The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload

A tiny excerpt from the Diane Rehm show snuck into my consciousness the other day. Diane was out and there was a guest host, and I wasn’t sure it was actually the DR show. A couple days later I looked up the public radio station schedule and was able to find the show again. I was really glad because the guest was the author of the book The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload, and he was talking about using more low-tech methods for dealing with the information we receive. As is my habit, I hopped onto the library website and reserved the book.

I haven’t finished it yet. But he talked about one of the changes that has occurred since we do so much online. Companies now require us to do work that they themselves used to do. You could call a company, a person would answer, and you’d be able to get pretty much any information needed. Today, however, we log on, keeping track of passwords, usernames, account numbers, online payments, whether we have to initiate the payment or have it come out automatically, which account it comes out of. Levitin calls this “shadow work,” which is work which is now done by the consumer.

In that spirit, a little postcard arrived the other day from a local bank. My daughter is in the market for a checking account, so we finally made the time to go into the bank. They were offering quite a significant bonus to open an account and fulfill a couple of requirements. Only $25 needed to open the account.

While seated at the teller’s desk, he asked us if we had looked up this type of account online. Well, no, we said. It’s a checking account. Didn’t seem like rocket science and that bonus sounded really good. (Remember, $25 needed to open the account.)

Well, says he, this is our “RichPeopleOnly” account because you need to maintain a $25,000 monthly balance. He went ahead and allowed us to open the account, which will be changed to a free checking account once those two little requirements are fulfilled, but there will be a service fee each month until the switchover. It appears that the service fee is worth it based on the amount of the bonus.

Nowhere on the advert does it mention that this is an account which needs a $25,000 monthly balance. As a matter of fact, I think their advertising is actually misleading since I don’t even understand who would bother opening a $25,000 monthly balance account with $25. I guess the bank was expecting the consumer to do the bank’s work by researching the specific type of account being advertised. I think it was reasonable not to research it. In this day and age, banks are competing for customers and it made sense that they might offer such a bonus in order to get a new customer. And, by the way, this mailing came to our home, and I don’t believe we have ever maintained a $25,000 monthly balance (at least not a +$25,000). So they sent the advertisement without mentioning that most salient of details.

Granted, I might be rather easily triggered into anger today for reasons, but really, that seems like a major piece of information to omit, doesn’t it?

Well, onward and upward toward simplifying my life. I’ll let you know my overall impression when I finish the book.

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