Desperation Samba and Online Marketing

Having needy, clingy friends is a bad thing. Having needy, clinging retailers is even worse.

One of the problems about buying things online, is that once you buy something, the people selling you the junk never leave you alone. My inbox and spam box are regularly clogged with entreaties from companies that I bought something from 10 years ago, asking me if I want to buy more. Sometimes these are once-in-a-lifetime purchases, yet they assume you want the same thing over and over again at the rest of your life. Such is the nature of this vaunted AI.

If you buy something from Wayfair, expect to be spammed to death by emails from Wayfair offering amazing deals and coupon discounts and whatnot over and over again. EyeBuyDirect sells glasses very cheaply, but once you buy your first pair, you will be offered a coupon good for a two-for-one discount, or 50% off plus a rebate.  Buy six, get 12 free! They will keep hammering you with offers over and over again until you've bought dozens of pairs of glasses. is another site that will pepper you with discount coupons, even if you don't buy anything. Once you visit the site, they will hammer you again and again promising all sorts of great deals.  Their goal, of course, is to get you to return - the vaunted "engagement" that internet proprietors seem to value.  They think we just want to go online and buy crap, even if we don't need it.  And sadly, they are largely correct - a lot of people are compulsive online "shoppers" or even offline ones.

We were at a friend's house - a nascent hoarder - and there were a line of shopping bags lined up in one room.  "What's all this?" we asked.  Turns out she buys clothes and things in stores and never wears them - she just like the buying process.  She keeps everything in the bags, in order, so she can take them back for a refund before the 30-day no-return date is met.  It was the most bizarre thing I have ever seen in my life.  And yes, mental illness is part and parcel of this sort of thing.

Recently, we purchased some bug repellent things from Murphy's Naturals. They make a decent bug repellent spray which is basically eucalyptus and lemon oil. They also make some cones and incense sticks that repel bugs some extent. We've bought these in the past from another supplier but found them hard to find on the internet and expensive. Murphy's was slightly cheaper and located nearby in Asheville, North Carolina.

The problem is, like all these internet companies, once you buy one thing, they keep hammering you with offers and discounts and promotions for more product. And we bought several times from them, spending well over $100 or more on these products including gifts for other people. They're not a bad product, but just a little bit overpriced. I can buy Skin-So-Soft for a lot cheaper from a local Avon representative.

I thought about buying some more of their bug spray for the summer, and I got an email from them - one of several - telling me that they would give me a 25% off coupon if I will review their bug spray. So I wrote a nice review about their bug spray because it does actually work and it doesn't use any chemicals. I submitted the review and then was directed to another page that said I wouldn't get my 25% off coupon until I shared the review with a number of people on Facebook.

Well, that pushed me over the edge. They lied to me, and I don't like it when people lie to me. They told me I would receive this coupon if I wrote a review and I wrote the review. Then, once I write the review, they tell me that I only get the coupon if I share it with other people on Facebook. This wasn't disclosed upfront, and I wouldn't have bothered writing the review if they told me I had to share it on Facebook. Facebook is for idiots, and I'm sorry if you're on Facebook but you're an idiot. Facebook and social media is the kind of crap that spreads all this nonsense about election fraud, vaccine anti-vaxxer bullshit, an alarming postings about the Walmart slasher. Only morons visit social media.

But as I noted before, you have to be very strict with liars in your life.  If you enter into any business arrangement predicated on a lie, no matter how trivial, it will only go downhill from there Liars play their hand early, and you should take that as a sign that things are not going to get better.

Murphy's clinging pleas to buy more product, which appear in my inbox with regularity, have all the charm of a needy stalker girlfriend or a carnival barkerBuy more product or I'll slash my wrists! Don't  you love me anymore? One tires, eventually, of getting all these e-mails advertising fantastic deals and coupons and discounts or what not.  If I like a product, great I'll buy it. But I always feel uneasy about buying things from companies that offer these coupons and discounts. I always wonder if I'm being ripped off or getting a raw deal because they would offer a coupon the next day. It's the same issue we had with Bed Bath & Beyond, which is why we don't shop there anymore.

