Dear Companies: Stop Doing That!


Image by misteraitch via Flickr

Sometimes I get fed up. It seems like every day companies are acting more and more cavalier with my time and attention, wasting an ever-increasing part of my day to accomplish absolutely nothing.

Last night I reached into my mailbox to find a plain white envelope, probably five inches by eight, no logo, no return address, just an expanse of white with my address slightly off-center. Out of the mailbox and whoosh! straight into the trash. I know what it was — a Cox cable ad. The third one I’ve gotten in the last week or so, packaged exactly the same, ostensibly so I wouldn’t know it was a Cox cable ad. Even Cox knows I don’t want to see a Cox cable ad.

The thing is, I already get Cox cable — it’s provided by my HOA. Which is nice, it means my TiVO can record The Daily Show and the occasional movie on TCM. So I’m not going to pay again for service I already get. Meanwhile, Cox is spending what, a buck or two a month, sometimes more, to send me mailings that will never entice me to buy. If I wanted cable, of course I’d call them — who else is there?

Anyway, it got me thinking about the myriad ways companies waste my time, and the money they spend to earn my ill will. Here then, in no particular order, is a list of 10 things companies just shouldn’t do.

  1. Send repeated email or (worse) junk mail come-ons. Especially for products I have no intention of buying, like services they know I already get or products I have repeatedly not bought in the past. Smith’s supermarket just sent me coupons for dog food, even though I haven’t bought dog food in nearly 3 years. Which they know, because the same database that told them I once bought dog food in their store certainly tells them I haven’t since.
  2. Clutter my inbox with a constant stream of email ads masquerading as “newsletters”. Frankly, if you’re emailing me more than once a month, it’s too much, but if that lesson isn’t going to sink in, at least make it worth my while to open the damn things. You know how easy it is to delete email? Especially when the last dozen or two dozen or 812 emails have been devoid of anything useful?
  3. Ask me to enter barely legible codes into a website to earn points or prizes. Come up with something, anything, different, soda companies. I drink a ton of soda, I’m definitely the kind of customer you want to keep in the fold — so ask yourself why you have no record of me in your “Cola Points” database or whatever bullshit program you’re running.
  4. Ask me to nag my friends and betray my integrity by posting your stupid come-ons into my social network stream. I like to think that the things I post on Facebook, Twitter, my blogs, or elsewhere are meaningful expressions of who I am. Asking me to shill your product so that I can win a contest, well, that just sucks.
  5. Ask my state in your web forms. I just entered my zip code — you know what state I live in. Why are you wasting my time — and why are you making yourself look like an idiot. In the handful of cases where a zip code straddles a state line, you could have a state drop-down appear — Christ, folks, it’s just programming!
  6. Require me to check which credit card I’m using. Again, as soon as I enter the number, you know. Mastercards start with “5”, Visas with “4” — like zip codes, it’s just programming!
  7. Ask me more than once if I’m sure I want to cancel a service. I know, you have a skilled retention team and sometimes they can resolve problems and prevent a cancellation. Surely offering once is enough — don’t make me feel like a jerk for canceling a service I don’t want!
  8. Make me call to cancel a service I signed up for online. The whole point of signing up online was to avoid having to deal with a lengthy phone call (have you read that most adults hate making phone calls? It’s research, look into it.) Oh, I get it — you can use that resistance to making the call to squeeze a few extra months out of me. Which makes you look better… how, again?
  9. Hide the price of stuff. Software company websites are notorious for this — often the only way to find out what something costs is to click the “Buy” button. Purely ridiculous! You understand how people use the web, right? We compare a lot of products, look at prices, skip around from site to site — you’re not making your site “sticky” be refusing to show me the price, you’re making your site dismissible.
  10. Make me watch a video to find out what your product does. Really, jackoffs? You’re so freaking bad at writing you can’t even post s simple bulleted list of what the hell your product does? I’m supposed to sit though your insufferable royalty-free music and your insufferable droney voice going on and on and on just so I can get to the one sentence that says what the hell your product is supposed to be? Well, I’m sure you can see how positive this makes me feel about your lame excuse for a company.

Look, companies, by doing this shit you’re making life harder, not easier. I know some of this stuff works, at least from a revenue perspective. If I put off canceling a subscription, you make a few extra bucks. And I know few people stop the ordering process because they’re asked for their state. But come on, this is the 21st century. We’re in a freaking recession, we work longer hours than we have in generations, we spend almost no time socializing because we’re too overworked and underpaid and just too damn tired and you’re wasting our time. Stand up, be a mensch for goodness sake. STOP IT.

5 comments to Dear Companies: Stop Doing That!

  • Sonny Minx

    Good post, Dustin. It’s comforting to know I’m not the only one who gets annoyed about the ignorance of order forms. Points 5 & 6 drive me nuts. It’s not just programming, but basic simple programming. Though it’s worse when you’re on the phone with some CSR who does this every day and still doesn’t understand that credit card numbers identify the type of card. Ugh.

  • Oh, I forgot another one — that thing where you call your phone company and they ask you to enter your phone number and then they direct you to the customer service person and the first thing they ask is your phone number. If you have a complex issue, you might give your phone number a dozen times as they transfer you through the system — even though they all have your phone number already!

  • Sonny Minx

    ah yes.. those companies spend millions on advanced Interactive Voice Response (IVR/VRU) systems to eliminate those inefficiencies, and yet the problem never gets solved.

    Brilliant people develop the systems.
    IT departments rationalize the purchase and installation.
    HR staff are trained on how to operate and best utilize it.

    And somehow they blow it. At the only point when any of it really matters; the moment of customer engagement.

  • Hi! Quick question thats entirely off topic, Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly?.

  • hough it’s worse when you’re on the phone with some CSR who does this every day and still doesn’t understand that credit card numbers identify the type of card. Ugh.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>