Who would want to ignore great deals, the chance to improve goods in the marketplace, and information that’s supposed to protect us from rip-offs and unsafe products? It turns out a lot of us would—because we’re swimming in an ocean of this sort of stuff already.
If you’re feeling fatigued as a consumer, you’re not alone. Faced with an onslaught of messages and requests from retailers, nonprofits, and more, many consumers are tuning them out—sometimes to their own detriment.
Right now, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve been ignoring …
Recalls. A USA Today story points out that there were 2,363 product recalls last year in the U.S. That’s 6.5 recalls per day. And that’s a huge increase in just a few years: In 2007, for example, there were 1,460 recalls. Items are recalled for the safety of consumers, but the deluge of recalls may cause some consumers to tune them out—because they can’t keep up with them all, and perhaps because they view some of the recalls as alarmist. Experts in the story cite concerns about “recall fatigue,” and that the public is not “paying attention to them and responding to them in a manner that is necessary for the recalls to be handled effectively.”
Surveys & Followups. The Wall Street Journal’s Joe Queenan recently offered a rant about the onslaught of messages and requests to fill out ratings and surveys received by consumers after they make a purchase. In theory, such requests should help consumers, allowing businesses to tweak products and practices according to what best pleases the marketplace. In practice, though, all of these text messages, e-mails, and satisfaction surveys can often seem like a nuisance. Things have gotten so out of hand that Queenan writes that it’s not hard to imagine, say, a hospital …
emailing, texting or phoning patients who were still in the oncology ward with messages like: “We understand that you have just had your lungs operated on. Awesome! We welcome your feedback. Please fill out our brief questionnaire and tell us how we can improve the overall oncology-ward experience. If you are not still alive, please ignore this message.”
Similarly, MSNBC’s Herb Weisbaum, who writes “The Consumer Man,” discusses how (no joke) a funeral home asked one of his friends to fill out a survey to rate their services soon after his mother was buried. Weisbaum speaks for all of us when he writes that at the very least concerning satisfaction surveys, “Note to companies: If it’s more than about 3 minutes, you need to cut down the questions.”
E-mail Subscriber Requests. Daily deal sites are among the worst culprits at coercing consumers into signing up for e-mails, but nowadays it seems like pop-ups appear at most blogs and online services pushing consumers into registering. Sometimes, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to find out how to check out the site’s content or tools without officially signing up. As ShopSmart magazine recently advised, though, it’s not necessary to give up personal information: Consider creating alternate e-mail addresses, opting out of messages, and/or fudging the facts to avoid the hassles, as well as promotional message overload. As for those who are glutted with such messages, it’s becoming increasingly easy to disregard or delete them by the dozen, unread.
Retailer “Event” Sales. In an attempt to make the latest round of discounts stand out from the pack, retailers have been branding various days as “events” along the lines of Black Friday. Around the holiday season, we’ve seen everything from Small Business Saturday to Gift Card Weekend. The irony is that by going to the well so often in terms of naming new shopping days, retailers have flooded consumers with so many “events” that they’d become meaningless. How many gimmick days can stores expect shoppers to really turn out for—before tuning them out entirely?
The latest example is “Back to School Saturday,” being promoted by Teen Vogue magazine as an official day (August 11) for deals and promos aimed at students preparing for the school year ahead. As if they couldn’t go shopping for bargains on clothes and school supplies any other day of the year.
Disclosures & Fine Print. The typical bank checking account comes with 111 pages of disclosure. That’d be bad enough, but it’s written in gobbledygook few non-lawyers can understand. Retailers, manufacturers, and other businesses are required to disclose all sorts of information so that consumers understand what they’re getting themselves into, but because of how much fine print is out there, the result is that consumers have gotten into the habit of skipping over all of the tiny type and clicking on the “I’ve read blah-blah-blah” box in kneejerk fashion.
Unfortunately, it seems like the more disclosure required, the less consumers are aware of what’s supposed to be disclosed, reports the Wall Street Journal:
Most consumers have learned to pretty much tune out the fine print, signing that 10-inch stack of loan documents, or clicking “I agree” on the 55-page online user agreement. In one recent study, 61% of consumers reported that they didn’t read all the terms of contracts before agreeing to them. (And those are just the ones who will admit to it.) “Laid edge to edge, they’re impossible to stay on top of,” says attorney James Denlea. “It would be a full-time job.”