How Did Gillette Know It Was My Birthday??!

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Corey was a bit freaked. He received a box in the mail containing a razor and shaving cream. The box said, “Happy Birthday, from Gillette.” Whiskey tango foxtrot?

Corey has bought a few Gillette products in the past, but he really can’t remember filling out an a form providing them with this information.

The Consumerist had a pretty good idea of how, but decided to send his question in through Gillette’s website to see what they would say.

We sent his in his question through Gillette’s website.

What they had to say for themselves, inside.

October 6, 2006

Dear Mr. Popken,

Thank you for contacting The Gillette Company.

We are always concerned when a complaint is received and appreciate your bringing the matter to our attention. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused. We have an outside source that provides us with this information.

Again, thank you for taking the time to contact us. Please let us know if you have any additional questions or comments.

Mai X.
Consumer Service Associate

“We have an outside source that provides us with this information.” — This seems to confirm our suspicions: Gillette knows you bought products from them. They bought your date of birth from a third-party information broker. Gillette combined the two and sent you a birthday surprise.

While odd, Gillette is within its legal rights to do so, as they have a pre-existing business relationship with you.

Hey, it’s a free razor. Just make sure the paranoia doesn’t affect the steadiness of your hand.


Edit Your Comment

  1. why not says:

    Still… freaky!!

  2. Phyltre says:

    Happened to me, too, as well, about six years ago. They’ve been doing this a long time, and the stuff they send isn’t cheap–I got a Mach 3 (back when they were new) and several replacement blades free in the mail. Retail, that would have been $20.00 of razor back then.

  3. AcilletaM says:

    Gillette has cameras everywhere. OK, maybe not.

    Seriously, what do you think happens with all the personal information you give for preferred/rewards/club cards or your phone number when you check out?

    Be glad you got something useful.

  4. PsychicPsycho3 says:

    I got one of those on my 18th birthday as well. I guessed that they got your information when you sign up for the draft.

  5. exkon says:

    Damn I never got one for my 18th…

  6. Yeah, count me in for having received a birthday gift from our friends at Gillette. I think PsychicPsycho3 may be right — I got mine shortly after I registered for selective service.

  7. *sniff* I never receive birthday gifts from huge, multinational corporations.

  8. nicholas01 says:

    I’d lay money on selective service. Just like the Psychic, mine arrived within a week of signing up, right around the same time I started getting ads from the Navy that had the same look and feel of Gillette’s advertising: cool (as in color, not as in awesome) blues and black, and it looked like they merely switched a jet for the razor and “Navy” for “Gillette.”

    This was the first time I realized our government sold out to private corporations. At least I got $20 worth of razor goods out of the deal. Oh yeah, I still shave with a Mach 3 today. Looks like the advertizing campaign worked after all…

  9. Greg L says:

    Yes, they get it from Selective Service – When I turned 18 I’m pretty sure the letter in my box included a mention of registering.

  10. Time to upgrade to Fusion, nicholas01. Five blades and the trimmer dealie in the back. Best, smoothest, most precise shaves I’ve ever rocked. A little pricey, but I just look at it as a monthly expense, like a haircut.

  11. AdamC says:

    Yeah, I would bet my money on Selective Service selling their database to Gilette. My brother got one of these razors on his 18th birthday, and he’d only previously bought Gilette products at retail stores. I’d be curious to know whether girls receive one of those pink razors on their 18th birthdays as well.

    Kinda reminds me of how you after moving and filling out a change of address form with the USPS, all those moving companies and Home Depot seem to have magically acquired your name and new address.

  12. Toss one in for selective service, happened to me, too– within weeks of signing up.

  13. Malaclypse says:

    Yes… seven years ago on my 18th birthday I got the same thing.

    Although, I didn’t submit a complaint for them sending me a razor that cost ~$15 in stores.

  14. amazon says:

    It might be creepy, but it’s better than regular junk mail. (Which is all I ever get. Fuck.)

