it were my product i would feel im losing bulk potential sales. i know how resentful i feel being told sign up now or lose the discount. n why subject those who i know would want the product have to pay a penalty unless they are
    1. invited
    2. have the money available at that exact point in time

  6. giselle wilding

    Just received and invite as well and was very curious about product and free dinner gift etc.

  7. Sharon

    The response from AEC must be a lie as I received on of these letters today & I have only lived at this address August 05, ie 10mths. Actually, I’m not sure I’ve updated my electoral roll details so who else has this info?! This is terrible.

  8. JC

    I received an invite today 15.06.2006 and was never intending to go.
    If they want to invade your privacy then go to the meeting follow one of the sales consultants home get there address and sign them up for every crap marketing scheme that you can find. I have done it before and it works a treat they never contacted me again.

  9. Susan

    Just receved an invitation my self and was wondering why me! Decided to see if I could find some info on the net about the company. Interesting to hear about the high pressure sales involved – and the cost. If this product is so good why do they have to resort to such measures to get sales. Is this a way of preying on people with sleep disorders who are seeking anything that will help get a good night’s sleep.

  10. margaret russell

    the products are great – what’s wrong with you people – you all have FREE WILL can’t you just say “NO” ? but as for different marketing strategies there is nothing wrong with how they market – and ask anyone who owns a system how much healthier they are and how much better they sleep!

  11. Virtual_Tourist

    The blame for this one lies with AUSSIE POST not the AEC! Check next time you fill out a mail redirection form. Unless you check a specific box, you give them the right to on sell your address information! Under the current legislation, Politicians, Charities and AUSSIE POST are exempt from the requirements of the Direct Marketing Legislation and as a result if you have any dealing with AUSSIE POST where you provide your e-mail, residential or postal addresses, unless you specifically tell them not to, you will recieve direct marketing material that you cannot do anything about. The only thing you can do is contact your Federal Member and senators via http://www.fed.gov.au. Let them know that you would like AUSSIE POST to adhere to the same rules that they require any other Australian Direct Marketing company to adhere to! I know this is accurate as I work for a direct marketing comany. I know how to block most of this CRAP. The only organisation that has my residential address and a specific e-mail address that I use with them is AUSSIE POST! Please send e-mail to your federal member and senator!

  12. michael

    what i do to stop telemarketers calling back is have a whistle by the phone. Once i click to who they are they cop it! they rarely ring back

  13. michael

    The point is we dont want to get junk on our mail and our personal information such as address and phone details are given to parasites like wenatex or some oher cult style company. sealy dont bombard me with junk and i have never bought one but there doning alright. If you have a good product you dont need “new”, gimmicky or fake invites to sleep “research” or high pressure selling to move stock.

  14. KD

    Hey, just wanted to tell you I enjoyed reading your website entry. I to received an “invitation” from this company, and was wondering why I received such crap in the mail! A little disturbing…

  15. Mike

    Totally understandable able privacy, but I must say I have been to a Melbourne seminar and had a great time. Yes they give you a on the night only offer but you can buy it anytime with the order form they give you.
    Its not like a trendwest invite where they pressure sell and waste your time, you get a great meal as we were at Croydon Golf club and a free gift. Plus I was quite shocked by how un-hygenic my 10 year old mattress was.
    Highly recommend you go…If you dont enjoy leave after the meal-lol then you have only wasted 45 mins.

  16. Mary

    I think you are a little paranoid, as we also went and had a great time..very informative and funny in places.
    My husband is an Osteopath and for him to agree to buy one is saying something.
    They only sell via seminars as they don’t sell in shops for obvious reasons. Until they outlaw direct marketing all is fair I guess. They have to make money and all good to them.
    There were no gimmicks and no pressure sell as they said you can order at anytime and the venue was fantastic. Yes they offer you a discount on the night- of course they would, they have to make you make a decision yes or no. We said yes and have had our bed for a week now. Its fantastic!

  17. Caama

    I went to one of their seminars with hubby. We bought their pillows, doona & herbal inlay (as we own a waterbed I couldn’t see the sense in buying something I didn’t think was as comfortable as what I already have). The ‘hard sell’ wasn’t hard, the meal was beautiful & the free gifts were for a wool wash preparation. We actually got more free gifts than we were supposed to as some people left early, leaving theirs behind & the Wenatex ladies gave us those as well. Other people ordered the full system so I guess their marketing method must work well enough to make a profit or they wouldn’t do it, would they?

  18. Timbo Post author

    People… please remember to keep comments on topic.

    Whether unsolicited marketing “works” or “makes a profit” is not the issue being discussed here.

