If you ever wanted proof that the folks in Marketing just don’t get it, here it is! I signed up for season(ish) tickets to the local ball team. Because the folks in marketing want to sell you extra crap, they required that you tell them your email, phone number, address, and birthdate (!) in order to buy the tickets online . Ordinarily, I would have schlepped down to the local office to buy the tickets in person, but the ball team doesn’t allow that. So I bought the tickets but included a note in the comments that my email was not to be used for any purpose other than the one-time purchase of the tickets .
The next day, I get this email (italics mark bits that have been changed for anonymity’s sake):
Good Afternoon Mr. D.,
Hope this week is treating you well. I just wanted to reach out to you to let you know we got your online order and introduce myself as your new account rep. I noticed that the number you listed on your account is a 800 number so if I could grab a good number to get in contact with you about your account that would be great. If there is anything that you need please do not hesitate to either email me or call me at my direct line listed below.
Can’t wait to see you at the ball park!
Lauren C. l Inside Sales Representative
Local Baseball Team
So I replied:
Dear Ms. C.,
I do not want to talk with you about my account. I do not want to hear about the “many wonderful opportunities” to spend more money. To be honest, all I want is my tickets. If I had had a choice, I would not have created an account nor given you my email address. Speaking for quite a few people, the insistence of organizations like yours on getting details that you have no need for (e.g., my birthdate – have you never heard of identity theft?) is more than a little annoying.
Do us both a favor. Don’t send any more emails. Don’t try to call me. If you really must get in contact with me, then send me a letter (surely you remember letters). That way you’ll still have my patronage and I’ll still get to see the ball games I want to.
All was well until yesterday when they decided to ignore what I thought were pretty clear instructions:
Dear John,We are excited to announce that the local baseball team
are hosting renowned Christian rock band Hawk Nelson as part of Faith Night on Sunday, July 19th!
Your special status as an local baseball team Season Ticket Holder allows you the opportunity to purchase tickets for this concert before they go on sale to the general public!
The concert will take place at the ball park before the game on July 19th. Hawk Nelson will play at 4:00 p.m. and first pitch of the game will be at 6:05 p.m.
The concert will be general admission and standing room only. Another email will be sent prior to the event with additional details regarding parking, entrance, and the concert itself.
Tickets for Faith Night are just $15 and include admission to the concert as well as the baseball game that evening. We’ll also throw in a limited edition OKC Dodgers hat as a thank you for joining us for this special night!
To reserve your seats for Faith Night, simply contact your account representative, Lauren C. at phone number or email or click here to order online and enter promo code NELSON.
We’ll see you on July 19th for Hawk Nelson and the game!
Michael B. | President/General Manager
local baseball team
So I replied, cc’ing the GM :
What part of “No email” is unclear?
To which I got the following reply:
My name is Ben B
and I am Lauren’s manager with the local ball team
. She had brought your email from last week to my attention in addition to today’s so I wanted to reach out and touch base with you.The reason why we keep the email addresses of our Season Ticket Holders on file is because we communicate to our customers frequently through email. Season ticket delivery, special events, and any game-night news regarding weather, etc. is disseminated in this manner, and we strongly encourage our Season Ticket Holders to have their email on file with us.
It is not Lauren’s decision, and by reaching out to you she was simply doing her job.
The only way to guarantee that you do not receive emails from our organization is to remove your address from the system. I can do this, but it will cause you to miss important announcements pertaining to your account and the team.
Would you like me to remove your email address from our system?
Manager of Inside Sales & Service
local baseball team
Now telling someone something once is OK. Telling them twice is annoying. But telling them three times? That just pisses me off. So I let Ben have it, again cc’ing the GM:
Ben,Yes, I do want you to stop sending me spam. That’s why I told Lauren not to send me any promotional emails the last time she ignored my “do not email” statement and why I refused to give you my phone number. That’s also why I lied on my birth date – honestly, don’/t (sic
) you people know anything about identity theft? You’re going to have one heck of a liability problem when (not if) your database gets hacked!
Let me be as blunt as possible; perhaps then you will understand. We (the general public) don’t like spam. We don’t like getting email after email from your company trying to sell us yet one more thing. The only reason most people put up with it is because they aren’t willing to argue with the idiots in marketing who think that annoying people translates into more sales in the long run. (It really doesn’t.) If I had been able to order the tickets without giving you my email, I would have done so but you wouldn’t permit that. So I included a note on my order that you were not to use my email for any purpose other than completing the order – a notice which makes you liable under CAN-SPAM for any unsolicited emails (like the last one you sent).
