Scheduled mailshots at Christmas – acceptable?

One of the websites that I operate sends a series of hints and tips to subscribed members on a regular basis. These are sent automatically using CRON by the website according to the schedule (daily / weekly / monthly / never) chosen by the member, and there is no intervention on my part.

I received a mildly offensive email from one of the recipients of these mailshots yesterday, asking to be taken off of our mailing list and saying that…

“any company that is ignorant or stupid enough to not consider that their client may respect Christmas and does a mailshot on this day will never get my business”.

It’s true, we did send the email on Christmas Day, and I did apologise to this individual for any inconvenience caused, but I was left wondering whether we were right to send the mailshot. The CRON job runs automatically to send these emails, and although we can switch it off to prevent the sending on any particular day, it did not occur to me to do so. Assuming that the objection was on religious grounds, there are many such holidays throughout the year, especially when other non-Christian religions are taken into account (which they surely must be, given the broad spread of members on our database). So where would we draw the line?

My point of view is this – whilst it might be practical to stop the job running at Christmas, it is probably not correct to do so. To consider Christmas without also taking into account other religious days throughout the year would show, in my opinion, an unfair bias, never mind the impracticalities involved in changing the job schedule every year to take account of the religious holidays that occur on slightly different days each year. In addition, there are many people who do work during these periods, and if (as we believe) we do provide a real service to these members, it might just be inconveniencing them.

At the end of the day we choose when we read emails. Stating, as my recipient did, that he would never do business with a company that sent emails at this time is perhaps a little extreme, as he could in fact be missing out on a great business opportunity. Christmas is an emotional time, affecting different people in different ways, and so I have tried not to be too upset by the tone of the email, preferring to respond professionally and to focus on the practical questions that it throws up, namely :

  • Is it wrong to send mailshots on religious holidays?
  • Are there any practical solutions to get around this issue – for example, how about giving subscribers the option to specify “opt-out” dates when they would not want to receive any mailshots?
  • Is it appropriate just to leave the decision of when to actually read the email to the recipient?

I’m genuinely interested in what others think, and what others do, so please let me know…

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