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Ken Magill

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Another Case of Self-Loathing in Email? Or Just Poor Word Choice?

2/18/14

By Ken Magill

A recent supermarket-chain email may illustrate how self-loathing has permeated email marketing, the only industry whose practitioners beat themselves up for engaging in perfectly ethical and acceptable business practices.

Or maybe the message is a case of the writer inadvertently channeling email marketers’ propensity for self flagellation with a poorly constructed sentence.

“Dear Loyal Customer,” the email from Super Fresh began, according to a report on Consumerist.com.

“On behalf of Superfresh, [sic] we thank you for your loyalty. We have decided to take a break from sending email communications to you in order to improve your email experience.”

Consumerist, of course, gave the message its worst possible interpretation. “Superfresh [sic] Sends Unsolicited Email to Let Me Know It’s Taking a Break from Sending Unsolicited Email,” said Consumerist’s headline on the post.

Super Fresh could be suspending its email communications to certain customers for any number of reasons. However, if or when Super Fresh resumes sending email to those subscribers, it risks being reported as a spammer by people who forgot they signed up.

Also, consider the construction of that opening sentence and one possible interpretation: sending no email equals improving customers’ email experience.

Then again, maybe it’s just a poorly worded opening sentence. The message ends: “We will be back soon…and better than ever.”

So maybe Super Fresh is making an improvement such as switching vendors and its executives decided it was best to suspend emailing while it makes the switch.

If so, the phrase “in order to” in Super Fresh’s email should have been “while we.”

Contrary to Consumerist’s assumption, Super Fresh certainly doesn’t act like a spammer. It employs fully confirmed opt-in—where subscribers must respond to a confirmation email in order to get added to the marketer’s list—during its email signup process. Fully confirmed opt-in is the gold standard in email-marketing permission practices.

As a result, the idea that Super Fresh is sending unsolicited email to let people know it’s taking a break from sending unsolicited email, as Consumerist puts it, is a stretch. But then the writers at Consumerist aren’t known for giving retailers the benefit of the doubt.

If the Super Fresh email is a case of a marketer suspending email marketing while it improves its program from an end-user perspective, the message should have offered a clearer explanation.

It’s one more example of why getting a family member to give an email the once over before we hit “send” can go a long way toward avoiding embarrassing miscommunications.

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