Now you may think that what you send out isn’t spam. But the decision isn’t yours; it is the customer’s. And we *do* think it is spam. And since you won’t stop spamming me, I want to take your ability to spam me away by getting my email out of your system. If you told more people about that option, you’d be amazed at how many people would use it. (Or perhaps that is why you don’t tell people about that option.)
So please remove my email. Now. I really don’t want to have this conversation again; once was too often and twice was just rude on your part.
I must have gotten under Ben’s skin because he immediately tried to defend himself:
John,I can honestly say that this is the first time I have had this complaint and therefore find it difficult to see that you speak for “we”, the general public. We have thousands of season ticket holders that enjoy receiving updates and interacting positively with our messaging.
I do not appreciate the condescending tone that you are using with Lauren or myself. Simply asking us to remove your email from the system would have taken care of everything and not led to long, time-consuming emails. I am quite sure that it is not fair to be calling Lauren and myself rude in this instance.
I have removed your email address from the ticketing system.
Manager of Inside Sales & Service
local baseball team
Not being one to let barking dogs lie, I replied once more cc’ing the GM:
You contradict yourself. If you honestly believed that people are fine with your constant emails, then you would offer the option of buying the tickets without using an email address. As you do not allow that, you know that what you are doing is wrong and choose to do it anyways. (There is also the matter of Lauren ignoring my first and second calls to be removed. You obviously don’t understand simple English over there.)
As for the “condescending tone”, when a stranger interrupts your day there is no call to be polite – especially if you had already posted a “no trespassing sign”. Lauren’s choice to ignore my statement that I do not want to be pestered was simply rude; doing it twice was obnoxious. So you should not complain when I return rudeness for rudeness.
Now go away and never email me again.
And that’s where the matter lies. If I don’t hear back from them, then I’ll know it worked. If I do, then I’ll just get ruder  until they do stop emailing me.
So why do I tilt at this particular windmill? Because it matters to me . It always has mattered. During my marketing courses getting the MBA, I annoyed quite a few fellow students (and some professors) by pointing out that the customer has choices and trying to take them away never ends well for the business. When I was at the other science museum, I seriously piqued both the exhibit designer and the chief educator by pointing out that tracking our patrons  without their knowledge or consent was a violation of privacy, probably against state law, and definitely against NSF rules for human experimentation .
It matters to me because we are watching our privacy erode at an ever-increasing rate. And that erosion is almost entirely one-sided: companies and governments are learning more about you than you can ever learn about them, simply because they have more money which equals more ability. Unless we fight against this rising tide, eventually we will be unable to do anything that is not “public”, from buying bread to walking down the street to how often we go to the bathroom. Once that information is “public” (which really means “the property of some company”) it becomes a product that they can sell to others. And suddenly you start getting emails from Tibet inviting you to try their yak tea to cure your constipation.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not a product. I’m a private person who owns (or should own) the data I generate. And that’s why I toss sand into the gears of email spammers and others – because they are trying to steal what is mine.
 When I buy in person and they ask for that information, I tell them that I don’t have one. If they persist, then I call for the manager and tell them that they can either have the sale or insist on getting my information. If they insist, I leave after reminding them that under state laws, they cannot require that information.
 Under the CAN-SPAM Act, the statement limits this to a one-time purchase and voids the “ongoing business relationship” exclusion.
 Why CC the GM? Two reasons. First, it is entirely possible that he is unaware of what they are sending out under his signature; this lets him know. And two, it alerts him to problems with his management team and reminds him that without the support of the public there would be no baseball team.
 Why get ruder? Because they are being rude and don’t want to acknowledge it [a, b]. By being rude right back (and pointing out that I am only responding to their rudeness), I might eventually drive the point home that the customer’s choices are the only ones that matter; if you ignore this, then eventually you won’t have any customers.
 As a wise man once said, there is no such thing as altruism, just enlightened self-interest.
 And it still amazes me that the chief educator, who claimed to be fluent in Spanish” didn’t know what the word “patron” meant.
 That last mattered because the museum gets a significant fraction of its funding from the NSF.
[a] Why won’t they acknowledge it? Because they are unwilling to put themselves in the customer’s shoes. (Which is why they have to resort to rude measures in the first place.) Their very job depends on ignoring my choice to not have my email in their system.
[b] As Heinlein once wrote, “certain feet were made for stepping on, in order to improve the breed, promote the general welfare, and minimize the ancient insolence of office”.