I only called out Orbitz, Shutterlfy, and Fandango because I’m a big customer of theirs. Fandango not so much since I hardly ever go to the movies anymore, but I use it almost every time I go. Each company built great technology and delivered a great product until they got greedy and decided to break an ethical line I never would have thought possible in 2009.
It’s called Post Transaction Marketing and Tech Crunch broke this story last week. The way it works is that you make a legitimate online purchase and afterwards they say something like, “Enter your email address for a 20% coupon on your next purchase.” I’ve seen this many time and I assumed that this was a way to sign you up for spam lists. Not great, but definitely not anything to get terribly upset over. Any time you hand over your email address you should expect to spammed unless they explicitly say they won’t.
It turns out the fine print said that entering your email address gave them the ok to enter you into a useless “Web Loyalty” program that charged your credit card up to $10/month. The online retailer you just did business with happily handed over your credit card information without your explicit consent. Sure it was in the fine print, but by asking for your email address they broke a well established social norm that said you were ok as long as you did business with reputable companies who followed standard checkout procedures and never entered your credit card number.
Tech Crunch has the full list of companies who made a million dollars or more for this and it’s despicable. I wasn’t personally ripped off by this scam, but I can’t believe their management allowed it to happen. If they want to make amends they should refund every dollar they made off of it today.
I’m going to do everything I can to move my money away from these companies immediately.