Thursday, October 28, 2010

Letters of Intent: Not Political My Butt

Linking up with King Julien for this week’s Letters of Intent!  This week is an actual (long) record of letters that were exchanged…



This week… I just couldn’t help it.  The politics are getting to me.  And when the harassment came from an unlikely source, I admit that I actually did sit down and write a letter.  What follows is why I ultimately decided that THIS was the best course of action:



Dear Costco ~

I thought we were friends?  I mean, you gave me an amazing deal on my camera and kept me posted on each stop in transit to my door.  See, that’s what I provided my email address for.  I did NOT provide it for this:


Yes on Initiative 1100

Dear Valued Costco Member:
You may be asking why Costco is engaged in what appears to be a political issue for the first time in our 27 years doing business here. We view this as an issue that transcends politics. One of our guiding principles is to stand up for the rights of our members and consumers in general. We have been fighting for reform of our outmoded liquor laws for many years. Today you have the opportunity to rid the state of inefficiency and waste, and Costco can bring you the choice and value you deserve. Liquor privatization works in 32 other states. Why not here?


Are you kidding me?  You’re actually telling me how to vote?  And you’re claiming that it’s “not political”?  Well sure, you’re right.

It’s not about politics to you.  It’s about MONEY.

I vote yes, you get to sell more stuff.

Let me make this easy:  if it requires a vote, it’s “political”.  You’re using my private contact information, not for “occasional specials available to our members”, but to convince me that it’s in my best interest to vote how you think I should.

Now, I was nice… I wrote you a polite email stating that whether I agreed or disagreed with you was irrelevant – the fact that you used my email to send something like this was inappropriate.


Good Afternoon -

I just received an email about Costco's stance on Washington State's Initiative 1100.

Regardless of whether I agree or disagree with the position, I'm more than a little surprised by the business decision to directly email consumers who have provided their private email contact information solely for the purpose of their online purchases and to receive occasional advertising.

I sincerely doubt that any person signing up for those reasons ever imagined that they'd be receiving political lobbying information.

I believe it's a rather inappropriate use of our confidential email contact information to advertise your political stance.  Again, it really doesn't matter if I agree with you, but I'm sure that there are other ways for you to advertise your position and support the initiative without resorting to private information from your consumers.

I'm mindful of the position you expressed in the email, but feel a bit like my information was used for inappropriate purposes.

Thanks for understanding.



And instead of at least apologizing to your customer, instead – you defended yourself and added the names of your buddies (like I’m going to be afraid of going out to eat if I disagree).  I added a few comments below:

Dear Rachel,

Thank you for your e-mail to Costco Wholesale. We understand our members have different perspectives and appreciate the time you've taken to share your viewpoint. Please be assured we have not changed from our basic rule to not engage in politics. (And we aren’t even going to apologize for emailing you about POLITICS).

This issue is so closely related to our business we felt compelled to have our voice heard. (You’re right – your BUSINESS = MONEY)  We understand some of our members will disagree with our decision to make a first time exception in Washington State. We did not come to this decision lightly. I-1100 is actively supported by the Association of Washington Businesses, the Washington Restaurant Association, the Northwest Grocery Association, the Washington Retail Association, and has been endorsed by most major newspapers across the state. (Therefore you are a dummy if you don’t vote our way)  We understand that we risk the disapproval of some of our members and want to make sure you understand the reasons for our decision. We value your business and thank you for your patronage.   (Still not gonna apologize Nyah Nyah)
Thank you,

Costco Wholesale Corporation


At that point, I was more than a little annoyed about it… I mean, surely Costco can afford to just put a billboard up, right?  Here’s my second attempt to explain “Dudes… leave my email alone”


Thank you for the reply.

To restate - I do not question your position on the Initiative, but rather the choice to use your membership private contact information to advertise this.  Surely you can include a link to your position on the website, or advertise it on television with the number of other supporters.

I consider myself to be voter who tries hard to be informed.  It simply left a bad taste in my mouth that Costco resorted to using my email address basically to advertise the position without cost.  I am interested in the position of businesses in this Initiative... I just don't wish to be contacted about it through the email address that I provided to do my purchasing through.

Respectfully, I guard my personal information carefully and am certain that I am likely not the only one who was bothered by this.

I hope you can understand why it seemed rather low-brow to have received the information personally this way... I would much rather have seen a link on your website to understand the factors in your support of the initiative.  I hope Costco will consider the potential unease at customers at having received the unsolicited political information via their personal email (I realize Costco is not calling it "political", but truthfully, if it is an "Initiative" and requires voting, it is in the political realm).

Thank you for allowing the input.



At last, a reply with an apology.  Then several paragraphs of explaining why they weren’t wrong:


Dear Rachel,

Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with us. We apologize for inconvenience or disappointment that you may have experienced.

