Previous “In My Inbox” posts

Who Would Do This, AT&T?

Friday, December 31st, 2021

Recently, I switched my cellular service away from AT&T (née Cingular née Cellular One). I was a bit nervous about this process, as I’d heard horror stories from folks who had rough times transferring their cell numbers years back. Fortunately, the process was fast and easy. In just a few minutes, I was all set with my new carrier. If you’re thinking of switching, it’s quite painless and likely worth your while.

Apparently, AT&T wasn’t quite so ready to move on from me, however. Today, I received an email with the subject line “AT&T would like your opinion!”. I’m sure they would. It would surely be valuable for AT&T to know why a customer of nearly two decades has decided to move on. Given that, this email is rather confounding.

It begins with this:

An email opening that says “Dear Former AT&T Customer”

When I read a greeting like “Dear Former AT&T Customer”, I feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I can tell I’m truly appreciated by the way they didn’t even address me by name. It makes me excited to see just what this email is all about.

Text stating “AT&T needs input from former customers like you regarding the cancellation of your AT&T Wireless service.”

AT&T doesn’t just want my input, it needs it, perhaps for its very survival as a business. Why on earth I should care about what the massive corporation I no longer use for cellular service “needs” is beyond me. Still, I appreciate the fact that they’ve told me how important this is to them, because it’s always nice to have leverage.

Further text stating “As a former customer, your opinion is very important to us. We’d like to ask you to participate in a survey of approximately 20 minutes.”

20 minutes! That’s one hell of a request. AT&T, do you think we’re friends? We are not friends. 2 minutes would be asking a lot, and 20 is beyond excessive.

I should’ve stopped reading right there, but I thought maybe there’d be a reason to continue. Given how important the information they’re asking for is to them, and the fact that it’s going to take quite awhile to provide it, surely they’ll make it worth my while. For, say, a $100 Visa gift card, I could take 20 minutes to tell AT&T how they lost me as a customer.

Further text reading “This survey is being conducted by Burke, Inc., an independent research firm, on behalf of AT&T. Your participation is completely voluntary and no one will try to sell you anything as a result. We appreciate your participation and encourage an early response, as the survey is only open for a limited time. Thank you in advance for your feedback and participation!”

Oh. Wow. They took the time to rather ludicrously assure me that this is voluntary. They made sure to note that I won’t get upsold. They even urged me to act fast on this not-exciting-in-the-least offer, so I can get my answers in before the survey closes. Finally, they thanked me in advance, with a few hollow words. What they didn’t do was offer any compensation, nor even a reason for why I would spend 20 minutes completing this survey for them.

As you can no doubt guess, I didn’t. Instead, I took that time to write this post mocking AT&T. It helpfully provides feedback about their survey request, and they’re welcome to read it for free. What can I say? I’m a giver.

As far as the information on why I switched providers though? For that, they’ll have to pony up. AT&T, I encourage a prompt response, as the cost of my time is only going up.

A Site for Ursine STDs

Friday, March 5th, 2021

Many moons ago, I received a rather bizarre offer to purchase the domain baronvd.com. As I noted then, it sounds like a site for fancy sexually-transmitted diseases. Early this morning, I received a new and perhaps even more ridiculous come-on:

An email offering bearvd.com for sale

Long-time readers will recall that I own the Barvd.com domain, which is no doubt why I’m receiving this email. Still, despite the closeness in letters, there’s no actual relation between the domains. Barvd.com was initially purchased to showcase the grossest in social media tweets, and now covers all matter of vomit-inducing unpleasantness. Though this bearvd.com domain adds just one letter to Barvd, it is about as related as pens.com1 and penis.com2 would be.

However, if you’re a veternarian specializing in treating venereal diseases in bears, this could be just the site for you. Let me know, and I’ll put you in touch with Lloyd Childs.


