The torrid tale of Borders, the marketeers and the thoroughly misleading Virgin Wines
What the devil are Borders up to? It's no secret they've tumbled into administration and that their stores are selling off stock ahead of their inevitable closure. In fact, Borders have today emailed all customers who subscribed to their updates to tell them the latest news:
As a registered customer of Borders, you were probably very disappointed to hear the business has gone into administration and may be closing down. We wanted to let you know that although you can't buy online anymore, there are some great offers available in your nearest store with up to 50% off many items. If you're not sure where your nearest store is just click here to find out and visit the store as soon as possible to pick up some fantastic bargains!
Except it wasn't Borders doing the emailing, it was clearly sent from the email address of a company called Customer Club. In fact the opening paragraph was merely a ruse, repeating the news you already knew in order to invite you to join... Customer Club:
We'd also like to invite you to join Customer Club so you'll know immediately if our circumstances change or more products become available. In the meantime, clearance items and special offers will be sent to you through the Club and you'll also be one of the first to hear about any other savings and exceptional deals that you, as a customer of Borders, will have access to. So that we can offer you an efficient service tailored to your likes and requirements, we'd like you to complete a very short survey.
...This email was brought to you by Customer Club Limited in association with Borders.
Whenever I sign up for a newsletter, I'm a bit of a stickler for refusing the third party marketing spam - I've received emails from Borders for over two years and never once received any item from a third party as a result. So what's happened here? Have Borders have just handed their mailing list over to a third party marketing company?
Whether they've passed my private data to another company or not, it's hardly as if this Customer Club is looking to trick me into joining some ridiculous monthly payment scheme on the back of Borders' demise, is it? Oh:
To thank you for completing the survey and as a gesture of goodwill from Borders to recognise your support we'd like to offer you a £40 Virgin Wines voucher. Just click here to complete the survey and receive your £40 Virgin Wines voucher.
You're redirected to the remains of the Borders website to fill in your survey (registration is a better word for it, obviously), and once you've handed over more personal information to Customer Club and had to deselect nearly four dozen tick boxes, you receive your voucher:
This is the same Virgin Wines promotion the Advertising Standards Agenecy banned over a year ago, because nowhere on the voucher does it state that in order to redeem it you'll have to open an account and make monthly payments. When the ASA upheld complaints against Virgin Wines last November, they stated:
The subscription-basis should have been made clear on the voucher itself… any significant conditions, likely to influence consumers’ understanding of promotions, should be clarified on their marketing material.”
A year on, and Virgin Wines are still misleading consumers. That's before we point out the ambiguous typeface concerning the minimum order value. Check it again - it looks like Virgin Wines have deliberately cut and paste the "79" from a different font so that the "7" looks like the "1" in the font used for the rest of the voucher - the result is that the minimum order value reads £19.99 but is actually £79.99:
So not only do we have the collapse of a major retailer, the email addresses of their once-loyal customers have been passed onto a marketing company who are bribing them into joining an unrelated mailshot through the promise of a misleading promotion that was banned a year ago.
Borders - we're disappointed. Customer Club - no thanks. And Virgin Wines - you'd better check your fonts and please expect a call from the ASA.