Editorial: Never Mind

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E-mail can make us look so stupid.


Got an offer last week from RealBeer.com. As a new member who has received two admittedly overpriced -- but well worth it -- shipments from this club, I opened the e-mail immediately.


The gist of the offer was this: Order a sampler pack of 12 beers from around the world simply by responding to the e-mail. Then, get someone to join one of RealBeer.com's continuity clubs before March 30 (either by giving a gift membership, or by convincing them to join themselves) and the 12-pack's free. Otherwise, RealBeer.com in April will charge for the 12-pack, but waive shipping.


The bottom line: Responding to this offer meant one of two things -- either free beer, or free shipping.


Wow. After years of watching so many marketers toss direct marketing fundamentals aside online, here was an example of classic direct marketing in action. First was the strong offer: Get great beer now; pay for it later ... if at all.


And there, sitting in all its glory, was the direct marketing tool that spammers had seemingly pounded into oblivion for all time: the word free. But it seemed to work here.


Free was back! And it was being used to make a believable e-mail pitch from a known and trusted source. Maybe the word wasn't useless in e-mail marketing after all.


What's more, RealBeer.com had wisely left the price out of the pitch.


This stuff costs $34.95 per 12-pack including shipping and handling, and recipients had already shown by joining one of their clubs that they were a fairly frivolous bunch.


So why give them any reason to govern those impulses now? Good, good, good.


Hell, there was enough beer in the fridge already to get an entire rugby team thrown in jail, but this ... this was an offer that deserved rewarding.


A look at the time stamp showed that the offer arrived Tuesday at 9:16 p.m.


But hey ... wait a minute ... just above it was an e-mail that arrived from RealBeer.com at 9:32 p.m. with the word "recall" in the subject line. Uh oh.


Opening that e-mail revealed the following message: "Jim.CS [customer service] would like to recall the message, 'Get FREE BEER or FREE SHIPPING from Realbeer.com.'"


Oh.


Then, unbelievably, right above that was an e-mail that arrived from RealBeer.com at 9:37 repeating the original offer.


No one likes to be toyed with, especially when it involves a necessity like overly priced beer. Anticipation quickly turned to anger:


OK Jim, which is it? Are we on or are we off?


If I respond to this, are you going to maybe charge my credit card? Or are you going to maybe not charge it?


And if you charge it, are you going to choose a price based on what time of day it is? Hey, maybe I won't notice if you charge me for this Friday's marketing department happy hour binge. Is that what you think, Jim?


And as for the beer, what's going to be in that 12-pack? Some French version of Utica Club?


And as fast as you can say "click, click, click," all three e-mails were closed. The urge to respond was gone.


E-mail's like that. So much for the classic DM pitch.


For the record, I remain a highly satisfied customer of RealBeer.com's American Brewpub Club.


But don't mess with my head like that again, Jim. Beer's much too important for that. Damn, I don't even think I can do my work now ...


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