Micro Center, we need to talk

I enjoyed the great value and good service I received from my recent Micro Center purchase. Ordering online and picking up in the store the same day was a breeze, even if my new credit card without raised numbering threw off the employee who wanted to run it through an old timey credit card imprinter for some reason even though I had already paid and been charged online (he ended up writing my full credit card details down on his paper work…I’m just sure that’s PCI compliant).

However, there’s one thing I didn’t enjoy at all: The Micro Center Preference Center.

Somehow in the giddiness and excitement of my purchase, my dopamine addled brain completely missed whatever opt-out choice there must have been for subscribing to a number of different Micro Center “eNewsUpdate” emails. Hence for the past few weeks I’ve noticed, but ignored, a number of marketing emails from Micro Center. However, with my inbox exploding with Black Friday emails today, I decided it was a good time to go through them all and unsubscribe from the ones I didn’t want to get anymore.

When you sit down and unsubscribe from these newsletters (I mean marketing emails from legitimate companies you’ve done business with, not random spam), you’ll see a wide variety of different kinds of unsubscribe mechanisms. Usually you click the link, are taken to a page where you confirm that “yes, you really do mean to stop getting these exciting, money saving offers” by clicking a confirm button (God forbid someone accidentally click unsubscribe and miss out!), and that’s that. Two or three clicks at most usually, with maybe a short survey asking why you’re unsubscribing. This seems to be the industry standard. There are of course the rare ones where all you have to do is click the unsubscribe link and that’s all; you’re completely done, which is great. MailChimp is one email marketing company that does this with their client’s lists, and I think that’s fantastic. There are also the few annoying ones where you have to login to some account or fill out some form, which is a bit more work and a little bit annoying.

Then there’s The Micro Center Preference Center (try saying that five times fast). An unsubscribe page that has confounded and irritated me so much as to prompt me to write my first blog entry in five months. An unsubscribe page crafted by the dark lord satan himself from the tears of orphans and the blood of innocent puppies. Okay maybe that’s a bit much, but it’s still a pretty horrendous design and I think it’s pretty obvious that it’s designed to keep people from unsubscribing as much as possible. Go ahead dear reader, click the link above and see how user friendly this process is. Go on, we’ll wait for you to come back.


The Unsubscribe/Modify link in the Micro Center email

If you didn’t smash your computer in a fit of rage and are miraculously still reading this, or if you just can’t be bothered to try it yourself, allow me walk you through the user experience on this. You’ve got a Micro Center newsletter and you decide to unsubscribe. So, you scroll to the bottom and look for the requisite link in the smallest possible font they believe they can get away with.

This combined Unsubscribe/Modify link of course takes you to the aforementioned Micro Center Preference Center. When a company has these different functions on one page you know immediately they don’t care about making it easy for you to unsubscribe. Usually when there’s not a separate page just for unsubscribing, it means you’ll have to login, or fill out a form, do something else to confirm you really mean to update the email subscription preferences for [email protected].

The Micro Center Preference Center page

The Micro Center Preference Center page

In the case of Micro Center, it takes you to this confusing page. The very first thing you notice is that there’s a lot of stuff happening on this page. Compared to a lot of other unsubscribe mechanisms, this is the most cluttered, text heavy page I’ve ever seen. I enjoy how the page conveniently highlights the section that lets you subscribe to ALL of the different newsletters; that’s very nice of them. Of course they hide the radio button to unsubscribe from all of their emails way at the bottom of the page in a lovely low contrast grey box with grey text (I usually prefer white text on a white background myself).


Finding the unsubscribe all option

The first thing I did was search for the word “unsubscribe” near the world all. Finding the radio button at the bottom of the page, I selected it, and triumphantly pressed the submit button. Wait, nothing happened. Did something happen? Just click it again to be sure. No, nothing is happening here. Something’s not right.

Confirming the email they already know is correct because it's embedded in the link you clicked to get to this page in the first place

Confirming the email they already know is correct because it’s embedded in the unsubscribe link you clicked to get to this page, from the newsletter they sent to the email address which you must confirm

In fact, for the form at the bottom of the page to do anything useful, you have to first fill out and submit the form at the top of the page confirming your email address. I guess the red text is supposed to tell you that you need to do this first, though I have no idea why you should know this. If confirming your email is a requisite first step and it requires a page refresh anyway, why do they even tease us with the totally and deceptively nonfunctional form at the bottom of the page? Of course, since you can subscribe to the newsletters through this same page and perhaps because you can get to this page without having your email address pre-filled somehow, they make you confirm your email address; even if you only got to this page by clicking on a link with your email embedded in it because it was contained in an email newsletter they sent to the email which you must confirm. Makes sense to me.

Hope you can read the CAPTCHA, because if not you'll be getting those Micro Center emails forever

Hope you can read the CAPTCHA, because if not you’ll be getting those Micro Center emails forever

After the page refreshes they helpfully let you know they “accepted” your email (how nice of them) and that you can now actually make use of the “customize your experience” form at the bottom of the page to update your preferences. Great. But what’s that below the instructions? A CAPTCHA that assumedly you must solve but they neglect to mention as a requirement anywhere on the entire page. Fantastic. Helpfully, they’ve also either intentionally modified or somehow broken the reCAPTCHA widget so that you can’t request a new CAPTCHA, get an audio CAPTCHA if you’re visually impaired, or get help with the CAPTCHA in general. Awesome. Digging into the code of the page those elements are hidden using CSS for some reason. I don’t want to make any accusations here, but I’m not sure how this could possibly be on accident.

Not as sorry as I am Micro Center

Couldn’t decide whether to caption this “Not as sorry as I am Micro Center” or “No, thank YOU stock photo, customer service lady”

Assuming you’ve solved the CAPTCHA correctly, fiddled with the form at the bottom of the page, and clicked submit, you’ve now successfully unsubscribed. I think. Because the page you get afterwards may very well be this plea to allow them to keep emailing you at a reduced frequency. As if after running the gauntlet to unsubscribe you’ll change your mind now if only they finally give in and promise not to bother you with these exclusive offers more then twice a month. Right. Also notice how you must answer in the negative (the NO choice) to unsubscribe, even though they asked two questions with the first being “Receiving too many emails?” That’s some nice sneaky psychology right there. I have no idea what happens if you just stop here (does the unsubscribe request go through?), I wasn’t brave enough to find out. Select NO, hit submit, and you’re finally done.

Micro Center,

I’m really glad we could have this talk. I love your prices. I love that you’re not Best Buy. You’re great, grand, and wonderful in my book. However, I do not love The Micro Center Preference Center. Please fix it.