As I noted before, Bed Bath & Beyond almost makes a joke out of these coupons which are printed in the newspaper or mailed to you with regularity. We ended up with a stack of them everything from $5 off, $10 off, 15% off, or 20% off. Only a fool would pay full retail price for anything at that store, although increasingly they don't have anything to buy at the store other than As Seen on TV promotional gimmicky items. If you want sheets and pillows and things like that, you're probably better off going on the internet.

Apparently the folks who run Bed Bath & Beyond realized they were shooting the pooch here. It seems that they are getting away from the coupon model and offering a more Amazon Prime type model. If you pay a yearly membership fee, you'll get automatic discounts on your purchases at Bed Bath & Beyond. This is an interesting approach, as it does generate loyalty among buyers, and rewards people who are serial purchasers of their crappy As Seen in TV junk. On the other hand, it makes me realize that their products are probably overpriced and I would be foolish to go there and pay full retail price while others are getting a discount.  Easier to shop online, anyway.

The best deals on the most straightforward deals. Someone offers a product at a cheap price and that's it. Oftentimes you find these best deals on the internet, where there is a product offered at a price, and everyone gets the same price, regardless. No coupons, no frequent flyer miles, no cashback rebates, no bonuses, no BOGOs, none of this crap. Just a product offered a good price and that's it.

But sadly, the marketing people have moved to the Internet, and so many sites today have "coupon codes" you have to plug it to get the real deal.  You can go to various sites to find these coupon codes (half of which don't work) or use some sort of plug-in like the one from Capital One, to get the discount.  Since nearly everyone gets these discounts, you would be foolish not to use them.  What ends up happening with me though, is I get frustrated and tired with this coupon code nonsense, and while searching for codes online, often find the product cheaper, at a regular price, from another retailer.

Other times, it forces me to think about the purchase and realize I don't really need the item in question, and then I just quietly close the window and move on with life.

Or I try to.  Because the very next day, I get a pleading e-mail telling me I left something in my cart!  Don't I want to go back to and buy more crapola and inflated prices even with a coupon discount two-for-one bogo cashback?  Buy now! Buy!  BUY!  BUY NOW GODDAMMIT!  Please?

It makes me regret letting these people into my life.  I buy things online, but rarely am in love with the merchants.  In fact, never in love with them.  Amazon is a scheming, deceitful spouse, having an affair with his secretary.  Bezos is always lying to me - asking me if I want "fast free shipping" even though the purchase already comes with it.  What he is really doing is trying to trick me into signing up for Amazon Prime.  And if I rebuff his advances, he sneaks in a $12.95 shipping charge on the checkout page (and gets away with it, if I take his offer of "one-click checkout").  I mean, what's not to like about a lying bastard like that?  Amazon is always my last choice in online purchases.  I still buy things there, but I always check out eBay, Walmart, and manufacturer's sites first.

eBay ain't much better, of course - they are trying to out-Amazon, Amazon by turning into a "platform" for power-sellers.  But at least they don't play games with free-shipping or try to snooker me into signing up for "eBay Prime".  Sadly, Walmart is going this route with "Walmart+" which sounds like Google's half-assed attempt to "me too!" Facebook.

Merchants are the enemy, not our friends.  In the battlefield of the marketplace, we are all at war, each party seeking advantage over the other.  You hope to score a deal, they hope to score an extra dollar from you.  Oh, sure we smile and are polite to each other, but each party in the transaction has a knife ready to stab the other in the back - at the drop of a hat.

I wrote to Murphy's and told them I didn't like their marketing shtick, and that it detracted from what was otherwise a good product.  Oddly enough, they wrote back and gave me the goddamn coupon code. They explained that they use a "third party" marketing company to badger and harass their customers, and that sometimes this third-party company isn't always up-front.

