Companies are using your personal data to limit your choices--and force you to pay more for products

You may think that getting graded A, B, or C ended with graduate school. Try getting Sanwa Bank to waive its $20 fee on your bounced check. Customer reps are trained to treat everyone politely. But your luck will depend on a little letter that pops up on a screen as soon as your name is punched into a computer, or when your e-mail arrives at Sanwa's server. If that letter is a "C," customer reps don't exactly hustle on your behalf. That's because machines whirring at Net-speed have lumped you--often in seconds flat--with other customers whose accounts don't make much money for the bank. But if you score an "A," you're right up there with the cream: Customers who generate hefty profits get bounced-check waivers, no questions asked. And B's? They're harder calls. They actually get to negotiate with the rep before their case is decided.

To continue reading this article you must be a Bloomberg Professional Service Subscriber.