The Internet’s long and unshakeable memory

Contributing WriterJuly 6, 2013 

If you happen to look over my shoulder while I am sitting in front of my computer, you might wonder why I am so interested in little black dresses.

Not to mention, little red dresses, and kelly green dresses, of course.

On other days, you will see me sitting in front of the screen looking at wristwatches — several dozen wristwatches every day, for weeks now.

And then there are peanuts — Spanish redskin peanuts from Virginia. I sit there with advertisements for a kind of peanut that is, in truth, an addiction of mine.

That merchandise — the wristwatches, the peanuts and, yes, those dresses — are personal favorites of mine when I am window shopping for myself and my wife. It is my hunger for all that new stuff that eventually brings daily advertisements into my corner of the Internet.

The hustles I get are specifically aimed directly at me and at me alone, not at a general audience. That’s because the Internet merchants know me. Oh, how they know me. They know what I like.

How do they know that?

I accidentally told them. I go looking for given products and the online merchants follow me, recording what I am likely to buy. Worse, these commercial versions of Big Brother-Big Retailer — share the details of my life with other capitalistic rascals.

For instance, my wristwatch got sick last month and began to struggle. I knew I would be needing a new watch. I went watch shopping online, Googling a few websites to check out what was on the market these days. I also visited a website for a local jeweler and, seeing what was available right here in town, I bought local. I didn’t buy online.

That didn’t stop Big Retailer and his cronies. It’s been two weeks since I purchased that watch, obviously ending any possibility of the Internet retailers making a sale to me any year soon.

But they are better at recognizing a man’s burning desire for something than they are for realizing that he has found another wristwatch and will not be needing their attention. Consequently, the watch ads keep coming day after day, tick after tock, here’s another clock.

The same sloppy spying is true of red dresses. It has been a year and a half since I overheard my wife as she made admiring remarks about a red dress she saw online. I found the dress there but she changed her mind. Nonetheless, at least once a week, I still receive Internet ads showing a dozen pictures of dresses I first examined back in 2011. They never forget.

The online retailers have more than a general idea of what products might interest me. Their knowledge is chillingly specific and accurate at times. Music, for instance. Every month or so, I get Internet ads letting me know Willy Nelson has a new album out. (Willy always has a new album out — every time you turn around.)

The Internet retailers also have me on the geezer sucker list. They send me Internet ads for quack medicine to refurbish elderly plumbing, fire up a senior’s sex drive or suppress snoring.

They also have a clear idea of what kind of books I enjoy. The Internet hucksters never offer me novels. They know I read history and biographies. That’s not a bad thing. Some of the most fascinating books I have ever read were suggested to me through the greedy commercial pipelines of the Internet.

Meanwhile, I not only continue to receive ads featuring dresses, but I have recently been receiving ads for women’s shoes as well. I fear the Internet people are trying to accessorize a dress I never owned.

Bill Hall can be contacted at or at 1012 Prospect Ave., Lewiston, ID 83501

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