I had a similar experience with ORS racks direct, which used a third party company, "Bizrate Surveys" to market to their customers.  When you bought something from the company, you are linked to Bizrate and asked to rate your experience.  Again, surveys are a waste of time, and in today's modern online shopping world, are used to enhance "engagement."   Amazon doesn't care whether I review an item or "answer a customer's question" but just wants me to go back to the site and buy more crap.

But in the case of Bizrate, it was even worse - the whole thing was a come-on to sell magazine subscriptions.   In this day and age - Magazines?   I have another friend (another nascent hoarder, I'm afraid) who gets sucked into this, on a regular basis - subscribing to dozens of magazines, which they (reluctantly) hand to us, once they are a few years old.  Often, they ask for them back.  "They only cost a dollar!" they say, but that is only if you unsubscribe before the trail period ends.  And guess what?  These magazine companies claim never to have gotten your cancellation notice.  Good Old Negative Option!   So, many hours spent on the phone shouting at customer service.   Everyone needs a hobby, I guess.

But of course, I get it, why they do this - and why it won't go away.  You want "engagement" and return customers and you want to encourage customer loyalty.  McDonald's has an "app" that offers you daily deals on food.  They are hoping that you won't go to Burger King or Wendy's as a result.  The local grocery store offers a "deal" that if you buy $100 of groceries, you get $5 off on gas. Both the grocery store and the gas station hope you don't bother cross-shopping anymore.

And some folks go for this.  They buy all their gas at Station X because the get a nickel off a gallon. Never mind that Station X charges 10 cents more a gallon in the first place - they're saving money!  And of course, the nickel-off deal requires you sign up for a gas card that debits your checking account, so you lose the eight cents a gallon you'd get with your "rewards" card.   Speaking of which, the rewards card people give you 3% back, hoping you put all your purchases on their cardThey throw pennies at us, hoping we spend dollars.

Gasoline, oddly enough, is the one area of my life where I rarely price-shop and certainly don't engage in brand loyalty.  Sure, if I am at the wholesale club or Walmat, and the tank is half-full (I rarely let it go lower than that) I will fill up on their cheap gas.  But the rest of the time, it really isn't worth it to drive out of your way to save a few pennies per gallon.  You'd be surprised how many people fail to do the math on this.  They drive ten miles out of their way to go to a station that is ten cents cheaper a gallon, so they save a dollar on a ten-gallon fillup.  This amounts to a third of a gallon in gas, or less than the amount they burned driving to the "discount" gas station in the first place.

If you really want to save money on gas, the answer isn't in cash-back bonuses or trivial discounts, it lies in buying a more fuel-efficient vehicle, and learning to drive economically.  We just returned from a trip to Florida, towing the trailer, and got an average 15 miles-per-gallon, which is astounding mileage for an RV (most languish at 11 mph or less, often far less).   Funny thing, though, the guy in the F150 "Raptor" (issues!) roaring by me at 80 mph on the turnpike was probably getting the same gas mileage, and he didn't have a 5,000 lb of trailer behind him.  Behavioral choices trump coupons every time. 

But I digress.

I guess there is no way to avoid this new generation of clingy online retailers, other than to opt out of their "newsletter with exciting deals!" (but even then, they still e-mail you).  I've tried to "unsubscribe" from several, but often this doesn't work (and even when it does, they claim it may take 14 business days for it to work - computers are so slow!).   And of course, every time you visit the site or buy something from them, they e-mails start right back up again.

The bottom line is, to save money, you have to learn to consume less.  You can't "shop your way to savings!" just as you can't "shop your way to wealth!"   Buying anything, even the necessities in life, is drilling a hole in your financial rowboat.  Maybe you can decrease the size of this hole by 5% by using a coupon, but you can never plug it entirely, or even significantly.  The only real choice is to drill fewer holes.