Last week, it was my birthday. And with the wonders of modern technology, I’ve never felt so popular. My email account was overflowing with tenderly crafted congratulations and birthday wishes. It was really quite touching.
My old mate Webjet e-mailed with a really thoughtful missive – “Happy Birthday”. And Webjet spent hours carefully designing a $30-off hotel coupon just for me. It even went to the trouble of creating lots of small print saying that I could only use it on hotels costing $200 or more. I had to fight back the tears – it was so moving.
Another bosom buddy of mine, Find Me A Gift, had clearly spent days thinking up what to say as well. “Congratulations! Our records show that it’s your birthday on 2 September,” they piped up. “Here’s a £5 voucher from us – why not use it as a little birthday treat for yourself!”
Shame about the exclamation mark rather than the question mark at the end of that sentence, I thought, but such a lovely sentiment. They also told me I had to spend £10 or more and made some suggestions about what I might like to buy.
These included a Justin Bieber mask, which is excellent as I’ve always wanted a Justin Bieber mask. Alas, it only costs £2.99, so the voucher than has gone only to me and to no-one else in the world wouldn’t be valid. Never fear – I could always buy four Justin Bieber masks, or one of their other suggestions – an all-in-one sleepsuit for adults (red and black with hearts). Hell yes!
I also had beautifully generic messages from the likes of the Upper House hotel inand the Cyber Tech Help Support Forums. Plus about a dozen others that I accidentally deleted. I feel really bad about this – I know a lot of care went into the e-mail.
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I wonder what companies that send out such automated messages are thinking. Is it: “They’ll really appreciate this gesture”? Because if that is what they are thinking, they’ve got it very wrong indeed. When I get an automated birthday greeting from a company I once dealt with in the distant past, my first thought tends to be: “Oh piss off and stop clogging up my inbox with promotional shite.”
I then move on to being a bit creeped out. Did I really tell them my birthday? Or have they swiped that from my passport details? And if they’ve got that, what else have they stored about me to use for their own possibly nefarious devices?
So that’s annoyed, then creeped out. Which is usually followed by disdain – you’ve not even tailored this to me, you idiots. It’s clearly done by a computer, and not a particularly good one at that. If the aim is to be friendly and more human towards the customers, it has precisely the opposite effect.
Any company sending out such birthday messages needs a serious rethink. And the same goes for the ones sending out rose-tinted reminders on the anniversary of a stay or purchase. Unless the three major emotions they want to provoke in their customer are irritation, unease and complete lack of respect, that is.