Footnotes:

  1. At the time of publication, this is a site for crappy branded items, including pens, as well as notepads, glasses, and much more. ↩︎

  2. Shockingly, this domain currently leads to no site at all, though it is available for purchase if you have a spare $1 million (USD). Alternately, you can lease it for just $21,667 per month. ↩︎

Inbox Abuse at the Hands of Major League Baseball

Friday, December 11th, 2020

At 12:30 PM on November 23, I received an email from MLB.com’s shop, advertising site-wide 30% off savings. Because officially licensed gear for professional sports teams is always ludicrously overpriced, this has the effect of bringing the cost of a $260 “authentic” jersey to a still grossly overpriced $182. To say I was uninterested is putting it mildly.

However, I did notice that this email advertised the deal as “Early Cyber Monday Savings”.

A banner reading “Early Cyber Monday Savings”

As you may know, “Cyber Monday” is a marketing term for the Monday after American Thanksgiving, when many online stores offer special deals. This year, Thanksgiving fell on the November 26, making Cyber Monday the 30th. November 23 was thus not “early Cyber Monday”, it was nothing at all. This email represented just the latest example of calendar abuse by some crack marketing team.

It was also the beginning of some monstrous mailing list mismanagement. Just six hours later, I received an email letting me know that these “Early Cyber Monday savings” were “ending soon”.

A banner reading “Early Cyber Monday Savings - Ends Soon”

Another three hours later, at 9:30 PM, a third email arrived letting me know this deal was “almost outta here”, and in its “final hours”.

A banner reading “Early Cyber Monday Savings - Final Hours”

The sale was ending at midnight, so I assumed that would be the last I’d hear about it. Three emails in one day is too much, but I could see the repeated contacts being effective with some potential customers.

The next day, however, I received the shocking news that “Early Cyber Monday” had been “extended” into Tuesday. Did MLB explain that this was due to overwhelming demand, which had perhaps crashed their servers and thus prevented hopeful buyers from placing orders? They did not. Did they at least use a bit of clever baseball lingo, perhaps saying that the sale had “gone into extra innings?” There again, the answer is no. OK, but surely they changed the design of the email for some variety?

A banner reading “Early Cyber Monday Savings - Extended”

Well, the badge on the bottom of the banner was a different shade of blue, yes.

That evening, I received yet another email, letting me know this was my last chance to take advantage of this 30% off.

A banner reading “Early Cyber Monday Savings - Last Chance”

I was rather incredulous at the idea of sending five emails in two days for a mediocre sale. Still, I found the overzealousness amusing, and I assumed that would be the end of it. I was completely unprepared for what would follow over the next two-plus weeks.

To avoid trying your patience, while still demonstrating the abuse my inbox suffered in late November and early December, here is a simple list of the various sales promotions MLB.com emailed about. Lest you think I made these up, I’ve included images from the most ridiculous emails:

  • Thanksgiving Eve Savings

    A banner reading “Today Only! Thanksgiving Eve Savings”
    Except perhaps when discussing travel, “Thanksgiving Eve” is really not a thing.

  • Thanksgiving Day Sale

  • Black Friday Sale

  • Black Friday Extended

  • Cyber Monday Sneak Peek

    A banner reading “Cyber Monday Sneak Peek”
    The extensions led in to sneak peeks, then back to sales.

  • Cyber Monday Sale

  • Cyber Monday Extended

  • A non-specific “Countdown” event

  • Friends & Family Savings Event

    A banner reading “Friends & Family Savings Event”
    Lamentably, I am not in the Major League Baseball family. After all this, I’m not feeling very friendly either.

  • The Holiday Gifting Sale

  • 3 Days of Saving

  • One Day Sale

    A banner reading “Friends & Family Savings Event”
    OK, this one cracked me up.

  • Holiday Savings Event

Throughout the course of this, the discounts seemed to fluctuate. Many of these sales advertised “up to 65% off”, which really tells you just how much this merchandise is ordinarily marked up. Others contained more standard 20-30% off discounts. The numbers were impossible to keep straight, as they changed constantly.

Similarly, my own reactions bounced around quite a bit. My initial mirth quickly grew to disgust at the marketing that occurred just before, and on, Thanksgiving. I was then horrified at the onslaught of emails surrounding Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I eventually grew numb, and just let the spam wash over me. Finally, I settled on bemusement, enjoying watching just how far this would go and wondering when it would ever end.