  15. FLConsumer says:

    It’s either Selective Service or your high school. School districts often sell student info secretly to anyone who is willing to cough up a few bucks.

  16. chemman says:

    same thing happened to me but mine was 13 years ago, so they have been doing this for quite some time.

  17. zentec says:

    If you think that is creepy, when I turned 13, Kimberly-Clark sent me a box of Kleenex. And I didn’t even have a cold.

  18. Ishmael says:

    When I turned 12, Kotex sent me a ‘prepardness kit.’ Several different styles/thickness of maxis, some tampons, and a book on how to use them.

  19. lazyazz says:

    Happened to me 20 years ago (when I turned 18). I do not know how soon it was after I signed up for SS (age = memory loss).

  20. John Stracke says:

    To all the people who say they got theirs just after registering for the draft: well, of course you did. You register for the draft on or about your 18th birthday; Gillette sends you their junk on or about your 18th birthday. No causal connection needed.

  21. Nifle says:

    You know, they only do this for guys! My brother and cousin got one when they turned 18 but do they care about my leg stubble? No! I have to buy my own Gillete Daisy razors…this is sooooo wrong. DAMMIT! I want my own spooky birthday razor!

  22. juri squared says:

    Gillette is not the only company that does this; I got one of Schick’s razors for women in the mail for absolutely no apparent reason a few months back. I’m well over 18, and there was no birthday greeting on it. I hadn’t signed up for such a promo, but just like the above posters, I didn’t feel like complaining for getting a free $15 razor.

  23. Falconfire says:

    got that too, It was for a Mach 3 back when they where new as well so retail was around 25 bucks.

  24. sp3nc3 says:

    It’s brilliant marketing, and very effective. I got my razor after I turned 18, and I’ve been using Gillete blades ever since. There’s definitely a lot to be said for brand loyalty.

  25. Kos says:

    Same as above. Got it in college when I turned 18 and just starting to shave. Not that hard to figure out and I have to admit that there plan worked… I was a Gillette consumer for several years before switching to (gasp!) electric.

  26. School districts often sell student info secretly to anyone who is willing to cough up a few bucks.

    Colleges don’t bother with all that secrecy crap.

    The only ‘free’ stuff I get is the random stuff that’s being sent to people who used to live in my apartment well over 5 years ago. None of it useful since I don’t bet or intend to pay someone else’s bills.

  27. Marlboro used to send me birthday gifts.

    But that’s because I signed up at a club once to get a free pack of smokes.

  28. Metschick says:

    All I get are crappy diapers (no pun intended).

  29. AcilletaM says:

    Marlboro remembers me at my birthday also.

  30. thrillhouse says:

    “”We have an outside source that provides us with this information.” — This seems to confirm our suspicions: Gillette knows you bought products from them. They bought your date of birth from a third-party information broker. Gillette combined the two and sent you a birthday surprise.

    While odd, Gillette is within its legal rights to do so, as they have a pre-existing business relationship with you.”

    I call bullshit. many years ago, when I turned 18, I received a very nice razor in the mail from Gillette. Trouble is: I had never bought a product from them. I was all electric back then.

    They simply buy the info – plain and simple – just like anyone else that sends you unsolicited junk in the mail. No ‘pre-existing business relationship’ needed for the US mail. Difference is, they sent you something useful.

  31. Harvey Birdman says:

    Are governments allowed to sell data and mailing lists to private corporations? Federal (selective service) and county (your high school)? I think it would be a handy revenue stream, but that as a matter of public policy it would die. I mean, it’s hard enough getting non-paranoid people to respond to the census.

  32. LTS! says:

    Well, there are a lot of public records that corporations use to collect information on you. The government does not allow electronic access but these companies will still hire someone to sit down at the County Clerk’s office and thumb through records recording various information like your birth record, housing purchases, etc. There’s a lot that’s public.

    They then comprise massive databases and sell the information to companies. Next thing you know… boom, free razor.

