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Wearing Pearls (And Potential Discussion)

07/09/2010

Freshwater pearls come in a maddening, addictive array of colors.  Take this necklace, for example.

It features two strands of dark peacock pearls and one (mostly) of ivory.  The dark peacock looks almost like gunmetal in pictures, but in person it shines with a dark rainbow of colors.  Green, purple, gold, blue.  Each strand is slightly longer than the one above it, so that it lies well.

I was never a pearl person, until I discovered how many gorgeous, gleaming colors they come in.  Now I can’t help myself.  I got these, as I get most my beads, from FireMountainGems.com.

A quick word about Fire Mountain Gems: they have a great selection for great prices, their all-assortable pricing is great and their customer service has always been fantastic for me… except for one thing.  They’ll give other craft companies your name and address without asking you first.  To quote from their privacy policy, “We may share your mailing address with reputable businesses that can provide you with valuable, relevant offers and information. If you do not wish to have your name shared with these carefully screened businesses, please call customer service”.

Notifying you is not asking, by the way.  Saying “I’m taking your fries unless you go out of your way to stop me” is not the same thing as saying “Can I have some fries?”

In the world of Web 2.0, I firmly believe that privacy decisions like the sharing of personal information should ALWAYS be an  OPT-IN procedure, not opt-out.  Yes, you’re running a business and forming partnerships and exchanges with other business is very useful, but making privacy issues opt-in is a chance to show your customers that you respect them, and passing on that chance makes customers like me uneasy.

At least allow your customers to opt out the same way they ordered, online.   (‘Cause they might be afraid of phones, you know.  Like me.)

I still order from Fire Mountain (I can’t resist those pearls, prices, and almost flawless customer service), and I still recommend them with this one caveat.  I only get craft spam in James’ mailbox, so they do try to keep things relevant.   Still, it’s like being taken on a great date only to find out your date is a lousy tipper… or steals your fries without asking.  Not necessarily a deal breaker, but definitely something to grumble about.  Not a sin, but rude. Come on, people.  No one wants to be like Facebook.

Now, I don’t mean to beat up on Fire Mountain.  To reiterate, I not only order from them, I recommend them!  But as a small business person myself who’s been trying to figure out how to get the word out, how far is too far when it comes to advertising and networking is something of interest to me.

So what do you think?  Has my web/computer-geekdom made me too sensitive about privacy policies and the difference between opting out and opting in?  Am I totally incorrect about the difference between notifying and asking, and which is more respectful?  Is it not a problem, a grumble-problem, or a dealbreaker?  How should a business which operates exclusively through the web and mail (and thus, may benefit greatly from mail advertising to crafty sorts) handle customer privacy? Is a couple of lines of notification in the many paragraphs of privacy policy perfectly sufficient, or would it be better to inquire of your customers which companies, if any, they’d like to have their addresses?  Is carefully catering who you give someone’s address to enough to make it a non-problem?  Is giving a phone number for opting out enough?

And, fellow online craft sellers (who are also small businesses conducted through the internet): have you ever considered mail marketing of this sort?  Let’s say there was an Etsy team where, if a customer ordered from one shop, that seller would hand over the customer’s address to everyone else on the team with the expressed purpose of sending that customer lots of advertising.  Would it matter to you if the customer was asked to opt-in versus notified in the privacy policy that they need to opt out?  And what other options are there to get the word out to like-minded people?

I’d be curious to know what you think.

Back to pearls!  I love how it lays- it’s so shiny and versatile- but I think I’m going to have to sell it.

That way, I can buy more pearls.

(Most likely from Fire Mountain.)

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One Comment leave one →
  1. 07/12/2010 6:57 AM

    Eek. I didn’t know FMG operated that way. You’re completely right in my eyes: you should have to actively opt in to sharing your information with folk you’ve not worked with, and opting out should be easier than ordering. FMG’s policy bites.

    May I share links to supply houses I’ve used whose policy *doesn’t* bite?
    http://www.jewelrysupply.com/pearls.html (also: awesome customer service, when I ordered.)
    http://www.artbeads.com/freshwater-pearls.html (very polite folk.)

    As far as my own marketing: I could see using my clientele’s addresses to send them updates & promos, but any third party’s wares I thought they might like, I’d refer the client to. This business of siccing a company on an unsuspecting person ~shakes head~ Not my bag.

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