Executive Summary: On November 28, 2007, I put in a request through CatalogChoice.org to stop receiving Pier 1’s catalogs. I visited Catalog Choice’s site on January 25th to find that Pier 1 refused my request. In effect, Pier 1 is refusing to collaborate with Catalog Choice. When I complained to Pier 1, the CSR told me that Pier 1 accepts requests to stop receiving their catalog only through the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) or if contacted directly but not through Catalog Choice. In my opinion, this clearly shows that Pier 1 has decided to adopt aggressive practices when it comes to advertising to potential customers.
My first communication with Pier 1 regarding this occurred on Jan 25th. I sent an email to their customer service department saying grosso modo the following. 1) We don’t want Pier 1’s catalog. 2) Sending paper catalogs to people who don’t want them is not environmentally sound. 3) Pier 1 is also wasting its money when it sends catalogs to people who don’t want them. 4) Pier 1’s refusing our request shows that they don’t care about us as clients. 5) Pier 1’s refusal to honor our request is unreasonable. Hence, although we’ve enjoyed Pier 1’s offerings in the past, we’re unlikely to shop there again.
The reply I got said that Pier 1 does not accept request through Catalog Choice but they accept requests through the DMA and requests from people contacting Pier 1 directly. It is at this point that Pier 1’s aggressivity really came through. Let me explain how both options are aggressive towards customers.
Here is what the DMA has to say about themselves:
The Direct Marketing Association is the leading global trade association of business and nonprofit organizations using and supporting direct marketing tools and techniques.
The DMA is an association of businesses, not an association of customers. Therefore, I do not believe that the DMA is the best representative of my interests as a customer. In fact, when I think about the DMA, here are the things that come to mind: invasion of privacy, time robbers, undesirable interruptions, harassing behavior, and so on and so forth. Moreover, the DMA is actively lobbying governments to kill legislation that would help customers get rid of unwanted advertising. Let me make this clear: the DMA is working against the interests of costumers who want more control over what gets in their mailbox. Is the DMA the best organization to contact to get my privacy rights respected?
Moreover, the DMA is patently hostile to Catalog Choice. I have for evidence this blog post on Catalog Choice’s web site:
In spite of our efforts not to demonize the industry, the Direct Marketing Association continues to send messages to catalog companies that paint Catalog Choice as the devil. The nasty things they say about Catalog Choice make us think that they are worried about the power of your wishes. Instead of working in the best interest of consumers, the actions of the DMA are driving a serious wedge between consumers and catalog companies. We think that’s bad business.
(Note that this specific piece of information was not known to me until yesterday so I never communicated it to Pier 1.)
Finally, the web site that the DMA has created to opt out of mailing lists is confusing to use and does not provide the same level of functionality as Catalog Choice. From what I understand on the DMA’s site, if I go through them I have two options: either I’m on everyone’s mailing list and then I get all catalogs or I’m off the list and I get no catalogs at all. Catalog Choice allows us to select *which* catalog we want to continue receiving and which catalogs we do not want. The Catalog Choice site is well designed and easy to use.
For all of the above reasons, the method of going through the DMA to stop receiving Pier 1’s catalog is unacceptable. It is in fact downright hostile.
Contacting Pier 1 directly is also unacceptable. The reasoning here is that if I have to hunt down phone numbers or email addresses for each and every catalog I do not want to receive and communicate with each and every company individually, this process causes me to waste my time. Catalog Choice streamlines the process tremendously. Getting a company to stop sending unwanted catalogs should be a trivial matter rather than a chore. By asking its customers to contact it directly, Pier 1 is in effect making this task a chore.
In my reply to the CSR, I argued all of the above, except for the part about the DMA painting Catalog Choice as the devil because that was unknown to me at that time. The CSR said on Feb 7th that she forwarded my comments to someone who can reverse the decision regarding Catalog Choice but I have not heard anything since. At this point, Pier 1 is off my list of retailers I want to do business with. I’d still very much like to know what precisely their problem with Catalog Choice is because I can’t think of a valid reason to refuse requests put through Catalog Choice.