But today, enough was truly enough. This morning, MLB.com hit my inbox for the 50th time in under three weeks. That is just utterly insane behavior. I’m sure that MLB wants to juice their merchandise sales after a down year in 2020, but the idea that this is the way to do it beggars belief. It is inexplicable that anyone with any sense at all could think the above was appropriate.

So I’m out. I’ve unsubscribed, and I hope to never hear from these dingdongs again. Sure, I’ll miss their “Christmas Day Sale” (Warning, gifts will not arrive by Christmas), the “Tuesday After Christmas” event, and the “New Year’s Eve Eve” savings the day after that, but I think I’ll be alright.

I’ll Make Popcorn

Thursday, November 5th, 2020

Speaking of asinine content recently spotted in my inbox, today I received an email from AT&T Customer Care. It promoted a “personalized” video, explaining my wireless bill.

An email touting a personalized video to explain a cell phone bill

If I ever require a video that’s over two minutes long to understand my cell phone charges, there’s either something wrong with the design of the bill, or with me. However, for both comedic purposes, and to kill some time while I wait for news on who America’s president next year will be, I did watch the video. It referred to me by my first name, and included actual recent charges from my cell phone account. It was a very, very mildly impressive use of technology. It was also something that no one, and I mean no one, wants. Nevertheless, someone thought it was a good idea to include the text “Enjoy your video!”, and the idea of that really made me laugh.

Read the Room, American Airlines

Wednesday, November 4th, 2020

What do you do the day after perhaps the most contentious election in American history, when the winner of the presidency has yet to be determined? Apparently, if you’re American Airlines, you send out a marketing email entitled “Why our cleaning strategy works”. Said email touts the ability of their cleaning practices to reduce COVID-19 risks on their planes:

An email from American Airlines touting their cleaning practices, for flights you almost certainly shouldn't be taking.”

Even if air travel weren’t something best avoided while a global pandemic is raging, maybe not today, huh, AA?

Also, Summer Probably Should Be Canceled

Tuesday, July 7th, 2020

Back on Mother’s Day, I ran a virtual 10K road race. With a virtual race, all the entrants run the specified distance on a specific day, then submit their results. I had a fine experience in May, though my first place victory among male runners was somewhat diminished by the fact that a cheering section of exactly one person saw me win.

That cheering section was my partner Maggie, who rode her bicycle to meet me at several spots along my improvised race route, toting a cowbell to encourage me. Near the end of the run, we managed to confuse the hell out of some passersby in hilarious fashion. Said passersby apparently noticed her waiting, then heard her as she began ringing the bell. Shortly after, I came running into view with a prominent race bib on, and flew right past them. Maggie said they then spent an amusing amount of time watching the road I’d come from, apparently hoping to spot more runners.

Anyhow, that particular race was created as something which would take place in person, before the COVID-19 pandemic forced an overhaul. When the organizer shifted things for our new reality, I figured I might as well still take part. Of late, however, I’ve received quite a few emails attempting to get me to sign up for races that are virtual from the get-go. Personally, I don’t find that concept very compelling. I suspect I’m far from alone, which probably explains the extra aggressive marketing I’ve been getting for these pseudo-events.

Recently, one email (entitled “Summer is NOT canceled!”) included this bit of nonsense:

I don’t think we can. I think that’s kind of the point.

Two Emails in Two Hours Is a Bad Sign

Thursday, June 11th, 2020

At 6:31 PM last night, a well-known theatre in Princeton, New Jersey sent out an email with the following subject line:

  • Subject: Arts and Culture Matter

Exactly 100 minutes later, a second email was sent:

  • Subject: My Apology

Yeah.

The apology was solid, noting the “very poor choice of words…in the subject line for today’s email”, which “came across as if we were equating arts and culture with the Black Lives Matter movement…not a belief that McCarter or I hold”. Of course, with a bit of thought and more judicious editing, the need for a second email could have been avoided entirely.

Take heed, marketers. The lessons from Rothy’s screw-up six years months weeks ago don’t just apply to COVID-19.

