How to piss me off (and the wrong way to mass E-mail customers)

OK, we all know how anti-spam I can be.  I know, it’s a legacy from when I was young, the Internet was new, and everybody had a .edu address and were generally good citizens.  Then, one day, there was a bunch of new people out there, getting Internet access from *gasp* COMMERCIAL ENTITIES like … well, like Kaiwan.Com, an early employer of mine.

I’ve come to terms with the fact that some E-mail marketing is here to stay.  It’s the equivalent of junk mail in your postal box.  You do remember those, right?  A few times a week your mailbox would be stuffed with flyers from places like Circuit City, Best Buy, JCPenney, and Pizza Hut.  You’d shrug, pick the few things you might be interested in, and threw the rest in the trash.  This kind of mass marketing is wasteful (of paper and the postal service’s time and energy), people often complained, but everybody looked for the latest Sears mini-catalog around Christmas time.  At least they did in my household.

So today we have this mass E-mail marketing thing, what we in the olden days called “spam”.  UCE, that is, “unsolicited commercial E-mail” has become quasi-legitimate, and I can accept that some spam in my inbox is inevitable, and even though a good chunk of UCE is scams between Google’s filters and my own most of the downright bogus shit winds up in “Trash” and I never see it.

Then there’s legitimate companies that you sign up for their E-mails and… well, this happens.

For those with low-res screens (or no visual at all) there are four E-mails from Best Buy in one day.  Really?  FOUR?  And this is a pattern, by the way.  I can go back into my mail and see that Best Buy sends 2-3 messages a day going as far back as January.  and I apologize for the huge graphic, but I can’t think of anyway to really demonstrate this other than to show you…


You are getting the idea.  This goes back as far as Google keeps my old messages.  Every day there’s one.  Some days there are two.  On even more infrequent days there are 3, 4, or even one day, 5.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I actually WANT to know when there’s something pretty cool on sale at Best Buy.  Micro Center, one of their quasi-competitors (at least in the computer department), does this:



Notice a few things are missing.  One is E-mailed reciepts: those come from a different E-mail address, so I can filter them out.  Sales flyers come from a helpfully labelled “e-news” address.  Great, and I get 2-3 a week, maybe 4 some weeks… and some of those are when something amazing happens (like them getting Pi Zeros in stock this week!), so I’m generally happy with it.

Ultimately, Micro Center winds up winning.  Best Buy is “the boy who cried wolf”: I just ignore their E-mails entirely as there’s rarely something interesting in them (or for that matter, priced that remarkably).  Micro Center’s are a mixed bag: not always awesome, but usually “timely” and not obnoxiously timed.

And Best Buy had the GALL to treat me like it was MY FAULT I had signed up for so many ads.  Guys, no.  It should be trivial for you to install some kind of “awareness” filter on your outbound sales mail generator to say “hey, I’ve already E-mailed this person twice in the last 72 hours, maybe I need to back off a bit”.  Or just in general queue them up into one E-mail every week-ish.

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