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,