Sunday, September 14, 2008

E-mail: How Much Is Too Much?

In the November 14, 2007 issue of Slate Chad Lorenz announced the death of e-mail. He has obviously never shopped at Bath and Body Works. I gave this store my e-mail address when they told me they would occasionally email coupons throughout the year. That was two weeks ago. I've received an e-mail from them literally every other day since August 28. They e-mailed me twice in one day on September 3rd. If e-mail is truly on its way out as Lorenz suggests, no one told the promotion and sales department at Bath and Body Works. Lorenz's position on e-mail, along with this week's other articles and discussions really made me stop and think about a form of communication that we all take for granted by now. Our study of e-mail made me stop and think, for the first time, about how much e-mail I receive from places where I've shopped, both in-store and online. It finally dawned on me: if Igive someone else permission to e-mail me, just how far does that permission extend? How much is too much?

Here is a sample of some of the e-mail titles in my Inbox this week:

Bath and Body Works new Black Amythest Fragrance is here!
Find the car you've been looking for!
Bath and Body Works Free Aromatherapy Offer Inside!
Best suprise are in bedroom (sic)
and finally,
Four Goats and a hank of cashmere

The last title isn't as distressing as it sounds, by the way, since it comes from a knitting website I subcribe to. The third title presumably is somewhat distressing. I obviously didn't open it...

Bath and Body Works is really beginning to annoy me, and that has me postulating on the abuses of e-mail. Maybe their e-mailing privileges should be revoked. As I mentioned above, I've received e-mail from them every other day advertising limited-time discounts and special offers, most of which are available through online purchases only. If this company seriously thinks I have the money and inclination to buy bath products every other day, maybe they should stick their heads out the window and take a look at how much gas and groceries cost lately.

The knitting website I subscribe to is even worse than Bath and Body Works. Knitting Daily is an online knitting forum run by Interweave Knits in order to supplement its quarterly magazine. Knitting Daily posts articles and surveys on knitting trends, new fibers and pattern and technical help. The editors update it on a daily basis. They also e-mail me on a daily basis to let me know that the daily update has been posted to their site. Daily. I implicitely gave them permission to contact me when I voluntarily submitted my e-mail in order to register for this free site. But again, just because I gave them my e-mail, does that give a company license to bombard me with electronic communication? In Knitting Daily's case, I can't see what purpose is served by such frequent contact. I as a subscriber am fully aware that they update the website every day. I already pay this company good money through my subscriptions to two of their publications. What good does e-mailing me so often do?

It's the same with every shop I've ever purchased from. Old Navy, Eddie Bauer, and Lands End have been offering me special deals for weeks, if only I'll buy any pair of pants or spend $100 on outerwear. So once again I'll ask: When I give someone permission to e-mail me, are there limits on how far that permission extends? Apparently, the assumption out there is that there are no limits. Of course I can always unsubscribe to the worst offenders, but occasionally there are times in which I genuinely wish to be notified on sales or other promotions. So it seems that I have no choice but to put up with all the superfluous e-mails, or to get cut out of the loop altogether. As luck would have it, I could use some new pants, so I'll put up with all the e-mail for now.

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