Sunday, March 11, 2007

Proprietary != Awesome

An annoying trend I have been noticing lately is that the term 'proprietary' has been used in more in more adds as some sort of example of how awesome that product is. Just so we are all on the same level here this is Wikipedia's definition of the word:
Proprietary indicates that a party, or proprietor, exercises private ownership, control or use over an item of property, usually to the exclusion of other parties.
There is no part of that definition that implies that something that is proprietary is superior to other products.

I really wouldn't have even noticed or really cared about this misuse of a word if it wasn't for me not getting a free sandwich. Wait, what? (Cue the little visual ripples and the harp music that indicates that we are heading somewhere in the past.)

Last summer Planet Sub was advertising on campus that they were giving away free small sandwiches. Like anybody else who understands how valuable free is I (and Nicole) headed on down to Planet Sub to cash in on the deal (I didn't really get why they were giving away free sandwiches, maybe because it was around finals time and they were being nice.) When we got to the shop the line was nearly out the door, but we were greeted right away and asked if we were there for the free sandwich. A 'you bet' from me was followed by 'ok, here you go, fill this out and we will get you a free sandwich ticket' from some guy.

Now wait a minute. Nowhere did it say that I would have to fill out any forms to get a free sandwich. But alas, I was there, and I did want a free sandwich. After all I did expect a catch to the deal, so I started to fill out the form. I should mention that the form was on a spiffy wireless pda/phone thing and it was a credit card application.

I really didn't mind too much until i had to enter my social security number and my mother's maiden name. That was just a bit too much for me. I know why they need it, but the fact that I am sending this information over the air to their computer got me a bit uneasy. I have watched Kevin Rose and crew work his magic too many times. It would be very easy for somebody to sit outside the place and just pick up gobs of juicy data from the hoard of people just trying to get a free sandwich.

After seeing those blanks to be filled out I got up and gave the spiff-chine back to the guys running the promotion and told them that my personal information is worth more than a $5 sandwich. He asked what I meant and I explained about people picking off the information that I am sending over the air. This was his response. His response that is suppose to quite my fears of someone stealing my information.

"Well our wireless network has proprietary encoding on it."

Well whoopdeedo! That may make it safe-er because not everyone has the same encoding as you, but that word does not mean my information is going to be transported in a armored truck to your computer. Freakin' Tootsie Rolls have a proprietary formula too, but I can make better chocolate than they can. I don't remember if I went at it with him over the word proprietary, but it did set me off into the mode where I point and laugh (read complain) every time somebody uses the word to champion their product. Seriously listen for it on adds, it happens alot these days.

Ah well. People always have to be doing something that annoys me, at least this is better than people saying 'literally' when they mean quite the opposite. Now THAT bugs me.


Shanshu said...

People use words wrong all the time, and it bugs me. Really, though, ignorance itself is what really bugs me.

Stupid people suck.

The Gare Bear said...

Much of what I know or used to know about the farm consulting business was proprietary and now nobody gives a rat's ass.

The Gare Bear said...

Oh -- another thing. Just looking at the photo of the Tootsie Roll. For some reason Tootsie Rolls always reminded me of these little presents my dog left for me to pick up in the back yard. Especially the larger sizes of Tootsie Rolls. I wonder if any proprietors considered excercising control over that item of property (the similarity of the candy and the "presents")to the exclusion of others.

jiggs said...

you know why I am confident that will win the "my new favorite blog" contest? It's because we're proprietary!