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Sneaky Subscriptions

by Mistina Picciano  ||   No Comments

Several weeks ago, one of the local papers recently began showing up on our driveway every Saturday and Sunday. This mysterious subscription was a nuisance. My husband and I both get our news electronically. These papers were more fodder for the recycling bin. Since we hadn’t subscribed, we didn’t bother canceling. Surely, one of our neighbors was missing her subscription, and the problem would go away. Right?

Well, yes, it did eventually go away. But not before raising some interesting issues about ethical marketing practices.

The Moment of Truth

We recently received a bill for the newspaper subscription. Since neither of us had ordered the paper, my husband called to complain. The person in the subscription department explained that the invoice we received wasn’t technically a bill; it was actually a statement of the amount due if we wished to continue our weekend subscription.

In an effort to boost home delivery subscriptions, the publisher had sent free weekend subscriptions to residents in certain zip codes. Then, these same residents received an official-looking bill with the amount due. Nowhere did this pseudo-invoice indicate that payment was optional. I’m willing to lay odds that at least some of these residents paid the bill without thinking. Sugar-coat the situation any way you want, I’m also betting that the geniuses behind this marketing campaign were banking on a certain number of people doing so.

Truth in Marketing

Perhaps I’m overreacting, but I was really offended when my husband told me about the paper’s “promotion.” The sham invoice struck me as sneaky and underhanded, and I suddenly had a very negative opinion of this particular paper, whereas I previously had no strong feelings one way or the other.

The whole situation reminded me of recent conversations regarding the CAN-SPAM Act and what types of emails are “technically” permitted.

Here’s a tip: Focus on delivering useful, valuable information – not on expanding your list by any and all available means.

If people are interested in what you have to offer, they’ll opt in. And if they’re not knocking on your door, that should tell you something, too.

Am I all wet in my reaction to either situation? Let me know what you think. Maybe I’ll even place a legitimate subscription with this Jersey paper.

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