    This post is about whether agressive marketing tactics (like sending junk mail to everybody who registers to vote) is an ethical business practice. And does it violate our right to privacy as individuals?

    I find crap like this akin to getting those phone calls when you are eating your dinner from some random company trying to sell you cheap long distance phone calls. Its very annoying.

    If I wanted to be on the Wenatex mailing list, I’d have signed up for it. But I was never given that opportunity, they signed me up without my permission because I’m a registered voter (which is mandatory in Australia). Should marketing companies be allowed to take advantage of this?

    Discuss.

  19. Rose

    This is the first time I am using this form of communication, so forgive me a possible lack of etiquette. I am glad I’ve logged in, just wanted to know more about this cryptic outfit as I received Wenatex invite as well here in Cairns. Timbo is right; we should have right to privacy and not be bombarded with all these unsolicited “too good to refuse” offers via phone or mail or e-mail or doorknock. The dinner is on the 11/8, so I may or may not go. $ 300 seems a lot of dough for a pillow. Just bought myself a new one for $ 50, good oldfashioned down feather one after a memory foam one (too hard) and Dunlop Rubber one (too heavy). I am actually curious about their marketing strategies. Husband is keen on the free dinner!

  20. Phil

    $300 is TOO MUCH for a pillow! What’s it made of? A friend has given us her invitation to a Wenatex dinner on the 14th. Still wondering whether to go, having been burned once by a time-share company (luckily got our money back). Any more information from people who have attended?

  21. jenny

    My aged mother who has sleep problems has received one of these invitations. She thought that Wenatex had obtained information about her health, but it seems that they invite people randomly. Would that be true?

  22. koshari

    this post might be a little off topic but i just wanted to mention that its a good sign of the times that when you get some garb like this arrive that there are independent blogs available to find out first hand from people that have looked into such schemes.

    and unless you are a total airhead its also very simple to see the genuine responses and the seeds,

    i heard a story about astroturfing (faking grass roots support) on JJJs hack evening news bulliten and these schemes are rife in todays day and age.

    it looks like one of the ironys here is that the people that will get jipped into buying these products are the same ones who think they are getting one over the firm scamming them buy going along for there free feed!

  23. lorien

    I too received an invitation for next week here in Brisbane, however I think it was mentioned to the company by an acquaintance who has the system and raves about it (although they didn’t say so).

    I was actually grateful, as I could not find anything useful on the net (apart from this). Thank you for the info about the prices and the 25% discount on the night. I heard they were around $4000 for a mattress so 25% is major (unless you’re wealthy – unlike me:) Still, after two car accidents, arthritis, fibromyalgia and migraines and a forturne on latex if it works it’s great that they found me!!

  24. Roger

    Thank you all for the info. I Googled wanatex & as I too received an invitation & wanted to know what it was. My cynical suspicious (realistic) nature said “It’s a sales pitch” enough said…
    Re. the issue of personal info. I think it is one of the negative but sadly inevitable side effects of the information age. Seriously, you’d have to live like the Amish in mid-west USA to avoid getting on anyone’s lists. It’s not unlike the problem with spam. The bottom line is if no one responded they would not do it. If you respond you validate their methods.
    With the dinner time telemarketers I used to get very irritated, then I thought “Life’s too short” now I use it as an opportunity for humour. For example, try telling them a few jokes, sing them a few lines from your favourite song, kind of Tele-Karaoke. You’ll find that when they hang up, and they do, you’ll feel better than if you insulte them and get agro. And the family has a good laugh as well. Enjoy.

  25. Kylie

    First Point: You have to admit we live in an information age and most people are tech.savvy. 50 years ago before the computer and mobile phone the only way to get in touch was by mail, so I guess they’re just doing it old school style.

    Second point: They have purchased at a cost to them, sort of freely available information, which all companies have access to. Don’t get pissed at companies who legally obtain data, get pissed at the the local and federal goverment for allowing to make our personal details available, whether freely or at a cost.

    Final Point: Recieving a letter in the mail with an invite to dinner, MY GOD, you have choice, A. Go to dinner and maybe learn something OR B. Throw it in the bin and find something else to gripe about, eg. you can gripe about the weather like we used to do in the old days.

    PS Take a long look at yourself. At the end of the day we are all in sales. We all have something that needs to be bought or sold. Look at your own company/business, I’m sure they too have marketing practices that may cause distain from potential or prospective clients.

  26. Timbo Post author

    First Point: You have to admit we live in an information age and most people are tech.savvy. 50 years ago before the computer and mobile phone the only way to get in touch was by mail, so I guess they’re just doing it old school style.

