By PETER FUNT
While taking a shower at the Hampton Inn in Franklin, Mass., I noticed some information printed on the tiny bottle of shampoo. On one side it said "shampoo," which I found to be both appropriate and useful. On the other side it said "www.hampton.com," a notation that was baffling under the circumstances.
As I rinsed off it dawned on me that had I thought to bring my netbook into the shower I could have sent management an e-mail: "pls deliver 2 btowels to rm 320 asap :)"
Apparently one significant aspect of the Internet Revolution is that businesses now believe it is essential to, as marketing people term it, "brand" their Web addresses in as many crannies as possible. Some firms, it seems, would rather be known as a Web address than as, say, an actual company.
Looking around my hotel room I discovered the Web address - that's hampton.com - emblazoned on the bottle of conditioner, the moisturizer, the mouth wash, the plastic drinking cup, the laundry bag, the room key, the ballpoint pen, and even on each sheet of paper on the notepad I used to make this list. That's either what you call high-powered Web branding, or Internet Era overkill.
Meanwhile, it's come to my attention that seven states now print their Web addresses on license plates. If you're driving behind someone in Florida, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, Maryland, Nebraska or South Dakota, you'll know instantly how to reach state government via the Internet with a message such as, "There's a dead raccoon at Mile 147 of I-95."
I doubt state legislators wish to encourage motorists to use the Internet while driving, so what exactly is the purpose of stamping the addresses on license plates? Did a highly paid marketing person actually sit in a room and say, "I'll bet more people would shop here in Nebraska if only we had our Web address on license plates"?
Flying on United Airlines I noticed that United.com is printed in large type on every paper napkin. Here again, I must be missing the big point. You can't make use of a Web address during flight, and you've already managed to contact the airline in order to buy your ticket, so is the idea that you'll stick the dirty napkin in your bag and carry it around in case someday, after you've forgotten how to contact United Airlines, you'll refer to the napkin and be reminded of United.com?
A byproduct of this Web obsession is the fact that many companies simply don't want customers calling them on the phone - never, ever, for any reason, anymore, period. Most banks and airlines are already there. They hide their phone numbers more artfully than Hollywood celebrities. And if you somehow track down a number, you run the risk of paying a penalty for daring to use the phone. You're also in for a tedious button-pushing ordeal to get through the screening system, ending with an automated: "Thanks, I'll be sure to pass that information to an agent."
The agent, who is likely to be housed in an unidentified offshore location, has a strange way of speaking English which is eerily robotic in tone and execution. Regardless, he or she has not been given any of the information that you punched in, and is usually of so little help that you'll be trained never to bypass the Internet again, ever.
One regional carrier, Allegiant Air, now makes it impossible to phone them without a charge, stating on their Web site: "...we have chosen to reduce our costs by discontinuing our toll-free number." If you do choose to phone the 702 area code, you'll find that there is a $10 fee per passenger, per segment flown, for using the "Call Center." So it's worth a lot of money if you can find a paper napkin that might have Allegiant's URL on it.
Bottom line: I think we may all be overdoing the Web thing just a tad.
Incidentally, if you're reading the printed edition of this newspaper, the Web address is conveniently branded almost everywhere you look (not that there's anything wrong with that).
Peter Funt may be reached at www.candidcamera.com.
© 2010 Peter Funt. This column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons, Inc. newspaper syndicate. For info call Sales at (805) 969-2829 or e-mail Sales@cagle.com.
Peter Funt is a writer and public speaker.He's also the long-time host of "Candid Camera."A collection of his DVDs is available at www.candidcamera.com.
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