Famous Last Words: Web ‘Stoopidity’ …

Thank you so much!
We hope we’ve WOW’d you with your order.
If not, please contact us so we can make things better.

If eBirdseed’s management had any sense, they too would have cut a deal with ozbo (or somebody) to supply sunflower hearts. Customers are not interested whiners. We want service!

The New York Times Store
My wife, Peggy, and I have been to a lot of places. One day recently, Peggy mentioned it would be fun to get a world map that we could stick pins in to remind us of our various trips.
Mirabile dictu, the next day I came across an ad for such a map, in a handsome frame and including pins, from The New York Times store. With Peggy’s birthday later that month, I went to the NYT website and spent 10 minutes ordering the thing (along with an easy NYT book of Monday crossword puzzles).

When I clicked “submit,” I got a strange message saying that the order could not be fulfilled because of some problem about my email address. Please try again. I went through the process and was again turned down. Whereupon, I said “screw it” and abandoned the shopping cart.

Whereupon I started receiving “win-back” efforts, the most recent of which said:

Hi Denny,

This is a final courtesy reminder from The New York Times Store:
Your shopping cart will expire soon and you can still redeem your discount for 10% Off your order when you enter the promotion code USTEN into the coupon code box. This offer is valid for a limited time only.
Click Here to receive this exclusive offer. You will not be contacted further.

The New York Times Store

I wasn’t going to spend time trying to order only to be turned down again. Two elements of this win-back effort pissed me off: 1) Did they really think they could buy off a customer who was not allowed to order with a lousy 10 percent discount after the fact? 2) I looked carefully at my abandoned shopping cart and discovered I was going to be charged a usurious $32.95 for shipping and handling.

Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at dennyhatch.com.

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  • C. Thomas (Tom) Smith, III


    Great example of Amazon teaching others’ how it’s done. I recently had an experience with Costco online where they didn’t answer their phones after 9:00 EST. Amazon got the sale in less than five minutes.


    Happy holidays,


  • Ben Gay

    Denny –

    I’m 100% with you! While it used to take a little thought/effort to walk out of an physical establishment I’d already entered, mess with me on the web and I’m gone in a millisecond!

    Merry Christmas to you and yours!


  • Will Ezell

    You keep giving me this opportunity to define marketing (but I won’t)!

    Another kick-ass dead-on-target blog Denny!

    You are the master!

  • tony the pitiful copywriter

    WHATEVER HAPPENED to the practice of checking in on your competitors? I can’t get anyone among our "young hipster set" to check out our competitors on-line, let alone willfully sign up for emails. People, this is how you LEARN to grow your business, to BORROW (steal) ideas that could work for you…and to see if what you’re doing makes sense to the other guy’s customers.

    Someone (anyone) at ebirdseed.dumb could google "sunflower seeds" before sending out that lame excuse for poor service. Everyone’s cred is up for grabs, no thanks to the internet — but if you learn to live with it, you can make it work for you, or in this case, against you.

  • Susan the Catalog Doctor

    Enjoyed your blog today on web stoopidity. In my experience, if the marketing people aren’t aggressivly sticking their nose in every corner of the business, the operational people will come up with these "it makes my life easy" types of policies. I was just following a client’s email string where the client wanted to extend the last-chance shipping deadlines, and staff came back with a dozen reasons that it couldn’t possibly be done. In the old days, he would have caved, but the new marketing head pushed back and got what he — and their customers — wanted.
    For the sparrows, finches, juncos and ducks who visit my condo deck, my go-to source is http://www.duncraft.com. I’ve never gone wrong dealing with them over the years. I checked for you and they do have sunflower hearts in stock, and 20% off. I also like dealing with family businesses like theirs.

  • Mark Simchock

    Obviously, no one deserves to be this frustrated.

    However, as a web savvy marketer who comes from a systems / IT / technical background, I’d like to take this opportunity to re-spin Denny’s thoughts just a bit. I appreciate his venting but I would prefer to channel that into more useful action oriented information for the rest of us.

    In short, put the just-add-water myths aside, the truth is that e-comm isn’t easy. And that those who make it look easy are very good at it *and* working very hard at it. Don’t be fooled by what you see on the surface. A best in class outfit is working relentlessly to create a friction-less experience.

    In addition, it’s worth mentioning that the more sophisticated and and back-end feature-rich (read: enhancements requested / dictated by marketing et al) an e-comm website becomes, the more that can go wrong. And sometimes it does. Certainly, a big dog (read: plenty of resources) like the NY Times doesn’t purposely jinx an order. I’m not making excuses for anyone here. I’m just trying to give some perspective to some request user make for functionality that might be heavy-handed and in turn glitch prone.

    Marketers should be very mindful that such systems are not perfect. Just like a guitar doesn’t stay in tune forever, there is always the possibility of unanticipated results. Marketers should plan for those when possible. For example, perhaps if the p.s. in the email from NYT said, "If you are experiencing problems with our website please click here or call." Obviously that’s not ideal but it’s at least something. The alternative of public execution (via customer verbal complaint) isn’t exactly ideal either, yes?