Williams Sonoma Email Address Collection: Just be Honest and Let Us Know!

Williams Sonoma Email Address Collection Just be Honest and let us Know!This weekend I went into a Williams Sonoma store at my local mall to buy a few things. After selecting what I needed I proceeded to the checkout counter where two people were ahead of me in line, both were returning items. As the transaction for the first person was coming to a close the cashier asked the customer for her email address. While this is not unusual it was the way she was asking that caught my attention. It went something like this:

Cashier: “…and may I please have your email address for your receipt?”

Customer: “ Why do you need my email address?”

Cashier: “ It’s for your receipt”

Customer: “ Oh, ok. It’s blahblah@whatever.com

Cashier: “ Thank you”

The cashier then issued her a Williams Sonoma Gift Card with a credit amount on it. Initially I thought that because this customer was returning an item then maybe an email address was somehow required for some sort of verification. I thought to myself “if this is the method that Williams Sonoma uses to collect email addresses for their newsletters and e-marketing efforts then surely they would disclose that the email address would be sent some promotions, right?”I mean, why would a brand like William Sonoma collect email addresses under false pretenses?

My suspicions remained in place when the same process happened again for the next person in front of me, also there for a return. The conversation was slightly different this time around; apparently this customer had been through this before:

Cashier: “…and may I please have your email address for your receipt?”

Customer: “You’re not going to email me stuff again, are you?

Cashier: “ We just need your email address for your receipt”

Customer: “ Oh, ok. It’s…wait, you know what I don’t need a receipt, I have this (customer holds up the newly issued Williams Sonoma Gift Card) “

Cashier: “ Oh, ok”

The cashier then proceeded to print out her receipt regardless.

So, it was now apparent that an email address was not truly needed in order to generate a receipt and it seemed that collecting the email address at the register was in fact a ploy to add a customer to some sort of mailing list (according to the comments from the customer ahead of me in line). Now it was my turn at the register to pay for the items I wanted to purchase. After my items were scanned and I swiped my credit card for payment the conversation went like this:

Cashier: “…And can I please have your email address?”

Me: “ No thank you“

Cashier: “ Oh, ok”

Short and sweet. I received a receipt and walked out of the store. Thinking about this process left me a bit concerned about Williams Sonoma and other retailers that collect email addresses the same way. Data collection practices like this seem a bit shady. For starters the cashier made it seem as if an email address was required in order to get a receipt which was not the case.

Secondly it seemed apparent that your email address would in fact be added to a mailing database if you chose to give it to the cashier; the customer in front of me confirmed this via their comments.

In this day and age of Email and SMS marketing prevalence most technology-savvy consumers are aware that relinquishing their personal contact information will likely result in a brand sending you marketing materiel. Since this is the case then why not just be honest and up front about it?

Moral of the story: You’re only hurting your brand by collecting contact information under the false pretenses. If a consumer likes your stuff then let them sign up to receive it on their own accord, don’t try to pull the wool over their eyes. If you ambush them with newsletters and texts you run the risk of making an enemy out of your customers and betraying their trust; or risk getting sued if you collect and then message to cell number the wrong way.