When writing Net Attitude back in the summer of 2001, one of the topics I included was netiquette, a set of social conventions I learned from David Singer and a few other IBMers who were steeped in Internet history. They taught me to not use ALL CAPS because in the culture of the Internet that meant you were YELLING. They taught me that when using a picture of yourself to make it small. Another dimension of netiquette — unsubscribe — emerged in the mid to late 1990s after web e-commerce was invented. The concept was and still is very simple. — make it easy for people to unsubscribe to your email list. It may not be immediately intuitive but the rationale is simply that if you make it easy, the person unsubscribing may remember you favorably and come back at some point. Make it difficult and they will definitely remember you and they likely will not come back. That point of no return is where I have reached with drugstore.com.
The health and beauty Internet retailer, headquartered in Bellevue, Washington, was launched in February, 1999. One would think by now they would have figured out how to make unsubscribe easy. Perhaps they don’t yet get it that this is important. At the bottom of their email it says “click here to unsubscribe or change your subscription settings”. That is mistake #1 — there should be a link to unsubscribe. Not “unsubscribe and” or “unsubscribe or”. One click on unsubscribe and maybe one more click to confirm and you should be finished. When you click the link at the bottom of the drugstore.com email, you end up at a page that has 9 different things you may be subscribed to. Still no plain old “unsubscribe”. You have to pick what you are subscribed to and then “update”. I have tried it multiple times and I am still getting their mailings. This is the part people do not forget. I will eventually get so annoyed that I will have to find a way to email them — something else drugstore.com makes difficult — and once I finally get off their list I will not return. There are plenty of online merchants that sell what drugstore.com sells.
Smart e-tailers, like amazon.com, make things easy. They know the consumer has a long memory and a short tolerance. They know that their competitor is a mouse click away. Power to the People still prevails on the Internet.