Involvement in a political issue is highly unusual for us. Although I-1100 is in the political arena, it is very closely related to our business and the interests of our members. It was critical, therefore, to have our voice heard, and in connection with that we wanted to make sure our members understood the reasons for our involvement.

Since 1983, when we started our business in Washington with the first Costco near downtown Seattle, we have made it one of our key principles to stand up for consumers. Our mere presence in a market usually improves competition for consumers regardless of where they shop because of our reputation for delivering value.

We did not come to our vocal support of liquor privatization lightly.  The vast majority of our members around the country are able to buy spirits from us. In addition, I-1100 is actively supported by the Association of Washington Businesses, by the Washington Restaurant Association, by the Northwest Grocery Association, the Washington Retail Association, and has been endorsed by nearly all major newspapers across the state.

We are concerned about the protection of our member’s personal information, as well as the way in which it is used. We tell our members that one of the ways in which we may use their personal information is to help serve them better and to tell them about opportunities of interest and our most recent communication is part of that effort. While this is the first time that we have reached out to our Washington members in this manner, you can be assured that this will not become a normal occurrence.

Should you wish to opt out from receiving emails from us in the future, please click unsubscribe.

Karen Lee, General Manager Contact Center
Costco Wholesale Corporation



Got any letters to write?  Click the button at the top and link up too! :)


rachel... said...

Wow! I'm surprised you even got a reply. How annoying is that?? I say start going to Costco on a daily basis and eating your weight in free samples!

Anonymous said...

Good for you, girlie! They had to send you all the way to the top (probably to find someone who could actually read and understand well-written correspondence!) Hopefully there are more like you out there who hold their feet to the fire. I love that it escalated all the way to the top, and while they continued to use canned phraseology, at least there was a little thought put into the messages. Rock on, Rach!

Unknown said...

Oh good golly that is just ridiculous! Silly corporate people who abuse the email addresses.

Sometimes, I am really grateful to live in a very hippie neighborhood who forgets there are elections if there isnt anything with medical marijuana on the ballot.

Shana Putnam said...

Ok I am cracking up at Tiffany's comment lol. But seriously how in the world did they think it was ok to send emails to their customers about politics? RIDICULOUS

Saimi said...

Wow that's wild! I wonder if they are only using select members to email? Luckily I haven't received one. I must not be on the A list!

Way to respond!

Brandi said...

NO. WAY. For reals??? For shame Costco!

sara said...

actually, I am surprised you got a reply too. But good for you for writing!

Kmama said...

Wow! Good for you for calling them under the carpet!

Though, we can buy liquor from our Costco and it's awesome. ;-)

Foursons said...

Oh my word Costco! Can you NOT read what Rachel was writing and understand that she doesn't give a flying flip what your position is on this issue but that she DOESN'T want to receive your agenda through her private email. You are abusing your customers by pushing this proposition through use of their email account just so you can have free advertising. Holy cow, what an absolutely ridiculous response to a perfectly reasonable request.

Rachel- send them this link. I'd be interested in their opinion of everyone's comments.

Thanks for linking up!

Discovery School at First Baptist Heath said...

Love that you wrote..Surprised that yo ugot a response.. and so awesome that you posted it... My Costco membership is up for renewal.. I think I am gonna tell them why I will not be handing over my $50.00.

Amy said...

Wow... it's about all I can say.... Wow....

I agree with Julie, send the link! It may change their tune. I think it was a perfectly appropriate request, and they are being ridiculous! I doubt I would ever join a Costco after reading this! I will stick to Sams!

Unknown said...

Good for you! Glad you kept going and actually got that apology. Even if they tried to back it up again...

HeatherOz said...

I can not believe that! That chick is just a bit defensive and obviously can't read! Maybe you should paint her a picture! said...

I applaud your stick-to-itive-ness! (is that a word? If so, I am sure it does not have hyphens :)

I have had it with politics...I would be offended too.


Liz {Learning To Juggle} said...

That is ridiculous!! How can they even think that it is even just use of your personal information. Its not like they are taking on a stance that is paramount for public safety, instead they choose to make their first ever ground breaking stance on an intiative with regards to liquor?!

I am impressed with your emails to them and that you actually got a response. To bad they don't have a clue why what they did was wrong....morons!! (sorry....can you tell I HATE when people force their politics on me or anyone else!!)

Anonymous said...

I'm so incredibly fed up with recent this year crazier than others in the past, or have I just blocked out previous years of political insanity?

What on Earth was wrong with whoever read your e-mails? Reading comprehension was obviously not one of their strong suits. You were very clear in your e-mail, what you were objecting to wasn't their stance on this particular issue, but the use of customer e-mail addresses in order to promote their stance.

Some days don't you just want to bang your head against a wall due to the stupidity?!

brian said...

I'm not sure they really ever "got it." They seemed to remain unrepentant....

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