Permission and forgiveness


"It's easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission." --Rear Admiral Grace Hopper

Grace Hopper's quote goes a long way - and applies to many facets of life. While the axiom may be true, some companies are finding out that it's better to go the permission route.

Consider what happened recently in Massachusetts:

Don’t want your mailbox crammed with circulars? Neither did a Massachusetts resident who used a credit card at Michaels and was asked for her ZIP code to complete the transaction in 2011. She’s not alone - a few years ago California ruled against retailers that asked customers for ZIP codes when using credit cards.

A state Supreme Court recently ruled in her favor, reports the Patriot Ledger. Michaels would allegedly use the ZIP code information to look up customers’ home addresses and phone numbers in order to send a barrage of unsolicited sales pitches.

We've Seen This Movie Before

In a very real way, the Michaels incident doesn't represent anything new. Companies have had to contend with the opt-in vs. opt-out dilemma for decades. The internet merely intensified the controversy over whether the onus is on consumers to express their wishes to receive something by default - or not to receive it. For a little stroll down memory lane, check out this 2000 article on DoubleClick. We've seen this movie before.

The permission/forgiveness issue isn't going away any time soon. Think about the times in which we live. Data storage costs have dropped by orders of magnitude. Smartphones go with us everywhere. We're wearing technology - and even having it implanted in our persons. The era of Big Data has arrived. High-profile security breaches and hacks seem to be a daily occurrence, even for the First Lady.

Simon Says

Against this backdrop, it's more important than ever for organizations to exhibit transparency vis-à-vis their data collection and management practices - especially at the counter of a brick-and-mortar store. The importance of permission-based marketing has only increased over the past decade. Just because you can collect a certain type of data doesn't mean you should.

Permission trumps forgiveness.


What say you?

Tags retail

About Author

Phil Simon

Author, Speaker, and Professor

Phil Simon is a keynote speaker and recognized technology expert. He is the award-winning author of eight management books, most recently Analytics: The Agile Way. His ninth will be Slack For Dummies (April, 2020, Wiley) He consults organizations on matters related to strategy, data, analytics, and technology. His contributions have appeared in The Harvard Business Review, CNN, Wired, The New York Times, and many other sites. He teaches information systems and analytics at Arizona State University's W. P. Carey School of Business.

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