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Correcting Your Behavior Since 2017

A Little Less Conversation

A few weeks ago, your Curmudgeon made an online purchase of some socks. It wasn’t a momentous occurrence. In fact, I’m not entirely sure what prompted the purchase, other than the fact that one can never have too many socks.

Once the order was placed, I was redirected to another screen that confirmed my success at completing the shopping process. Simultaneously, a message appeared in my email inbox further reconfirming that, yes, my order had been received and my socks would soon be en route to my home. Content in this assurance, I moved on to more pressing matters.

Moments later, upon checking email, I discovered a thoughtful followup from the online purveyors of my socks, thanking me for my purchase and letting me know that, should I have the desire to add to my order, I could do so at a 15% discount. And while I appreciated so generous a gesture, I decided to leave my order as it was since socks were the only things I needed from this particular company at this time.

Later that evening, I received yet another online missive from my attentive socks sellers. This time, they assured me that my order had been received and was—at that selfsame moment—being attended to by their expert staff. Bathed in relief, I went off to bed.

The next morning, I discovered that as I’d slept, still another email had arrived, this one informing me that there may be a slight delay in the arrival of my socks and apologizing for any inconvenience this might cause. Fortunately, I had other socks. (Indeed, as I stated earlier, I can’t quite recollect why I’d chosen to order more.) Honestly, I can’t imagine that anyone’s need for socks would be so urgent that a slight delay might wreak havoc with their plans.

Over the next few days, this correspondence continued: The socks were once again on their way; the socks were arriving on such-and-such date; the socks were still on schedule; the socks were in Indiana; their arrival would now be sooner than previously estimated; an assertion that my satisfaction was important to them; an update—the socks would arrive by the next day; the next day—the socks would arrive today; here they come; the socks are to be delivered by Samson; Samson has located the destination; Samson has stopped for gas; Samson is feeling confident; Samson is walking up to my door; and finally, the socks have arrived. This last bit of information was particularly superfluous as I was by then holding said socks in my hands and was therefore not in need of an update.

But the messages continued, one asking me to rate Samson’s delivery, another asking me to rate the overall shopping experience, and then, the next day, one asking me how I was enjoying the socks and asking me to take a survey, then write a review to share with my fellow shoppers.

As has become my practice, I headed to the website from which I’d made my initial purchase and, following a search as challenging as any that was ever attempted by Scotland Yard, located the link that would allow me to remove my address from the email list. An automated response asked me to confirm that I indeed wanted to “opt out,” as they say, offering the option of merely limiting the emails to only those that were particularly important. (I really couldn’t imagine what might qualify as an important email, now that I had my socks.) I clicked the button that reaffirmed the request I’d already initiated.

The final message told me they were sorry to see me go. I felt a twinge of guilt. Breakups are never easy. But when I counted up the thirty-seven emails I’d received with regard to my new socks, it seemed to me that the whole thing had become way too involved and frankly, a bit obsessive.

If a company really wants to score high marks with shoppers and increase the likelihood of repeat business, I might offer the following customer retention technique: Just sell us the damned socks and let us wear them in peace.


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