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Email Opt-In at Hotwire.com: No Means Maybe?

I recently booked a flight on Hotwire.com. Overall, the process was impressively user friendly. But there was one thing that kind of irked me: the way they handled their email opt in.

It started when I was entering my contact information. Upon landing on this page, the box beside "Yes! I want to hear about great deals..." was pre-checked, as shown below:

Not wanting to subscribe, I quite deliberately unchecked the box, figuring that would be the end of it.

I went ahead and booked my flight, then a bit later, I received this email:

I was quite alarmed for a moment, wondering whether I actually had forgotten something (and whether it would affect my booking). It was only upon reading the body text that I realized they were again asking me whether I wanted to subscribe to their email list... even though I had specifically indicated just moments earlier that I did not want to.

If the box in the contact information section had not been checked by default, then perhaps this would be okay. (It's just possible that I did in fact want to subscribe to their newsletter, but just neglected to check the opt-in box.)

But that's not what happened here. I didn't "forget" anything. I quite deliberately unchecked the box. The meaning is clear: I don't want your emails!

I found this both annoying and confusing. When it comes to email subscriptions, a clear no does not mean maybe.

Comments (Comment Moderation is enabled. Your comment will not appear until approved.)
Gross... Well, I'll never use hotwire. How else will they abuse user trust?
# Posted By Scott | 7/23/09 2:27 PM

Actually, for the most part I was very impressed with the website. That's why this one issue really stood out: it seemed inconsistent with what was otherwise a very positive user experience.
# Posted By Michael S | 7/23/09 3:38 PM
I think it's rather smart on their part. They may annoy a few users but following up with one quick email after you just booked a flight isn't to intrusive (your going to be expecting your confirmation emails anyway).

The extra email acts as a "sales" landing page for their email list and may persuade a few extra people to actually subscribe despite saying no the first time. They maximize their efforts this way resulting in extra $$$ down the line.
# Posted By Someone | 7/28/09 8:22 PM
I have recently used Hotwire to book a hotel and the entire process was great, expect for that email you have mentioned abover. As a customer/user it confused and upset me. First off the heading, "Thank you, but we think you forgot something". Wait a minute, panic. I have just paid for something and I think that Hotwire has an "all sales final" policy and no your telling me there is a problem. As I read on it is about their newsletter. I specifically remember unchecking that box (I already didn't like the fact that it was pre-checked) and now they are trying to get me sign up again. I don't think so. First I tell them no emails please and then they send me an email asking for permission "again" to send me emails. The answer is a more emphatic NO! Hotwire you need to listen and respect my instructions! Will I use Hotwire again, I'm not sure.
# Posted By John Hossack | 7/29/09 9:21 AM