A long time ago, I signed up to be alerted about travel specials as part of my registration to a major U.S. newspaper's site. Well, I just received my first promotion. Realizing I no longer was interested, I decided to opt-out. What a joke. This company needs some serious assistance on its email strategy, and possibly a review from its legal counsel as to whether its opt-out even falls under CAN-SPAM's guidelines. But I get ahead of myself.
It all started innocently enough . . . "If you no longer want to receive this newsletter, click here to change your email preferences." Click.
"Please create an account or login with your password." Huh? Since when do I need a password to opt-out? I've seen banks and airline miles programs with less annoying requirements. (And they deal with truly personal information.)
Having no recollection of having created an account, I traveled down the path to create one. I was told I already had one. It was smart enough to tell I was confused, so it offered me a password hint. Hmmm. Still no recollection. It then offered to mail me my password, which I elected to do. I'm now 60 seconds into opting-out.
Two minutes later, my password arrived. So I started again.
"Before we can proceed to your email preferences, we need to learn a bit more about you." Now I'm getting frustrated. I hit "submit." Nope. The site was going to force me to tell it my birth date. Of course, it won't let me type it in directly, instead making me select everything from drop-down menus.
Finally. The newspaper now apparently knows enough about me to let me stop receiving its travel newsletters.
Oops. Not quite yet. The preference page reads like a mortgage application. I studied it for a few seconds, and finally found the travel option and unchecked it. Whew. As I scrolled down further to find the submit button, I finally got lucky. At the very bottom of the page is an 8-point font link that reads, "Delete my profile from (newspaper's name).com." Click. Done. For me, 3-4 minutes later, the experience is finally over.
For the newspaper, they've not only lost my travel preference, they've lost me forever with no chance of recovery.
Opt-out should be easy, and viewed as a part of a longer-term relationship. This newspaper's approach is the worst I've ever seen, and a good example of how even savvy, well-intentioned big brands can undermine otherwise perfectly good customer relationships with poorly-designed email programs.