    Google “public record search”. Sit back and laugh at your privacy concerns.

  33. Demingite says:

    I hope someone will insist that Gillette provide the name and phone number of the outside source. Such a source should be no more private than an individual’s private information. (And everyone should have the right to opt out.)

    I feel similarly re grocery store club cards: If you want to track exactly what I buy, and when and where I buy it — a private information — you need to tell me exactly what you do with that information. That would only be fair. But in absence of legislatio…

  34. Demingite says:

    (I’m not sure why that last comment got cut off – ? The end was just:

    But in [the] absence of legislation, they won’t.

    (See .)

  35. boredatwork says:

    If you’ve ever filled out a magazine subscription card or online survey, applied for a credit card, been born, etc. your info is being actively tracked and sold. That’s how Gilette can send you a razor on your birthday, and why a month after you move you’re getting the same stupid supermarket coupon circulars you were getting at your old place.

    Legally they have to remove you if you ask:

  36. Falconfire says:

    “School districts often sell student info secretly to anyone who is willing to cough up a few bucks.”

    I can garentee you thats absolutly bullshit, things are so secretive in school districts that I had to have authorization to look at student NAMES just to set up a internal testing database for our kids for No Child Left Behind.

    If you catch a school district selling childrens info its a federal offence.

  37. Ben Popken says:

    Joe writes:

    “I remember hearing, around the time of my own 18th birthday, that
    Gillette’s knowledge of young men’s birthdays comes from the the US
    Government. It has to do with Uncle Sam’s requirement that we register for
    the Selective Service. Seems like a fair trade off: the government
    requires us to sign up to get our asses blown off, but in turn we get a
    free personal hygiene product.

    I remember when I tried to sign up for the Selective Service on a Sunday,
    and I received a message saying I should wait for a weekday. Only the US
    Government would close the internet on Sunday. And I never even got my
    fucking razor.”

  38. nerdsavant says:

    I’d vote for Selective Service too. I got a Sensor XL (sweeeeet) for my 18th, almost 10 years ago now. Gilette’s been doing this a long time.

  39. alicetheowl says:

    CVS just sent my husband a Fusion razor and coupons for replacement cartidges. I’m certainly not complaining!

  40. horatio80 says:

    I got a Fussion in the mail but not from Gillette but from Costco.

  41. horatio80 says:

    I got a Fussion in the mail but not from Gilette or the Navy it had Costco’s name on the return label.

  42. Smashville says:

    All I ever get sent is porn.

  43. Dagonis says:

    I received one of these when I turned 18. I was actually pretty impressed they gave me the real product. I used the handle of that Razor until recently when it was lost in a move.

    I liked the razor and may not have bought one otherwise unless I had a chance to try it out, so I think it was pretty effective marketing.

  44. tmweber says:

    I got two for my 18th

  45. TVarmy says:

    I use the Mach 3. I hope they send me some, because I don’t want to have to buy blades.

    Oh, I’ve heard that razor companies will put sharp, high quality blades in a new product line but then slowly decrease the quality, so that it easily adopts new customers in the begining and makes it easier to sell a new razor “breakthrough” in the future.

  46. AcidReign says:

    …..Stockpile those Fusion cartridges. You can get a 5-year supply at Sam’s Club for about $30. The great shave lasts till the little green aloe strip wears off. Then it’s just an ok shave. If the thing falls on the tile floor and the little plastic guard gets cracked, you will do Michael Jackson-level surgery to yourself if you try to shave with it! Have plenty of band-aids and disinfectant handy…

  47. FLConsumer says:

    Falconfire: I’d like to see the info on that… I can assure you that school districts in FL still sell student data quite regularly.

  48. ACurmudgeon says:

    Got to go with the SS as well. I got one right after sending in the draft reg.
    And if any one here doesn’t like these damn multi-blade, try a old safety razor and a brush. You will be amazed by the difference. One blade per side is all you really need and withe the wet shave technique, while a lost art, should be remebered.
    I am not a shill, but this is one thing that I missed with out a father in my life, being taught to shave. I had to figue it out my self and I had it all wrong.
    Here is a cool artice (vai digg a few months ago)
    all about the wet shave.

