Saturday, March 26, 2011

It sure isn’t Marlboro Mass.

Tonight I was surfing the web and decided to go out to Marlboro’s site to see if they had a Twitter account or Facebook page (it’s a lot easier this way to find the official sites).  I do this quite often, checking to see what is news in various industry circles and to see if new product is on the market.  I will also add, I am a smoking advocate (just look at the name of the site…duh) and I believe that everyone has the right to choose to smoke or not.  I personally do not subscribe to smoking additions though.

Anyway, I get to the site (www.marlboro.com) expecting the typical age verification.  Instead, it gives you two options-

New to Marlboro.com? REGISTER HERE

Welcome Back.  SIGN IN

Hey, I was new to the site, so I clicked Register….and now things get weird.

I am then prompted to put in my DOB, and two optional pieces of information- a 9 digit Customer Number and/or a Promotional Code.  Hmmmmmmmmmm.

Since I didn’t have either, I decided to put in my standard Date of Birth- July 4, 1776.  I do this because I honestly think it is not the company’s rite to collect my personal information for marketing purposes, nor do I support or back the anti-smoking and/or drinking lobby out there that gets funding from the Gov and the various industries.  Besides, if kids really want to look at this….they can put in a fake date too.

What starts to get interesting is by putting in that date, I get the following message (BTW, I love the ALL CAPS)-

“SITE LIMITED TO ELIGIBLE SMOKERS 21 YEARS OF AGE OR OLDER.”

While used to this, I have a plethora of fake dates to use, I think it is funny they are so specific on when the dates end.  Since they cannot validate a Birthdate before 1900 – I guess Besse Cooperand Walter Breuning are  is SOL going to their site

The Worlds oldest person is currently 114-year-old Besse Cooper, who was born on Aug. 26, 1896, and lives in Georgia, the Gerontology Research Group said.
Walter Breuning, of Montana, also 114, now becomes the world's second-oldest person. He was born Sept. 21, 1896.

So, in goes another fake date (Jan 1, 1900) and I am off to Page 2.

This is getting interesting….usually fake date gets me in the door…but not at Marlboro.com

Marb1

For disclosure, I did put in a fake address (again, I have no idea at what point they start saving my real data) but have now started using my real birthdate.  But why are they collecting so much information?

I also noticed I was only on step 2 of 7 to just get access to their site.  WTF?  Notice also that that is at 75% of my screen (this is important later) as I couldn’t get it all on for a screenshot.

At this point, I had to know what was so secret – so onward ever onward.

At Page 3, I knew I was never going to get this completed as they ask-

  • Name and Current Mailing Address
  • Phone Number
  • Name and Current Address on DL or Government Issued ID
  • Have you lived at another address in the last 10 Years
  • Last four digits of your SSN
  • Please Check your Tobacco Usage
  • For a “Binding” Electronic Signature – of which your are attesting (this is only a snippet)
    • I certify that I am a smoker 21 years of age or older, and that I would like to view and receive communications from Philip Morris USA and its affiliates about their tobacco brands and tobacco-related issues. I further certify that Philip Morris USA may use my information as described in the Privacy Statement.

Are you kidding me?  By giving that information, I basically have given them every bit of verification information to get access to my bank account (aside from Mother’s maiden name, which isnt that hard to get….just go to Ancestry.com).  To prove I wasn’t joking, here is the screen grab of page 3.  Keep in mind, I had to shrink the resolution down to 25% to get it all in.

Marb2

When you go to the FAQ linked at the bottom, to get clarity on why they need all this information, you learn

“We Send Tobacco Brand Communications only to tobacco consumers 21 years of age or older.”

I’m not asking to be sent anything….I just wanted to browse a website.  I get easier access to Playboy.com and Budweiser.com (there you go…my secret is out).  To think you have to go through all those steps, give up so much personal info (that the swear they would never distribute) and sign  (electronically)  affidavit just boggles my mind.  It’s no wonder I smoke cigars.

Has anyone out there ever seen such a complicated age verification process?  Would someone from Marlboro like to go on the record for why they need all this information?  What are the next steps of 4-7?  What is the holy grail behind that final step?  Crap, I feel like I am going through my Masonic Initiation all over again.

Thoughts?

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