Hey Fresh Market, why am I signed up for all these coupons?

Just when you thought the dreaded “opt-out” provision is dead, along comes your favorite supermarket to prove you wrong.

That would be, ahem, Fresh Market. If you live in the American South, I know what you’re probably thinking. Overpriced food. Pretentious. So not worth it. But after a long day of saving the world, nothing makes my kids happier than buying a pint of exotic gelato from a fogged-up freezer. Bellissimo!

Fresh Market makes me feel good, with its European-style displays and do-gooding charity donations. So when the checkout display asked me if I wanted my receipt emailed to me, I thought, “Brilliant idea. That’s one less tree to kill.”

Unfortunately, it killed something else: my faith that a company like Fresh Market would always do the right thing. It also serves as a warning to anyone who assumes a company will make the right call, when it comes to marketing. My advice: Don’t bet on it.

Fresh Market emailed me the receipt, as promised. But it didn’t stop there. On the same day, it sent me a $10 coupon, which expired in six days. Unusable for me, since I don’t shop at Fresh Market that often.

A day later, it sent me a notification that chicken was on sale for $2.99 a pound (never go to Fresh Market on the day they have a chicken sale; it’s a madhouse). The next day, I received two more emails with specials. And the next day, another one, advertising bottles of wine on sale. I don’t drink, so I’m not sure why they thought I needed that.

Here’s the thing: I never asked for these coupons.

Or did I?

I scrolled back. When I asked for the email receipt, I remember a button and a small notification, saying that by giving Fresh Market my email, I was agreeing to its terms. But there was no way to read and review the terms — at least none that I could see — and besides, people were waiting in line behind me.

How clever.

Turns out I’d been opted in to Fresh Market’s email lists by surrendering my email. But no worries! I could always opt out. Here’s how:

We provide you the opportunity to exercise an opt-out choice if you do not want to receive other types of communication from us, such as emails or updates from us regarding new services and products offered on this Site. If you would like to opt-out of these types of communications and would like us to remove your name from our on-line mailing list, please send an e-mail to CustomerServiceForms@thefreshmarket.net.

Put differently, when customers try to do good (save a few trees) Fresh Market sees it as a marketing opportunity.

This seems to run contrary to its published goal, which is to offer “high-quality food products, with an emphasis on fresh, premium perishables and an uncompromising commitment to customer service.” But perhaps the company’s definition of uncompromising customer service is different from mine.

While that’s legal, it goes against best practices online. You don’t opt your customers into a mailing list by default when they’re signing up for something else. Fresh Market could have easily asked me if I wanted coupons when it sent me the first receipt. I probably would have said “yes.” Now, I’m just an unhappy customer.

I decided to let Fresh Market know about it. So I sent the following email through its website:

I love your stores. Often, when I’m traveling, I go out of my way to shop at them because you carry some of the more exotic products that I can’t find at a regular grocery store. Also, your customer service is excellent.

Several days ago while I was paying for my groceries, I was asked during the checkout if I wanted my my receipt emailed to me. I thought this was a good idea, since it would save paper.

Below the field where I added my email address, I saw a notification that by offering my email address, I was also agreeing to Fresh Markets’ terms. However, there was no opportunity to review those terms. I also felt as if there was no time, with several customers waiting behind me.

I felt pressured into clicking the “accept” button.

Almost immediately, I began receiving offers from your store by email. I would respectfully request that you consider changing your intake process for customers. I would recommend sending a receipt, along with an offer to opt in to your coupons, rather than assuming that your customers want these coupons.

The opt-in, as opposed to opt-out, is considered a best practice in the IT world. It is the kind of standard that I, as a customer, would expect from Fresh Market.

I hope you will consider making this policy change. I await your affirmative reply.

I didn’t play the media card. I just wrote as a private citizen. If I wanted to cause a dustup, I could have fired off an email to one of Fresh Market’s executives.

Here’s the reply:

Dear Mr. Elliott,

Thank you for contacting The Fresh Market in regards to our e-receipt program. I have forwarded your comments and suggestions concerning this program to our marketing department for review. I have also taken you off of our marketing emails list so you should not be receiving these emails after 24 hours.

Please let me know if you would like for me to unsubscribe you from our e-receipts program. We sincerely appreciate you taking time to contact us and provide us with your valuable feedback.

Thank you for shopping with us.

Sincerely,

 Candy 

Customer Loyalty

The Fresh Market, Inc.

I’ll take that as a “no.”

I guess Fresh Market doesn’t care what we think of its aggressive marketing efforts. It will do the right thing, but only if it’s convenient.

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