  49. Jesse in Japan says:

    I got one of those for my 20th birthday, but it said it was for my 18th birthday. I didn’t complain though.

  50. zl9600 says:

    Well, I keep getting letters from the Neptune Society about cremation. Perhaps these databases are indeed much more powerful than we thought.

  51. changequest says:

    I’ve gotten several of these, from Gillette and Schick, related to my birthday and just randomly. It all started, in my estimation, around the time of the war in the number of blades. They give you the razor and a blade or two free, but the real reason they do it is to get you hooked into buying the high-margin blades.

  52. kodec says:

    I also started getting products from them after registering for the Selective Service.

  53. omicronpersei8 says:

    I got a Gillette on my 18th birthday too.

    For some reason Parliament cigarettes constantly send my often useful items. I can’t figure it out. I haven’t smoked for 10 years and when I did it was never Parliaments. Yet I get something new from them every 3-4 months. T-shirt, waterproof cases (presumably for cigarettes), pens, calendars.

  54. aseriesoftubes says:

    Yep, they sent me a Mach 3 and some blades for my 18th too (6 years ago). Brilliant marketing strategy, that; I ended up buying their blades for about 4 years until I bought an electric.

  55. charliejames says:

    Hey, I want a gift too.
    Freaky or not, who cares, give me the free stuff.

  56. MikeSantini says:

    THAT HAPPENED TO ME TOO!!!!!! around my 18th birthday 2 years ago…. it was weird… but i was happy that i got free stuff!

  57. Someone told me that Gilette does animal testing so I don’t use their products.

  58. Kelt says:

    They probably bought their data from a commercial data provider.

  59. WPG says:

    I got two Mach 3 Turbos from Gillette in the mail for my 18th birthday. One was addressed to William Griffin, and the other one to Paul Griffin. My name is William Paul Griffin (but I go by Paul).

    I am confident my school sold address lists to advertising companies because I frequently received school-related junk mail in pieces of two, one addressed to William, and one addressed to Paul.

    I guess it gets a hair stranger because I had other friends in high school who never received a Gillette razor for their 18th, yet I know I had never purchased a Gillette razor prior to that point.

    I still haven’t opened the second box, but I am using the Mach 3 Power.

  60. discage says:

    I to got one of those for my 18th birthday.
    Which was two years ago, Nice to see that they are keeping with their tradition :P

  61. mrbill says:

    Same thing here – free razor on my 18th (15 years ago; oh god I’m old now). It was definitely from Selective Service data.

  62. UrbanaBeachcomber says:

    The only thing I got in the mail after registering with the SS was draft notice…

  63. TickedOff says:

    A worse-case situation happened to my wife & I recently. We received a flurry of mail ads for a local private K8 school. The problem is that we have no children.

    My first reaction was “how did I get on this list?” Then it occurred to me that this is a familiar experience for parents who receive complimentary baby formula and diapers in the mail after giving birth.

    It was almost exactly 5 years before that we had gone through an extensive (1AI,3IVF), expensive (>$100K) and ultimately failed series of IVF treatments to try to have a child. We eventually discoverd that we would never be able to have any children together.

    Apparently some element of our treatment got sold and this school bought it and extrapolated the presumed age of a prospective school customer. Needless to say dredging up this low point in our lives did nothing to engendered warm feelings for this school let alone create a potential customer or endorser.

  64. tkeller says:

    I actually heard they get this information from hospital birth records when newborns arrive, which would explain how they know it’s your 18th birthday and they could possibly send it to your original address when you were born, but it still seems a bit unlikely to me though. The reason that it is plausible is because I believe Gerber has been doing marketing like this sending free baby formula samples and stuff to new parents.

