One Birthday Wish I Could Do Without

 by Paul von Zielbauer

On Wednesday, Aug. 28, I had a birthday.

It was a nice birthday. I received dozens of emails and messages from friends and family. And then I got this from a bank called CapitalOne 360:

from:  Capital One 360 <>
to:  Paul <>
date:  Wed, Aug 28, 2013 at 2:24 AM
subject:  Happy Birthday from Capital One 360!


Dear Paul,
Customer Number: XXXXXXXXXX
Capital One 360

Happy Birthday Saver.

They say age & money are two things you’re never
supposed to ask about. So we’ll just be polite and say:
Happy birthday, Saver. Here’s to being another
year older and savings-wiser.
Happy birthday, Saver.


The information contained in this e-mail is confidential and/or proprietary
to Capital One and/or its affiliates. The information transmitted herewith
is intended only for use by the individual or entity to which it is
addressed. If the reader of this message is not the intended recipient,
you are hereby notified that any review, retransmission, dissemination,
distribution, copying or other use of, or taking of any action in reliance
upon this information is strictly prohibited. If you have received this
communication in error, please contact the sender and delete the material
from your computer.


First, I should disclose that I have a visceral and growing dislike of banks and what I consider their increasingly obscure, manipulative schemes to nickel & dime consumers of their savings, one stupid additional fee at a time.

I should also disclose my account with CapitalOne 360 has had less than $2 in it for several years now.

Those disclosures aside, this email seemed one step too far (maybe it was the confidentiality waiver at the bottom of the “happy birthday” email?). After a few minutes of marinating, I decided to fight back against corporate insincerity, with two simple words:


from:  paul von zielbauer <>
to:  “” <>
date:  Wed, Aug 28, 2013 at 9:37 AM
subject:  Re: Happy Birthday from Capital One 360!


   Unsubscribe ASAP.


Within a day I received a form-letter reply from CapitalOne 360, an institution prone to pumping out metric tons of insincere marketing schlock disguised as “Hey, we’re your friends – woo-HOO!”

The reply, alas, turned out to be Version 1 of How To Unsubscribe From Email Lists We Put You On Without Your Consent:


from:  Sales <>
date:  Thu, Aug 29, 2013 at 6:54 AM
subject:  Re: Happy Birthday from Capital One 360! (Inquiry ID:3506169)


Don’t want to be penciled in our mailing list? If you’re an existing
Customer or were a Customer in the past (including with ING DIRECT), please
call 1-888-464-0727, and we’ll be happy to erase your name from our mailing
list. Associates are available from 8 AM – 8 PM, 7 days a week.

If the above doesn’t apply to you, just respond with your mailing address
and your zip code. Once we have this info, we’ll remove you from our
mailing lists.


Capital One 360
Member FDIC
Equal Housing Lender


First of all, “Hi”? Second, if I want to opt out of email marketing messages, I have to send you my mailing address?

This letter from “Jessica” seemed even more manipulative than the original birthday message. So, out of a sense of adventure, I wrote “Jessica” a cordial but firm reply:


from:  paul von zielbauer <>
to:  Sales <>
date:  Thu, Aug 29, 2013 at 10:04 AM
subject:  Re: Happy Birthday from Capital One 360! (Inquiry ID:3506169)

Hi Jessica,

Why do I need to give you my mailing address for you to remove me from an
email list that I never signed up for?

I have asked you to please remove me from the email list and I expect that
you will, ASAP, pls.

I do not want further birthday or other non-urgent emails.



“Jessica” then sent me v. 2 of How To Unsubscribe From Email Lists We Put You On Without Your Consent:


from:  Sales <>
date:  Fri, Aug 30, 2013 at 7:59 AM
subject:  Re: Happy Birthday from Capital One 360! (Inquiry ID:3506169)

Hi Paul,

You can change your email privacy setting online at any time. Just follow these steps:1. Sign in to using your Customer Number or Saver ID and PIN
2. Click the ‘My Info’ tab and select ‘Preferences’
3. Click the ‘Privacy’ tab then select ‘Change’
4. Choose either ‘Allow’ or ‘Don’t Allow’
5. Hit ‘Save’
You can view our Privacy Policy online any time by visiting


Please know that, at this time, you’re unable to cancel birthday emails.


Capital One 360
Member FDIC
Equal Housing Lender


Note the last sentence: “…At this time, you’re unable to cancel birthday emails.”

In other words: We’ll pretend to be your friend by offering insincere birthday wishes. But we won’t stop pandering if you ask us to – who do you think you are, anyway?

In full curmudgeon mode now, I again wrote “Jessica” (who had become simply “Jess” in previous note):


from:  paul von zielbauer <>
to:  Sales <>
date:  Fri, Aug 30, 2013 at 1:25 PM
subject:  Re: Happy Birthday from Capital One 360! (Inquiry ID:3506169)

Dear Jess,

The bank’s policy of not allowing its customers to opt out of receiving blatantly insincere marketing ploys disguised as birthday wishes is outrageous.

(Question: What kind of birthday greeting comes with a confidentiality waiver attached to it? Answer: Your bank’s kind.)

I’ll also be closing my account and trusting my $1.58 with another, less insincere bank, if I can find one. If I want to deal with selfish policies masquerading as “customer service” I can go to Bank of America.

Have a great day! (Really, I mean it.)



Yes, I was a bit snarky to “Jess.” No, she didn’t write back again. (And she almost certainly trashed my message without a second thought.) But I just couldn’t help it.


I decided to call the 888 number that “Jess” told me would help me remove myself from all further marketing emails….except birthday emails.

I got an automatic answer from a really happy male recorded voice: “Hi Saver! Thanks for calling CapitalOne 360!”

Then I was then connected to a live person, who said, “Hi, I’m Jasmin, how can I save you money?”

Me: “I don’t want to save money. I just want to unsubscribe from all emails, including future birthday emails.” After checking my identity, etc., Jasmine said she removed me from all of the bank’s email lists CapitalOne 360 has – including the birthday email.

So, who’s right: Email Jess or Telephone Jasmine? We’ll find out on Aug. 28, 2014.



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