None of your Business – Why do organisations need a marital status title?

One pertinent question consumers often ask about data capture is: “why on earth do you need that bit of information?” In a world where marketeers are so clever, and behavioural marketing reigns supreme, surely the drop-down box and the list of relevant options can be dispensed with? Surely there are more efficient and subtle ways of gathering information on what we as individuals may be persuaded to purchase or do with enough encouragement?

Long before the Go Title Free concept was born, there were frissons of discontent in our household regarding data capture in the most bizarre of circumstances.

My husband, desperate for a haircut that didn’t resemble a military buzz, entered the salon which I usually used.
After a very satisfying half an hour, he made to pay, and leave, leading to the following requests for information from the salon member behind her computer screen:
“Email address?” (Sigh)
“Phone number?”
“Job title?” – “I’m sorry…what?!”
“Job title Sir…”

Needless to say, he was a little perturbed by the demand. Because why on earth would a hair salon require a job title?
For marketing and consumer data purposes, most obviously.

Unless of course they like to tweak their styling methods by ensuring that construction workers get something nice to fit under their hard hats, and teachers have space for a pencil behind their ears. (It did get me wondering if this is why I’ve struggled to get them to put much ‘style’ into my haircut since I had a ring on my finger and started chatting about my children. Just because I’m a Mum does not mean I want a layerless bob!)

It isn’t the first experience I’ve had of this sort. When I first moved to London, I moved in with my boyfriend’s Grandmother in East Finchley. She was officially a ‘Lady’, her husband having been knighted for his services to journalism.

She looked no more ‘Lady’ by title than any other elderly lady popping from her semi-detached house down to Budgens for her eggs and apples. She certainly never used the title. Partly because she didn’t have the ego for it, but mainly because she said whenever anybody else used it, it was for the sole purpose of asking her for money.

Even at the tender age of seven or eight, I remember witnessing a disagreement in my local newsagent who was demanding a National Insurance Number from a man who wanted a video rental membership. (Now I am showing my age!)

Obviously, the newsagent was keen to make his local customers understand that they could not just decide to hang on to Crocodile Dundee, or return it un-rewound without the right authorities being notified…

The issue with marital status demands goes beyond one of privacy. In times where women are commonly double barrelling their surnames or retaining their maiden names, the question about the necessity of a title relating to marital status now surely needs to be asked.

Of course, many people are proud to be married, and many women are devoted to their husbands, their new surnames and their status of ‘wife’.

Let’s think about the considerable middle ground. Married. A ‘Mrs’. But fond of a little bit of privacy, and to having the respect of being given a choice.

Unfortunately, as ‘wife’, women are at the mercy of businesses unable to step from the dark ages into the light. Property and law firms especially being fond of just adding ‘Mrs’, to the man of the household’s name should they need to send a letter to the woman of the house.

The popularisation of ‘Mx’ in 2017 may help some businesses who feel they need to put something in their drop-down box, but here’s a thought…

If ‘Mx’ has become so necessary, let’s not worry about lengthening the drop-down.

Let’s get rid of it all together.

Stella Sutcliffe

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