Don’t personalise me! 1


I needed a new handbag and made the decision not to buy “pleather”. That’s the term for plastic that’s supposed to look like leather, but does not. Except perhaps at a glance, from a distance. What’s more, its ersatz veneer eventually begins to peel, especially at the seams.

Pleather (noun, adjective): Imitation leather, Plastic Leather

As in: That is one cheap ass pleather coat you are wearin.

 Urban Dictionary

(I also like the additional definition of pleather from this parody crowdsourced online slang dictionary: “A person’s skin takes the appearance of faux leather due the overuse of tanning beds or overexposure to harmful sun rays.” As in: She either just returns from a cruise or fake-n-baked too long. Either way she is straight “Pleather.”)

Vegan handbag made of fake plastic leather called pleather

So-called Vegan Bags tend to look better in pictures than on your shoulder.

The key advantage of pleather, or Vegan Leather, as it is also cleverly called, is cost. Initially. But do the math and divide its price by the few months that it vaguely resembles real leather, then compare the cost of a bag made from an animal, and you’ll see that pleather is not such a good deal. Especially if you are not young enough to need to keep up with the latest fashion and buy a new bag every year or two. For My New Old Self, Timeless works fine. Hence my decision to spring for genuine leather, without the P.

Given the higher cost of leather vs pleather, I felt the need to do a bit of product research before making my purchase. However I was loath to waste shoe leather tramping the malls in pursuit of bag leather. Thus I turned to the internet, aiming to do some comparative shopping from the comfort of my own home.

In retrospect, I believe that this was the moment when I was first tracked. By whom and to what end? Be patient and all will be revealed.

I blithely began googling “Best Leather Bags” and was soon viewing a wide range of options, handily arranged according to price and availability. I won’t bore you with the details of how I came to an eventual commercial transaction. Suffice it to say that I bought what I believed at the time to be the best leather bag, in terms of appearance, functionality and price.

Please note that I did not actually buy my bag online. No way would I part with such a sum of money without eyeballing the product and feeling its finish with my own hands. All I did on the internet was to research my purchase. The actual buying happened IRL. In Real Life. At an actual shop. However, my online perusal of products was enough to cause the problem now plaguing me.


Advertisement for Louis Vuitton purse

This is not how I choose to transport my precious new genuine leather bag.

If I had window-shopped for my new bag IRL, I would have looked in every possible store, comparing cost and quality before making my purchase. Buying it would have marked the end of my foray into purse research. I would then have made a point not to revisit the outcome of my investigation, assuming that there would be no need for comparative bag shopping for many a year. I would pick up my pace if I passed shop windows displaying bags, looking past them with the equivalent of blinkered eyes, like ye olde horse trotting through cobbled streets.

Such closure, in terms of my bag shopping, was sadly not to be. The reason clearly related to my pre-purchase online research. Ever since the day I first typed “Best Leather Bags” into my search engine, my computer screen is cluttered with advertisements for leather bags every time I boot up.

The thing is that some of these bags look like competition for the one I now own, in terms of looks and cost. I am consoled by other ads for bags that pale in comparison with mine. But I resent being deprived of the smug satisfaction that I had been a smart shopper. I hate having to view this continuous onslaught of potentially better deals that I have missed.

So why was this happening to me? Blame it on The Personalized Web and the way advertising can now not only be targeted, but personally targeted, and even retargeted.

“Personalized retargeting (also referred to as remarketing) is a display advertising technique used by online advertisers to recapture consumers who visit a retailer’s site and leave without making a purchase. It functions as a complement to search, SEO and other marketing campaign tactics.”


You get targeted by online advertising based on your browsing of products on the internet which did not result in a sale. How do these advertisers get our personal information? Ever heard of Cookies?

“Cookies are small files which are stored on a user’s computer. They are designed to hold a modest amount of data specific to a particular client and website, and can be accessed either by the web server or the client computer. This allows the server to deliver a page tailored to a particular user.”

Computer Cookies Explained

Cookie Monster instructed to Delete Cookies

Keep calm, Cookie Monster, and don’t be alarmed if instructed to “Delete cookies”. It’s how you can remove information that websites have stored on your computer in order to show you ads. (Credit: Imgur imagine-sharing)

It has come to the point that I don’t want to see a picture of another bag ever again. That excitement I first felt when I transferred the contents of my old handbag into my brand new one has been spoiled by all this advertising that I cannot seem to escape. I am hoping that the robots that are churning out the algorithms for this unwanted personalised promotion campaign will eventually note that I am not clicking on any of these ads. So that they will finally stop popping into view.

“An algorithm is a procedure or formula for solving a problem. The word derives from the name of the mathematician, Mohammed ibn-Musa al-Khwarizmi, who was part of the royal court in Baghdad and who lived from about 780 to 850.”

TechTarget computer definitions site

an algorithm

This is what an algorithm looks like, apparently. (Credit: Jeffrey S. Raikes School of Computer Science and Management)

Even marketers who thrive on the Personalizing of the net admit to its potential to alienate people.

“Personalisation can go too far and possibly ‘freak’ people out when it’s based on information too important to the individual – such as medical info – or it’s based on data gained via unapproved methods. People understand personal info can be helpful but there’s a line they don’t want crossed.”

Glen Calvert, CEO and founder, Affectv

Well, consider me freaked out. So I’ve been working on ways to outfox Big Commerce and its focus on Little Me. I could search for something else, to confuse my stalkers about my image as a cowhide bag lover, e.g. I could type in: “Best Pigskin Briefcases”. Then, instead of being bombarded by bags made from cows, I would get an assault of ads for those made from hogs.

Or I could search only in Incognito Mode. This is not a case of putting on dark glasses and a hat when typing into a search engine; it means clicking on those 3 horizontal lines to the right of your search box and choosing “New incognito window”. Then the Googles and Bings and Yahoos of the net will not be able to profile you for Personalization purposes. Or you could use DuckDuckGo, a search engine specifically designed to prevent you from being tracked. But why should we be the ones having to take preventative action? Sigh…

Personalised Advertising

“Where is the line between tailored ads and cyber-stalking?” asks Marketing Magazine. Judging from this picture, I say the line has been crossed.

Due to my negative Personalization experience I am now Totally Over It when it comes to internet shopping. Next time I need to buy something I will do it the way we used to in the good ol’ days. I will happily leave my house and travel to a real shop, with a real sales assistant, and pay with real cash or plastic. And when I say farewell and leave the shop, that will be the last I will hear or see about whatever it is that I have bought.





One comment on “Don’t personalise me!

  1. Reply Lanna Feb 11,2016 11:43 pm

    Shop for real- see it, touch it, try it on, and if it works for you
    buy it – the way to go!
    Loved the story. And, I finally know a bit more about algorithms.

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