Do opt-ins have to be full of choices and hassle? Can we use a “default” approach to make it frictionless but meet legal requirements? Yes.
“Sir, are you a member of our Sears/K-mart (whatever it’s called),” says the cashier at Sears. “No,” I replied, ensuring that the tone conveyed my absolute disinterest in signing up for a stupid card, offer, or program.
“What’s your phone number?” he asks. I provide my number, hoping that means he’ll leave me alone. “Do you have an e-mail address?” he asks. Of course I don’t want to provide one, but that’s not what he asked. I say yes without thinking. Now I have to decide whether to provide it, or tell him to piss off. It’s the old sales rule- get a yes, and the next yes will be easier. In the interest of efficiency, I begrudgingly share my e-mail address. As I checkout, I brush past two opt-ins on the credit card machine, where I passively acknowledge I’ve joined something. He hands me a card. The subtle approach and “default bias” (where we usually choose the default over any alternative) wins me over.
What? He just signed me up? Certainly had he asked if I’d like to join I’d have said no. Here’s the sign-up form on Sears.com.
Had he wooed me with offers (discounts, special sign-up bonus) I’d have declined. But he moved me into the program so “elegantly” I didn’t notice it. Signing up was easier than not signing up. Did he get all my consent? Yes. Did I feel good afterwards? Sure… it didn’t cost me anything, and with minimal hassle we both got what we wanted. I got out the store only 30 seconds slower, and he closed a deal.
I paused and smiled at him. “That was smooth,” I said. “I didn’t even know I was signing up.” Surely someone had done extensive research to design such an elegant opt-in.
Indeed not. The cashier gently smiled, and for the first time I noticed his accent. “I learned that in Brooklyn.” Apparently people can’t be bothered with sign-ups in Brooklyn, he explained, so he mastered the approach to make it minimally invasive. That makes sense… you can’t BS your way against a New Yorker. There are lots of people there, you see, and if someone else uses too much air or sunshine… it sets off the human’s territorial instincts. A craftier (Craftier) approach was warranted.
It’s a lesson for customer-service back in Sears headquarters. Find the Brooklyn guy in the Doylestown store, interview him, and replicate his approach. Then be sure he’s not penalized for sharing his Brooklyn-honed magical approach.