I’ll say what can be said in their defense: It wasn’t technically illegal.
I used to be a customer of Suncoast Motion Picture Company, a subsidiary of Musicland Group. They were once a small local chain that sold videos and anime in malls. They introduced a rewards program, where you get gift certificates for shopping there. I’ve been in it for a couple of years.
Then the prerecords started. Now, this is where I have to speak in their defense, a little. Technically, it’s not illegal to hit your customers with prerecorded calls. It’s not illegal, because there are many legitimate uses; late notices, order notification, things like that. However, among the reasons it’s legal is NOT “so we can give you a prerecorded call in which we simply repeat the offers we have nearly every week”.
But it gets worse.
The call gives an 800 number to opt out. That number leads to a voicemail system in which you can listen to their smug declaration that they are not breaking any laws, you can opt out, or you can hear the promotion again. There is no option for speaking to someone.
They know that, if you want to speak to someone, you’re about to waste THEIR time, and that’s not something they want. Your time is free to them; prerecords give them a huge advantage there. Their time would cost them money, so the whole name of the game, as is always the case with prerecords, is to get rid of the customer as fast as possible.
I called their main number, followed options on the voicemail system, and got routed to an empty number which simply rang and rang; not even hold music. I tried again, and got to someone who simply couldn’t see why I’d be upset. I mean, you can opt out, right? She didn’t apologize for anything until I mentioned that failure to apologize is itself a sign of ill intent from a corporation. (It is, too; any decent customer service sort would know to start with, at the very least, “I’m sorry this bothered you.”) I eventually got routed to a “supervisor” who spoke poor English and explained at some length that they did this because they thought some of their customers would like it. The idea of, say, letting those customers express that interest… No, too advanced.
My guess is the company is failing. Whenever a company that’s been cruising along fine suddenly starts spamming, or using prerecords, it’s a sign that sales aren’t holding up, and they need to boost the cash flow. Because spamming and prerecords alienate and annoy customers, though, they just turn the questionable future into a certain one.
If you have gift cards, use them now.
Date: 2006-06-13 11:20:39 -0500
Well, not that long ago, they shut down a lot of their stores.
Date: 2006-06-16 17:56:13 -0500
Its parent company–Musicland–filed for bankruptcy in January. Suncoast was sold off to another owner in March.
That probably explains the new attitude toward quasi-legal pre-records.