When is “Opt-In” More Like “Opt-Out”?

I talk a lot about “opt-in” because I believe that consumers (and users of any service or system) deserve to make an explicit choice to say that they would like to be part of some marketing or mailing group or other data use case. The alternative is the more common-in-online-services “opt-out” use case assumes that the user automatically wants whatever service or offer is at hand, signs them up without explicit consent and then later the user has to figure out how to get out of it, often via an obscure, cryptic method.

This week, I was at Best Buy and as I was clicking through the screens on the credit card reader, I happened to notice a new part of the screen that asked me how I wanted my receipt (yes, I still like paper receipts). On the right hand side, there was the ability to “opt-in” to getting emails from Best Buy. Over the past few months I have spent great time and effort getting off of Best Buy’s various mailing lists, even though I am a Rewards Club members, due to the barrage of emails that arrived on a near-daily basis, so I have no intention of mistakenly getting back on that train.

Now if you look at the screen (pictured below), you will notice the default state of this particular screen is “Sign Me Up!” Whilst this formally is an “opt-in” because I have to click “Next” to move the transaction forward, the assumption that I am going to agree and pre-filling such an option, at the same time knowing that I will likely just click Next once I select my receipt type seems disingenuous to the intention of an “opt-in” programme.

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So, does this really meet the qualifications of “opt-in?” When I asked the check-out person about this, her response was “to get off the emails, you have to call Customer Service 800 number” and was unable to comment about how to permanently opt-out of this question so that I don’t have to answer it on every, single transaction. Inevitably, I will forget one time when I am in a hurry and inadvertently agree, and then be back to more months of trying to figure out how to stop being bothered by the continuous flow of ads, offers and other things in my email that I really don’t want to see.

Any model that doesn’t wait for me to come to them to say “Hey, Best Buy, I want into your email list” and asks me with every transaction if I am coming in, expecting I will someday just not pay attention and say “yeah, ok” accidentally, is not an “opt-in” system in my mind.

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