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Is Whistler-Blackcomb email marketing responsible?

By November 26, 2008January 21st, 20219 Comments

On Monday, I received a message from Whistler Blackcomb to inform me of the open dates for each of the mountains.

I don’t recall signing up to receive these notifications, but I was there last season and might have provided my email address somewhere to someone.

No matter. I didn’t mind receiving the message, and I didn’t consider it spam.

As one of the top ski areas in the world and host to the 2010 Winter Olympics, Whistler Blackcomb is a premium brand you can trust.

I figured I could unsubscribe from the notification and I’d be done. Here’s the screen I received when I did:

Whistler Blackcomb email marketing opt-out form

I assumed the section that “Option 1” in red was the area I was supposed to use to remove myself from their mailing list. But “Option 2” listed seven other possible lists.

This raised a number of questions for me:

  • Did they add me to every email list they have? If they did, it was without my permission and they’ve become spammers. I don’t think that’s the case since this is the only message I’ve received.
  • Is it possible this simply shows I’m not subscribed to any of their lists?
  • Was this actually an opt-in form?
  • Or, is this is just a poorly thought out and designed email opt-out form? From a usability standpoint, I don’t know what to do with it, and I know a thing or two about web usability.

I’m not sure what they are guilty of, but I do know this isn’t what I’d expect from Whistler Blackcomb. They can do better.

So, do you believe Whistler-Blackcomb’s email marketing efforts are responsible or not?

Comment below to share your thoughts.

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Join the discussion 9 Comments

  • Kathy says:

    Hi, Patrick — I think the person who created the form was clueless and probably had a poorly written functional spec. I’d like to doubt that it was intentionally that bad. But …

    … I went to the Whistler-Blackcomb website to see what the newsletter “sign up” form looked like. Guess what? I couldn’t find one! Then I noticed that in the upper right hand corner there was a (poorly designed) link to sign up for a snow report. I held my breath and clicked. That link revealed five newsletter options …. and they do _not_ match your “unsub” list.

    I’m forced to believe based on this test that their marketing folks are, indeed, irresponsible. Sad.

    This reminds me of my story with NW Airlines that I haven’t gotten around to writing…

  • moon says:

    I think it’s really obnoxious when a company automatically uses information I used to purchase a service, to add that information to their email list. That sort of thing should be opt-in only, instead they force you to go and opt-out when they didn’t even get your permission to send that stuff in the first place. Even when I do want to hear from a company I purchase from, if I sign up for their email list, it isn’t spam, but if they start sending me emails daily I am more likely to opt out because the sheer volume of mail by several companies sending emails daily is too much advertising in my box as well. I think more than one ad a month from a company I actually want to hear from is bad taste, or at least more often than every two weeks.
    Option 2 suggests that you have been signed up for all of those emails, and you have to unsubscribe to all of them. It seems they want to find out what your limits are. Whenever I am faced with a screen like that, I unsubscribe from all of them. Automatically signing someone on to your email list just because they purchased something from you assumes that if they purchased something once, then they would be interested in purchasing again, but honestly that sort of assumption on the part of a company where I didn’t sign up for it just alienates me, if they only send something a couple times a year I’m not likely to be bothered by it, but if they commence to sending stuff daily or weekly when I didn’t sign up for it, then it really alienates me from wanting to do business with them again, plus the added aggravation of having to go opt out. If the whole point is to increase sales, and the result is alienation of a customer from over doing it, then I would consider that irresponsible marketing.

  • cujo says:

    Moon: take a breath. Relax. Or you will be aliented. If a company sends one announcement type of email like the one above, what’s the big deal? Maybe they don’t normally do this, so they don’t have an unsub for announcements. My guess is that the options on the unsub are actually putting some control in the custpomers hands by telling them what you don’t want, without having to get off of all lists and miss out on stuff people may weant. Just guessing, but i don’t think its such a big deal.

  • Chris says:

    Actually, I think what’s happening here is Patrick’s e-mail was provided to CLUB INTRAWEST, which appears to be a timeshare/vacation company. I don’t think this was actually the Whistler organization. I would think this reply would be easy to figure out…you just pick the bottom option (unsubscribe to all Intrawest options) It appears to be an effort to inform what is available from Intrawest. Seems simple to me.

  • Hmmm. I think you are right, Chris. Still, it doesn’t quite jive. I KNOW I didn’t sign up for everything on that list.

    The responsible approach would have been to send me a message inviting me to sign up for some of their other information offerings. NOT give me a list of all their publications when I’m simply trying to unsubscribe from one.

  • Karla says:

    My name is Karla and I’m the Interactive Marketing Manager for Whistler Blackcomb Mountains. Patrick thank you for pointing out the confusion around the unsubscribe form. In the last month we changed the names of some of our e-mails and failed to update the unsubscribe form – lesson learned. I will have the names of the e-mails updated and also add a brief description to each to give more guidance. The e-mail you received is an announcement and we typically send 2-4 of these announcements in a year. I have unsubscribed you from receiving any further announcements. Again thank you for letting us know about the confusion, but feel free to contact us directly we are a friendly bunch here. See you on the mountains.

  • this kind of poor database management is incompetent rather than malicious. the program is simply not smart enough to match your e-mail with the lists you subscribe to. I’ve seen a lot of these.

    It should be a no-brainer to reach into the db, match the e-mail, and say, you are currently subscribed to these lists–which do you want to change (including an unsub-all button)–and many list management systems do just that. But DB programmers don’t always think like customer service VPs. :-).

    While I don’t discuss databasing specifically, my award-winning sixth book, Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First, does include a section on taking the customer experience to the next level.

  • jason says:

    HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!
    This cracks me UP!!
    I just tried to unsubscribe from MARKETINGPROFS email newsletter and got sent to an HTML ERROR PAGE!!!

    it should be noted that the reason for me unsubscribing was that all the articles I was sent in the newsletter required me to pay for a service!! brilliant.

    cracks me up that they have the audacity to print this article when their own website has the same issues…..
    can’t imagine this “reply” will get posted, but had to comment anyway.

    I also like how the name, (E)mail and website form is misspelled…. Pretty sure you meant to say “EMail”….not “Mail”….

  • Thanks, all, for your thoughtful comments on this.

    Jason, sorry but I’m a little confused. Was there a link to this post off the MarketingProfs newsletter?

    Happy marketing,


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