Weblining

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.

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