    I’m about as equally skeptical of selective service selling any information though. Not that they wouldn’t benefit from selling the information, I would just imagine that as being a liability in the long-term when they give access to someone’s information and have some sort of stalker incident or something.

  65. tkeller says:

    They’ve been doing this before most data mining even came into existence. I heard once, I think it was in a marketing class in college, that they actually get this from birth records since they are public domain I believe and then match those with an address. 18 years later, razor sent. Only hole in this is if people move. I know I got a razor on my 18th birthday and I was still in the original residence from when I was born so I can’t tell from personal experience, but the method is sound because I’m pretty sure Gerber does the same thing with new parents and sending them samples of baby formula and so on even when the parents seemingly never signed up for anything or gave their name out.

  66. tippps says:

    Now thats a bit scary! Gillete is owned by Braun which is a german company. Germany who opposes everything we do to protect our nation has full access to the peraonal info of all potential draftees!!! pardon me while i line my head with aluminum foil to keep “them” from eves dropping on my thoughts

  67. Anonymous says:

    I received one for my 18th birthday too! My initial reaction was cool, got a free razor. Fast forward 10+ years, I look back and now I feel a bit violated. I would think a person information that’s under the age of 18 would be off limits. Their marketing did work as I still use Gillette products to this day.

  68. Drake Cennedig says:

    Yep, consumer tracking at its finest. I recently did a report on this kind of thing. Reader, remember: the following info is dated as of January 2012. It has likely gotten worse by the time you read it.

    Most iPhone apps gather and send information off phones to be used by marketing services. This includes everything from Pandora to Angry Birds. Some of the time, that’s your location data, other times it’s info gathered through accessing your various accounts, and occasionally the info they send is guessed at based on your Internet-use records or other phone-use information. Companies sell that data to advertisers and match it with online accounts and IP addresses to customize your advertisements, and apparently, real-world gift giving.

    Facebook is notorious for tracking its users through “like” buttons and other social media. Facebook users needn’t even click on the “like” button in order to be tracked; hosting a tracking cookie on your computer is enough. Speaking of cookies, tracking software, specifically the variety called a beacon, can be used to record everything you type on a site.

    What probably happened in these particular birthday situations was this:

    1.) Gilette’s “third-party source,” was capable of matching disparate information like names and addresses through IP Addresses and social-media accounts, or else;
    2.) It purchased such information from other online account services, which could have included Facebook, Apple, Adobe, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, or especially the Selective Service. Otherwise, the source;
    3.) May have used “scraped” data, which means that the source probably hired a somewhat low-profile firm to set up an account with a social media site and gather freely accessible data from your public profile. It also may have;
    4.) Used those iPhone apps I mentioned, or any other part of the iAds Network.

    Do not be fooled into believing that you must be highly internet-active to become a cog in the system. I have a private Facebook page, with little personal data, and have never once purchased a Gilette product or anything else online. If just once you have put personal info on an Internet-enabled computer, let alone published it online, you may consider said info to be perfectly public.

    Since Gilette would be foolish not to manage the public relations info of its products and methodology, this post and, frankly, entire blog, will probably be viewed by a company on official Gilette business. If you are that reader, I say this: Thank you very much for your gift, it will prove most useful. Do not, however, believe that I will either be fooled into purchasing more of your products because of your benevolence, or scared away from purchasing your products because of your methodology.

    To the by-now-paranoid readers out there, remember: they want your money legally, not by force. They want to convince you to buy stuff from them, and if they know that if they scare away your business, they won’t get any of it. Good merchants, from the High Middle Ages of Europe to the Ming Dynasty of China, have always had a talent for finding out the things people desire. This is a marketing gimmick, nothing more. (And an unusually useful one at that.)

    For further reading, check out “What They Know” on the Wall Street Journal’s website (no, I’m not affiliated with them: I’d have too moderate a stance on economic issues for that) A Google search for “tracking beacons,” “consumer tracking,” or “targeted advertisements,” would be well worthwhile, as would “iPhone Apps Send Location Data.”