    And?

    Second point: They have purchased at a cost to them, sort of freely available information, which all companies have access to. Don’t get pissed at companies who legally obtain data, get pissed at the the local and federal goverment for allowing to make our personal details available, whether freely or at a cost.

    If you actually read my article (which it looks like you haven’t), you will find that I am EXTREMELY PISSED at the goverment. I even called them.

    Scroll up and read all about it.

    Final Point: Recieving a letter in the mail with an invite to dinner, MY GOD, you have choice, A. Go to dinner and maybe learn something OR B. Throw it in the bin and find something else to gripe about, eg. you can gripe about the weather like we used to do in the old days.

    It’s still invasive marketing.

    Whats the point in complaining about the weather? Will that change it?

    However, my little “gripe” here as you put it is now on the front page if you search google for “Wenatex”, and your comment was number 27 and counting. Hmm…

    PS Take a long look at yourself. At the end of the day we are all in sales. We all have something that needs to be bought or sold. Look at your own company/business, I’m sure they too have marketing practices that may cause distain from potential or prospective clients.

    The company I work for doesn’t entrust me with responsibility for their marketing practices, so I’m not going to accept any.

    I will say however that they don’t send unsolicited mail to anyone, whether it be of the paper-based or electronic variety.

    Thanks for your comments, but you really should try reading the whole article. Its very informative.

  27. Natalie

    I can agree that phonecalls from companies is absolutely invasive unless you have shown some interest in the company (for example given them your details from a previous sale with them). Typically, charities and phone companies (especially those from India who won’t take “No Thanks” 3 times! for an answer) seem to call alot! As we are always busy in this day and age, that is the most intrusive form of selling possible! Thank goodness people aren’t also knocking on our doors this much from these kinds of companies, but I really think that getting material in the mail is the least intrusive form of marketing when a company has our personal details!
    It is a learning opportunity to go to an informative seminar because lets face it, which sales assistant in bedding really knows THAT MUCH about bedding studies, dust mites, posture and materials used in bedding?? When it comes to paper marketing, if we get infuriated about how someone got our details, instead of perpetuating the rudeness and intolerance in this world, just relax and throw it in the bin if you want to remain with the limited knowledge you have and be ignorant to expanding your brain. What are you really unhappy with in life if this upsets you……truely? Go get some counselling to find out!

  28. Cheryl Wright

    I’m a journalist, author, and consumer. I worked for a government dept until about five years back, and can tell you that it is quite legal for anyone to access ‘public’ records. (The electoral roll is a public record.)

    If your register a new business, anyone can buy the information. If you buy a house, anyone can walk into council offices and view the records.

    These are all legal and legitimate, and as much as we don’t like it (I received an invitation today), we can’t do anything about it.

    Yes, you’d think this all came under the banner of the privacy act, but they don’t for some strange reason.

    However, there are some records that can no longer be accessed or sold. For instance, if someone owns an egroup or ezine, they cannot sell your details. Mind you, it still happens, even though it’s illegal.

    As far as I’m concerned, if you don’t want the free dinner, don’t respond. I’ve found that in *most* instances, if you don’t respond they leave you alone.

    It’s pretty much a given that if you go to these things:

    1) You’ll get the hard sell
    2) They’ll want you to sign up on the night.

    Just remember that under Australian law there is a cooling off period and you have the right to withdraw. I can’t tell you positively, but I do think it’s seven days cooling off.

    I found you guys because I did what most of you have done – searched the net for info on these people.

    Cheryl

  29. Steve

    It seems people have ended up here after eithr receiving one of these Wenatex thingies (like me) or they work for Wenatex and try to spoof an “independent opinion”.

    I think I will go along for the free meal with no intention to buy.

    I just wish they would phone me so I could add them to ColdCallComedy.com :o)

  30. Shirley Tait

    Last night I attended a seminar, in Mornington, on the Wenatex system and was completely taken with the demonstration and the beautiful meal. It was not heavy demand selling which was refreshing.The products are supurb. Well done !

  31. Lee Duffy

    I too have received the “Wenatex” invite!!!Who the hell is Wenatex I thought.(having googled it ,now I know)!!I ( I hate to admit ,am a “free food tart”)was led by the offer of free food and gifts!!!!(albeit cheap ones!!!)My daughter and I will probably go and listen to what they have to say.I am NOT naive and if it is a scam I feel that at least I have had the FREE feed etc!!!. Just maybe their product will be GREAT. Who knows!!!

