Letter: Companies Pre-Check Permission Boxes to Increase Opt-in Rates

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If the purpose of a columnist is to generate a reaction, Tad Clarke will be happy to know that with one reader, at least, you enjoy regular success. Almost every week, without fail, I am annoyed with you after finishing your editorial.

Your Feb. 2 editorial was no exception ("Pre-Checked Boxes"). You chose to mock a typo on the San Francisco Chronicle's Web site rather than address the substance of the Chronicle's David Lazarus's argument that companies should implement best practices when collecting private information even if it is "willfully" being provided by the consumer.

Yes, as you point out, it is rather easy to uncheck a box on an online registration form if you do not want to receive unsolicited marketing materials. However, many people simply overlook that check box as they hurriedly complete another unnecessarily long registration form. That's why many companies check these boxes by default. They know they can substantially increase their opt-in rates by pre-checking permission boxes. But, in that case, a large percentage of people supposedly granting permission are not truly interested in the information offered.

If you and your organization advocated appropriate and pro-consumer ways of collecting information about prospective customers eager to hear a company's message rather than lazy and ethically challenged methods designed to harvest a broad swath of information from non-, marginal and real prospects, the entire direct marketing industry wouldn't be facing this backlash from consumers, legislators and even newspaper columnists.

In that case, your editorials would inspire us all to move the entire industry forward instead of just annoying a poor schmuck freezing his ass off in Minnesota.

David M. Noah, President, Shipping Solutions

Eagan, MN

Mr. Noah must have missed the part in the editorial that said: "Would it be better if the box were not already checked? Yes. Companies should work to get their own consent." Also, I'm assuming he meant the Direct Marketing Association when he wrote, "you and your organization." DM News is not affiliated with the DMA in any way.- TC

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