Thanks, No Thanks

You're worth more than a cup of coffee.

May 11, 2021
Tyler Nix Y Kalli Z Ta QU Unsplash

The Morton Arboretum, located not far from my home, cleverly describes itself as an Outdoor Museum of Woody Plants. In plain English, that means it is a 1700 acre privately held and maintained forest preserve containing hundreds (perhaps thousands) of species of trees.

Its forests, intertwined with narrow roads, provide a convenient low-traffic place to sneak a quick bicycle ride into my busy schedule if I manage to get away from the office before sundown.

The Arboretum is open to the public for a nominal admission fee, with unlimited access for members. To take maximum advantage of this nearby treasure I’ve been a member for many years. How many years? Well, more than 10… and therein hangs this month’s tale.

A while back, someone in the Morton Arboretum’s marketing department decided it would be good public relations to acknowledge loyal renewing members like me. Thus, the cute name “Perennial Partners” was coined for those of us with a decade or more of membership.

As a Perennial Partner, I enjoy many special privileges. Well, not many, but a few. Let’s see, actually…just one.

A few times each year, I get an email good for a free cup of coffee in their on-site restaurant. Yep, that’s it. A cup of coffee. Can you tell that I’m underwhelmed?

But wait, there’s more. Actually there’s less. The restaurant has limited hours and is never open when I visit. The Arboretum knows this, too, since my visits are logged when my membership card is scanned upon admission.

I’m not an important donor. The kids have grown and moved on to other interests, so I’ve reduced my membership to just one person instead of family. The Arboretum is richly endowed by the Morton Salt family fortune, so I choose to allocate my charitable giving to more needy causes.

I’m not expecting a banquet in my honor. My point is that the token cup of coffee, meant to make me feel important and appreciated, has the opposite effect. Ok, I know I’m not important, but there’s no need to rub it in.

I feel the same way about unsolicited emails that want me to take time to fill out a survey, telling me “my opinion is important,” and “at the end of the survey, you will have an opportunity to disclose your email address to be entered to win a $25 Amazon gift card.” Whoop de do.

My time is worth more than 25 bucks, folks. An “opportunity” to win a gift card? Obviously you place very little value on my time and opinion.

Lest I sound too grumpy this month, allow me to tip my hat to the folks at Infotrends/Keypoint Intelligence. They send me Amazon-giftcard-for-your-opinion emails, but with important differences.

First, they offer me the giftcard in exchange for my reply. Not just “a chance to win.” My time is still worth more than $25, but they’ve put some skin in the game.

Second, they offer to send me their results. Since their surveys and reports are usually well done and of genuine interest to me, this is far more attractive than any giftcard.

Third, in the past they’ve phoned me to clarify my response. Gee, they must really be interested in my opinion.

You tell me you value my opinion, my business, my relationship, but do you show it? Are you inadvertently sending a message opposite to the one you intend?