  32. Carmen

    hi, i just got the exact same mail in my letter box, i read all u have said and one thing baffles me, i have NOT been at my currnent address since AFTER july 2004! so how the hell did they get my address!!! NOT HAPPY at all

  33. Chrissie

    Hi, Just received my ‘Wenatex’ invite so googled. Dont have a problem with new marketing methods – that’s what the recycling bin is for. As far as the AEC is concerned – I’ve only been living at my current address for 1 year so that blasts that statement about ‘not sold after 2004’!

  34. Another one

    For all those thinking your name came out of the electoral role maybe it did but mine definitely came out of the phone book, gotta luv senis doing a typo lol.

  35. Deimos

    Yep, just got my ‘invite’! Like most of you my first reaction was to google Wenatex, and here I am.
    A couple of points:
    I doubt the Australia Post connection – I moved about 10 months ago and have a redirection. But the invite came to my old address. If AP was providing the info., it would have come to my new address. And, I’m sure I ticked that little box re. don’t provide my details to 3rd parties.
    So who knows – your address details are out there with a lot of people.
    I am very peeved about receiving a personally addressed piece of junk mail. At least the usual rubbish takes no time to assess and consign to the recycle bin (I now have a ‘no junk mail’ sign on the letter box and it works a treat!). This one has cost me over an hour to figure out who/what it is about.
    And thats my main gripe. The ‘personal invitation’ has nothing on it to tell me Who Wenatex is or what they are selling. No Australian website, and their AUSTRIAN site is about informative as the invitation, but you can glean that they flog beds!
    I object to all forms of ‘direct’ marketing – if I want a bed or anything else, I’ll go to the shops and buy one!
    As far as the prices – think how much it costs Wenatex to mount these ‘free’ dinners, commission for the rep.s etc. Perhaps if they sold their products through conventional retail outlets we might get reasonable prices and hence buy them.
    Last thing. If you googled to this discussion you would have seen the majority of hits were job ad.s for Wenatex ‘dinner hosts’, all on commission only. So don’t vent your spleen at them, they’re just hired help and probably doing it pretty tough because none of us tight arses will buy a bed!

  36. Gayle

    Just went to a presentation last night, meal was beautiful, free gift was either wool wash or sports rub, both containing essential oils. Did wonder how the got our addresses. But definately no hard sell, and when we said that we weren’t interested in purchasing anything last night, they thanked us for coming and that was the end of it. All in all , was an interesting evening, and I did learn a lot about how unhygienic old mattress’ really are.

  37. Chris Coppin

    Hi,

    I find that in todays age, you need to be “carefull” about where and to whom you give your information. Obviously the government or Aussie post selling your information is a harder battle, but in other areas you can at least reduce the amount of invasion. These are some of the steps i’ve taken.

    1. We have a cable internet account, so we disconnected our home phone and now run a VOIP phone line. Guess what, NO marketing calls, 0, none, nada, plus our monthly phone bill is about $22 total. (ADSL doesn’t have the same cost reduction due to needing a phone line).
    2. Put a “No junk mail” sign on your letterbox. doesn’t filter everything “aka wenatex”, but heavily reduces the amount of crap getting to you.
    3. Don’t fill in free competition forms in shopping centers. THEY ARE ALL CONS. Next time you see one. take note of the companies associated with them, then google them. you’ll be suprised (or not). Even the “raffle” type ones are pretty much all just a marketing exercise.
    4. I have my own domain registered, so I have complete control over my email. whenever I need to fill in an online form, I append the name of the site to the front of my email address. eg/ darknet.chris@domain.com. If I ever receive an email directed to that email address, I know where it’s originated from. I’ve caught a couple of sites this way.

    It’s not paranoia, it’s just a bit of 21st century common sense. Treat your personal information the same way most ppl treat their credit card info.

    Cheers

    Chris

  38. Timbo Post author

    I’m closing comments in this thread.

    For a number of reasons. The biggest being I’ve now received a 4th “Wenatex-positive” comment from the exact same IP address and that’s just too much of a co-incidence for me. From 4 “different” people supposedly. I’ve moderated the latest one but the other 3 are still up there, see if you can guess which ones…

    Don’t get me wrong, anonymity on the internet is something I support. However I won’t let this blog be used as a marketing tool by any company, especially dodgy ones like Wenatex.

    The other big reason is people seem to be losing sight of the purpose of the article. It wasn’t about Wenatex. It was about whether our elected government should be allowed to sell the personal information they forced us to give them (by making voting compulsory). We can keep this information out of the phone book…but we don’t have a choice when it comes to the electoral register.

    So should they be allowed to sell this personal information to marketing companies without our permission?

    My answer is: “No”.