Altrec illustrates why marketing preferences are a golden ticket

Until recently, was one of my favorite places to seek out and score a deal on clothing. Then they made a big fat marketing mistake: Altrec ignored my marketing preferences (five times over). I’m a forgiving person, especially when it comes to marketing mistakes because I thoroughly understand how easy it is to make a mistake. I also understand, however, when a company is just plain abusive and disrespectful.

(By the way, this is not just another email marketing unsubscribe story. This quick story illustrates a much larger problem, and it’s equipped with an easy 1-step solution.)

Altrec followed up my first order with an email marketing message, asking me to buy more, which is curious because Altrec ought to know they don’t sell a consumable product like candy or food. I immediately unsubscribed and called the company that day, asking them to permanently delete my email address from their database, which I was told they did on the spot. (This turned out to be untrue.)

In my first order, I received two postcards asking me to submit a review online to earn a percentage off my next order. I recycled them because I’d just ordered what I needed. Next, I received an email asking me to submit a review for a percentage off my next order. Hmm. Maybe Altrec didn’t get the memo. Maybe their database is broken. I unsubscribed again.

Then I got another email. I called once more, and told them if I received another email, I would no longer order from Altrec. “I understand. The emails are annoying,” I was told. “I will make sure your email is removed from our database.”

Next, I created a new email address which I use solely for ordering. In the address is the word, ‘unsubscribe.’ (I figured maybe people would take the hint.) Altrec then added that email address to their list and sent me an offer lacking an Unsubscribe link, which is against the law.

Here’s where it gets good
This prompted me to call one last time to give them one final chance to earn the privilege of keeping my business. And oh my gawd did Altrec fail. The rep, upon hearing this was something like my fifth time requesting to never receive Altrec’s marketing said, “What do you want me to do about it? Do you think the corporate office cares what I tell them? I have no power to get them to listen to anything I say.”

And the conversation went pretty darn close to this:
Me: “I’ve requested removal from your email marketing list at least five times, and this is my last request.”

Altrec: “I don’t have any way to do that.”

Me: “Could you add me to your list?”

Altrec: “Yes, I could add you.”

Me: “Then you must be able to take me off the list.”

Altrec: “I can give you the number to our corporate offices.”

Me: “I don’t want that number. They’ve already proven five times over they don’t care what I say.”

Altrec: “Well, what do you want from me?”

Me: “I want to be permanently removed from your email list.”

Altrec: “I can’t do that, but you can call the corporate offices and talk to them.”

Me: “That would be me spending more of my time trying in vain to fix a problem that your company created. That problem being that your company is wasting my time on a regular basis. I’ve already spent as much time on this as I’d like to. Can you get a message to them?”

Altrec: “Sure, I can try, but they probably won’t pay any attention.”

Me: “Tell them that as a result of repeatedly ignoring my marketing preferences, Altrec has lost a customer who was visiting their site on a regular basis.”

Atrec: “Like I said, I can send it, but they probably won’t listen to me.”

In that short conversation, I learned that Altrec has no respect for people. I already knew they did not respect their customers’ marketing preferences, but during that call I also learned they don’t listen to their own people. In fact, they’re so bad at it that their employees feel free to talk about how badly the company treats people, which means they don’t care about their jobs. Which in turn means it’s been going on for a while.

That’s a company sorely lacking in the quality I hold most dear: Humanity. As often as possible, I choose to spend my money with companies who truly respect and care about people and the planet.

Altrec is a train wreck when it comes to respecting people. They ignore customers, ignore their own people, use interruption as a matter of course, and break the law to shove their message in front of customers. Could they be worse? Probably yes. But they’ve done enough as it is, and there are plenty of other companies with the exact same offerings who also incorporate humanity, respect, and even a good sense of humor to boot.

The good news is, Altrec has left plenty of room for improving their marketing. And they can do it in one fell swoop by instituting a new marketing initiative that is based solely on the idea of humanity. If they do that, they can earn my trust again. At present, they’ve resoundingly lost it.

Marketing preferences are your customers’ way of saying, “Hey, this is how you can keep me happy!” It’s an easy-to-respect golden ticket to keeping customers. If they say, ‘Please don’t market to me,’ you stand a far greater chance of selling to them again by respecting their choice. If you disrespect their choice, you make it an easy decision for them to buy from your competitors.

Update April 14, 2015: 2-1/2 years later, Altrec just did it again, sending me marketing email even after they personally wrote me in response to this post to acknowledge their mistakes.

Kelly Hobkirk - teaching marketers how to harness strategy, goals, reality, and purpose to connect and do better work.


Kelly Hobkirk has been helping companies succeed in creative ways for nearly 25 years. His work has been featured in Time Magazine, and books by Rockport and Rotovision. Get exclusive articles when you sign up for his monthly newsletter.

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