We All Hear a Yellow Multipurpose Machine

Wednesday, May 13th, 2020

Planning for an extension of transit service north of Boston began all the way back in 1990, but it took more than two decades of planning and delays before the Green Line Extension finally broke ground in 2012. Though it’s likely difficult for residents to believe it, the project is now getting somewhat close to completion. Some of this construction is taking place relatively near me, and I receive occasional updates on it.

Last week, I was alerted to some night time work which will be done over the next several weeks. Here’s an excerpt from that email:

Somerville and Medford residents living near the GLX MBTA rail alignment— especially residents between Lowell Street and College Avenue—may experience elevated nighttime noise levels over the next few weeks.

“Elevated nighttime noise levels” certainly sound unpleasant, but I suppose to make an omelet, you need to break a few eggs. The email detailed the work to be done, and then explained:

The yellow Multipurpose Machine will be on the rails most nights to support this work and the vehicle is required to sound its horn when it stops and starts. Additional heavy machinery in the rail alignment is expected to produce elevated noise levels which may be disruptive at times. The scheduling of the work at night is because its completion requires at least one line of track to be out of service.

The emphasis in the above quote is added, and it bears repeating. In addition to all the noise which naturally accompanies the laying of new train track, a support vehicle used in this construction is required to sound its horn when it stops and starts. That sounds like it’ll be quite a night, or several weeks of nights. It also seems like adding real insult to injury for those living near this construction.

Fortunately for me, I don’t live near this construction, so I won’t be impacted. As a result, I’m most interested to know more about the “yellow Multipurpose Machine”. It’s capitalized as if it’s a proper noun, and yet at present, the only Google search results for it are from this exact press release.

Look at Me. Look at Me.

Wednesday, May 6th, 2020

Yesterday, I received a flurry of emails from various charities to which I’ve donated. They all wanted me to be aware of a new global day of altruism created in response to the COVID-19 outbreak: #GivingTuesdayNow. The name’s a bit clunky, and I’m not sure if you pronounce the hashtag, but it’s a worthy idea.

However, multiple emails I received used a subject line I found rather aggressive:

  • Today is #GivingTuesdayNOW!

Between the phrasing and the emphasis, it’s like they’ve commandeered the “holiday”, and they’re that guy in “Captain Phillips” who tells Tom Hanks “I’m the captain now”.

Anyway, I hope you had a very merry #GivingTuesdayNow yesterday. If we’re going to make a hash of the calendar with repeated Black Fridays and the like, it’s good that we can at least double up on giving back too.

Lean Into That Name

Tuesday, May 5th, 2020

I recently received a fairly unnecessary email from American Airlines, detailing their new safety procedures for travelers. However, despite the fact that I have no plans to fly in the near future, this text caught my eye:

  • Kurt Stache, American’s Senior Vice President of Customer Experience, talks about our new requirement for wearing masks in flight…

As did this image:

It was difficult to be sure of what I was seeing with that massive play icon obstructing things, so I clicked to watch the video. Here’s a still:

Alas, my fears were confirmed. American Airlines Senior Vice President of Customer Experience Kurt Stache has no mustache.

Kurt, what are you doing with yourself? How do you not grow yourself a nose neighbor? You can’t be just out there living life looking like a nerdier Joe Buck, while you’ve got a phenomenal name like “Kurt Stache” at your disposal:


L: Joe Buck; R: Kurt Stache

No, you have to lean into that kind of name. Embrace it! Go Rollie Fingers with it:

Or Groucho Marx!1 You’ve got the eyebrows for it:

Give us something, man!


Footnotes:

  1. Did you know Groucho Marx’s mustache was fake? I did not! I’ve never seen his films, so I’m perhaps mostly familiar with him via novelty Groucho glasses:

    Now of course those are fake, but the eyebrows and mustache are quite bushy. And yet, in his vaudeville days and in most of his movies, Marx used simple lines of grease paint. Once you really look, it’s obvious:

    I was so blind. Even more confusing, in his later years, Marx grew a real mustache. ↩︎