Doing It Right: The Points Guy

One thing I’ve never understood is why senders often make subscribers wait until they’re sick of receiving the mail before giving them an option to adjust their frequency to something a bit less onerous (or “opt-down” in marketer-speak. Yuck.).

By the time senders deign to reveal that recipients could have opted for weekly or even monthly missives, it’s usually only after the subscriber is running for the door – way too late to salvage a valuable, permission-based relationship.  Continue reading

Peapod Fail

Nice checkbox.

It never ceases to amaze me how badly even big companies can get it wrong.

Checkbox Synchronicity

Not long after I posted my recent rant about checkboxes and the concept of “passive consent”, this bit of synchronicity played itself out in my own home.

We recently celebrated our daughter’s fourth birthday, and my wife had purchased as gifts some educational toys from LeapFrog, a publicly traded company that produces quality products, and of whom I’d say I have a favorable opinion.

My wife connected the toy to her laptop to download and install files that would allow it to function correctly. She trusts the company, too, so she was more than happy to complete the product registration page that was presented to her when she connected it.

From the other room, I heard her say, “Oh, crap!”

“What happened,” I called from the floor of the living room. I was entertaining our other child, a ten-month-old boy who has recently become remarkably mobile.

“I didn’t notice that the box was pre-checked before I submitted the registration.”

For the record, my wife does not work in e-mail deliverability, but she’s listened to me talk about it for as long as she has known me. She’s pretty familiar with my sentiments on permission and pre-checked subscription boxes. Clearly, she has just now acquired a similar opinion of the practice. LeapFrog has accomplished in a single form what I’ve failed to do in over eight years.

She’s never going to be able to look at mail from LeapFrog again without remembering the small subterfuge they employed to add her to their mailing list. She’ll likely unsubscribe at her earliest opportunity.

Is that really the kind of subscriber LeapFrog was looking for when they decided to pre-check a subscription box and bury it where it was less likely to be noticed? Is that the kind of subscriber any sender wants?

An E-mail Oxymoron

I recently stumbled across a new term for an old idea that is as bad today as it was when I first heard of it (sans catchy moniker) nearly thirteen years ago.

The term is “passive consent”, and it appears in an article by Sherry Chiger published in DIRECT Magazine two weeks ago. The term in this context appears to be the invention of Jay Schwedelson, President and CEO of list firm Worldata, and he uses it to describe a flavor of permission that lies somewhere between confirmed opt-in and opt out.

The classic example of passive consent (and the one used in the article) is the pre-checked subscription box on an on-line form. It’s not entirely clear whether it’s Chiger or Schwedelson who asserts “it’s legitimate,” but Schwedelson applies the “passive consent” description to the practice, since “the consumer does not need to take action in order to be placed on the company’s e-mail file.”

Let’s be clear: “passive consent” is not legitimate. It is “consent” in the same sort of way that the family cat is a mode of transportation. Which is to say that it isn’t. It’s an e-mail oxymoron. Any time a recipient does not need to act to start receiving mail, there is no consent.

The granting of consent must be an informed, affirmative act if it is to be at all meaningful. The check box lets recipients indicate to senders that they understand what kind of mail the sender proposes to send, and that they want to receive it. If the box is pre-checked, there’s no way to know whether the recipient even saw it. It’s impossible to infer with any accuracy exactly why the form was submitted with the pre-checked box still checked.

Chiger is correct when she observes that confirmed opt-in is not the only acceptable standard of permission for sending mail. But senders who build lists using “passive consent” can’t know which kind they have. They may not have any kind of permission at all.