Horrible defaults

Many companies frequently decide to bother their clients for all kinds of things, once they register for their services. Yesterday, I received an email from a company, to whose newsletter I didn't realize I was subscribed to. I used their app exactly once more than a year ago. So, in turn, they logged my email address and decided to send me email now, when I'm no longer a regular user. I couldn't read the email in its entirety, I just saw the most important "unsubscribe" link that is missing in so many newsletters. So I followed that link and came to aesthetically pleasing website, which had beautifully crafted icons, whose meaning I couldn't immediately grasp. I expected to see the unsubscribe option, but needed to find and click a tab called "Email notifications". Once I did it, I saw a list of probably around 10 different checkboxes, which were all checked, meaning when someone had the slightest interaction with my account, I got email received. So I begun to manually uncheck all these checkboxes. The last checkbox was called "uncheck all", so it really didn't help me much, since I finished and wasn't that intelligent to read bottom-up.

Earlier I had to unsubscribe from the email service of some social networks, which means that this is not an isolated case, but rather a pattern to which even the biggest online companies succumb. I wonder why it has become less modern to ask people for their preferences and just to assume things.

Why is it that companies have to bother people, who never explicitly said they want to receive their newsletter? How good is that kind of marketing when you showed your customer that you didn't respect him/her? Reading emails takes our time and attention, so you need to ask us for our permission first to gain a chunk of them. An email is an enhancement of a service; one that we might not necessarily need. It's much better to leave newsletter checkboxes off, but make them visible enough, so that registrants can take action if they want to obtain that enhancement. Otherwise, you just drive people back.

Some companies have policies to call their customers after a period of time to find out if they need more of their products. So they advertise solutions to problems people don't yet have, which is a sign of disrespect. Most companies need people, who proactively search and come to their solution; people, whose problem is so big, that they are ready to invest time to resolve it.

Another "horrible default" we had here in Bulgaria was that our carrier contracts got automatically extended once they expired, without further notice. People constantly raise their eyebrows when I say that I'm not using a mobile or regular phone (not just at the moment, but from years). I don't want to support operators with extraterrestrial prices relative to monthly income or be in any way part of their broken policies. (Which is also part of the reason why I don't intend to design for mobile, since I wouldn't be involved in testing my own work.) I see it as a threat when our freedom to express ourselves is a courtesy of a few rich companies.

I bought my first mobile phone while being in Germany, together with a two year contract. Unfortunately, when I needed to leave the country, I still had three more months to pay. So I went to discuss my situation in-person, in the store of that mobile operator to get advice how to proceed. I thought that paying for the rest of the time in advance while simultaneously disabling conversations would be enough, but that was naive. An agent told me that to end the contract I needed to send a letter to their headquarters in N├╝rnberg after I arrived in my country. I did what he told me, but didn't get any response to my letter. So I assumed everything to be fine since they needed to just accept my cancellation. It seemed like both sides did what was right. A year later I received a letter with a claim that I need to pay X euro immediately or they'll sue me. Although I paid, a lawyer I consulted later declared this practice for illegal. Since then I fear all kinds of contracts. Squeezing the customer this way can't be a practice of a respectable company. It's a horrible default.

When I hear that company X is sponsoring an "open innovation" event, I immediately think again of a horrible default. If it's organized by a company, it's not open. No company can by yourself be labeled "open" enough in a way that doesn't divide people in the slightest possible manner, similar to what religion does. What these companies look for is to get a glimpse into other people's ideas and thoughts and eventually apply them on their own. That's how they got big at the first place. Is that the definition of "open"? I don't want to be part of innovation, where someone else will helpfully explain me what it means.

A week ago I had to pay a fine for keeping an old, empty bank account. So I asked when was the time I needed to start paying for it and received the answer "this month, previous year". I'm quite sure I visited the bank at least 10 times the last year, where people could see if something was wrong with one of my accounts. But noone said anything like that. One could think that they make their living of not telling people the truth. I used to have a card that allowed me to check my accounts online. They warned me for losing the card, but I actually lost my login data, since the data on the card was different from the one that was needed for use in their system. I don't know why they did it this way, but fact is I still have the card and can't login. So they offered to issue another card if I pay, but I declined. Another bad experience.

"Treat people the way you want to be treated" is often forgotten and the main reason we as customers are often unapologetic. It would be nice if companies could find their fair language again.

What are the horrible defaults in your company? What stops you from saying so? What kind of horrible defaults have you seen throughout your life?

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