Idiot of the Week: An Open Letter to the Old Navy Director of Email Marketing

Dear Sir or Madam:

I regret to inform you that you are truly terrible at your job. Although, I don’t actually regret it, because you really should know better.  I’m sure you have a very fancy degree from a very fancy institution, but you seem to have neglected one basic principle that anyone with an email address could have told you: nobody wants to hear from you every single day. This is called “spamming the shit out of people.” You may recall that term from business school. I admit, I have no formal training in marketing like you surely do, but I do have an extensive background as a consumer and receiver of emails. And I can tell you that this approach of inundation is not effective.

Fun fact: did you know that our noses appear constantly in our field of vision, but our brains choose to ignore them because they are irrelevant? That is also what’s happened with your emails. They are such a standard fixture in my inbox that my brain has taken the liberty of erasing them from my field of vision. I don’t even see them, and I definitely don’t open them, read them, or visit your website because of them. Your subject line could read, “Marisa, I can’t believe you just laid down on your bed in the same clothes you wore on the metro, that is disgusting. How did I know that? I am watching you from your window!” and I wouldn’t bat an eye.

In addition to “playing it cool,” instead of contacting me with the tenacity of a jealous ex-boyfriend,  another concept you have failed to value is “the element of surprise.” If there is one thing I have learned after years of daily email notifications, it’s that you have a sale every day! Congratulations, you’ve just dissolved all sense of urgency for visiting your site. Why would I rush to take advantage of this sale when I know that a new one will start tomorrow? You aren’t even trying to pretend that there is a reason for your sales anymore. It used to be only on holidays – Black Friday Sale! Then you extended it to  seasons – Spring has Sprung Sale! Now you will have a sale for literally anything. This week I got an email from you saying “Happy Wednesday! 25% off!” Wednesday, really? Apparently regularly scheduled days of the week are cause for a sale now. What’s next? I Just Saved a Ton of Money on My Car Insurance Sale? I Pooped Today Sale?

Photo credit:

Photo credit:

Not only have you succeeded in making a sale old hat, but you have been feeding me scores of data for a trend analysis. Thanks to your daily emails, I have subconsciously observed patterns in your promotions, upon which I now base my shopping behavior; I know the count, and I know when to hit and when to stand. A 15% off sale? You’re joking right? 20% off? Better, but I’ll wait. 25% off and free shipping? It’s time to pounce. And if not, that’s okay too. Because in a few days, the sale will be back on to celebrate Tuesday or the sky being blue or something else earth-shattering.

This is yet another item to add to the list of things you should understand but obviously don’t: “Why Sales Work.” A sale drives business because people think they are getting a bargain. “This shirt is worth $25 but I am getting it for $17! I have beaten the system!” But when you have a sale every day, you devalue your product. Your customers, stupid as we are, will eventually catch on that maybe that shirt is only worth $17 in the first place if you are selling it for $17 every damn day. And that maybe you never even intended for it to be sold at the full retail price because it isn’t worth the full retail price, and only made the full retail price $25 so you could mark it down and trick customers into thinking they are getting that high $25 quality for a low $17 price. Eventually, when the adrenaline from saving $8 wears off, customers will realize that the system has been beating them this whole time.  Aren’t you the least bit worried what could happen when masses of customers grow wise to this mistreatment and decide to fight back, or have you not seen Rise of the Planet of the Apes?

While you consider this, you should also warn your cronies at the outlet mall because they are running the same game. Do you know how excited people get when they see a sign in a store window that says, “All stock 60% off!” Let me just tell you it is a near shit-your-pants level of excitement. You picture yourself looting the store and tossing the cashier $13 as you leave dragging a giant sack of merchandise behind you. So can you imagine how disappointed people get when they go inside to find that a t-shirt still costs $40 after that hefty discount because everything in the store has been marked up 100% so it could be marked down 60% at the register? Or did you think we wouldn’t notice? That kind of up and down can make for a very emotionally unstable customer.

I don’t know how you’ve managed to make so many mistakes, but I beseech you, correct some of them before we have a riot on our hands.

All the best,


25 thoughts on “Idiot of the Week: An Open Letter to the Old Navy Director of Email Marketing

  1. I found your blog after I was doing a search on Old Navy pricing practices for sales. I got suspicious about their Black Friday sale with the whole store 40% off, but when I went to buy clothes there for my kids, the t-shirts had prices like “$14.94” which is an ODD price for an item. A little simple math brought me to the conclusion that the t-shirt probably cost $12.99 originally and had been marked up 15% before the sale. So I actually got 25% off. Standard business practice says that you have to have at least a 30% markup before you turn a profit. Very sneaky on their part. Not shopping there often, I can’t even be sure they didn’t mark it up more than that since I don’t know what the prices were before the sale.

    • Very interesting, that does not surprise me in the least. This is why people need to focus on the final price and if it is a good value, not what percent discount they are getting. I was actually there on Black Friday when they had 50% off the store. People were going nuts heaping piles of clothes into carts… I had one item. The prices still weren’t impressive after half off I didn’t see why people were buying up the store at normal prices.

  2. Hi! I was perusing your blog after seeing it in the comments of J-Bo’s blog. I found this post and just had to comment, because these are my exact feelings towards the nine hundred Loft emails I get a day!! You have put my feelings in to words expertly. One time Loft was having a “50% Off Flash Sale!” that ended in a couple hours, and I needed new jeans, but my laptop was all the way on the other side of the room, and I was, you know, already sitting down and in no mood to get up. So I just said “meh, there will be another one in a couple days. I’ll just wait until one of their daily sales coincides with me being within reachable distance of a computer. And probably wait till it’s 60% off.” I really feel like their marketing firm should know this.

    • Haha I love that story, it is perfect! How do they not know this – we know all their secrets now! We know all the sales and know there is no rush. When I buy something in person at Loft and they ask for my email I say, “trust me, they have it, oh do they have it.”

  3. Pingback: Ignoring Your Love Insults My Intelligence | Bumblepuppies

  4. I use the Old Navy spam as markers showing the passage of time… any e-mail from actual humans that is above the second Old Navy ad from the top is “new” and merits my attention. Anything below that I’ve probably already dismissed as not being worth the trouble of answering.

  5. Thank you for saying what we are all thinking. I can’t tell you how my inbox fills up with endless dribble of sales from the same institution every day until I just go through and delete without even opening them anymore!

  6. I haven’t paid more than $15 for a shutterfly book in 3 years. And I have received approximately 200 prints and 50 cards from shutterfly for absolutely free (well, about $15 total in shipping) in the same time period.

    As you note – why should I pay full price when they send me sale and for free offers nearly every day?

  7. Marissa,
    You are a seriously funny human. I never shop at Old Navy because the store feels as appealing as a Home Depot, and it is way to much of a labryinth for me. Since I don’t shop there often, I am not quite sure of their sizes, so hesitate to buy online.. Which is sort of a shame, My sister buys great things there–maybe she has just said no to the mailing list thing! You do hit the nail on the with this mark- up and mark down and promote game…sure you weren’t a marking major? Now don’t say means things about them…I was one of those 35 years ago when the marketplace was a gentler creature.
    Thanks for today’s mighty roar! You rock! XX, Elle

  8. Oh, Old Navy. Their sales can be completely ridiculous. In my town, the moment they announce they are having a $1 flip-flop sale the next day, everyone goes crazy. I remember it was spammed all over Facebook by my gal pals. Again, ridiculous!

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