All I want to do is make a reservation at my favorite restaurant. Or any restaurant, for that matter. I’m not picky.

But you can’t pick up the phone anymore and ask to make a reservation. That involves too much personal interaction, and an increasingly large segment of our population shies away from personal interaction.

Restaurant reservations at many places these days require you to go online. What do you give up when you do so? Dreamstime/TNS

To get a reservation at many places these days, you absolutely have to go online. If you don’t have a computer or a smartphone, you can’t get a reservation.

Most people do have a computer or a smartphone, and restaurants apparently don’t care about the people who do not. So for the rest of us who are part of the 21st century (or at least the 1990s), reservations are simple. All you have to do is go online and reserve a table. It’s easy.

Only it isn’t that easy. When you reserve a table online, you do much more than reserve a table. The actual table reservation is the least of it.

When you reserve a table online, you specifically give powerful computer companies the right to know your name, your address, your email address, your phone number, your credit card numbers.

You give them the right to snoop through your social media accounts and gather information about your age, your sex, where you live and where you are right now. You give them the right to look at your photographs and collect all of the websites you visit. If you agree, and you may not realize you have done so, you give them the right to track your location at all times, even when the app you are using is turned off.

You give them the right to learn everything they possibly can about your dining preferences: where you eat, what kind of restaurants you prefer, any dietary restrictions (including ones that are based on your religion), what types of meals you order and whether you tend to cancel your reservations.

And if you add someone else’s name on your reservation or share the reservation details with other people, you give them the right to acquire the contact information of your friends.

And they can sell all of this information to anyone they want.

If you give them all of these rights, then what rights do you have?

Well, you sure don’t have the right to sue them in court in case something goes wrong. You don’t have the right to participate in a class action against them of any kind, either. If you have a complaint, it will be resolved by an arbitrator, and arbitrators settle the vast majority of cases in favor of the defending company, which also happens to pay them.

If you do file a complaint and it goes to an arbitrator and the arbitrator does rule in favor of you, you don’t have the right to tell anyone about it at any time, ever.

But, say the people who avoid personal interaction, it’s so convenient. All you have to do is go online and make the reservation. You don’t have to bother with calling.

And the restaurants don’t have to bother with answering the phone, either. Talking to someone and writing down a last name is so difficult. It’s easier just to let a data-mining company do it all for you.

So what do you personally get for giving up all of this privacy? You get companies that know so much about your every thought and every movement that they can inundate you with advertisements that they calculate will appeal specifically to you.

Personally, I hate marketing. I don’t make much money, and I resent it when companies attempt to separate me from it by tempting me to make purchases that, on the whole, benefit them more than they benefit me.

What else do you get?

You get a reservation at a restaurant. In many cases, it is literally the only way you can get one. Is that worth the trade-off?

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under:

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.