Is Argos deceiving customers into receiving spam?

Last weekend I reserved a Christmas tree to collect from our local Argos. A process I’ve used before and, to be fair to them, it’s a fantastic service — being able to reserve an item for immediate collection. However, with the number of unwanted emails, texts and calls from companies ever-increasing, I’m always careful to opt out of receiving these. But where had the option gone?

On first inspection, there are no check boxes to allow opting out of marketing:

Argos order reservation page with marketing opt-out options hidden

Argos order reservation page with marketing opt-out options hidden

I read the first sentence…

By submitting your details, you consent to their use as set out in our Privacy Policy. You’ll also be signing up to receive marketing information (such as email, telephone, text) as detailed in our Privacy Policy, unless you tick the boxes below.

…and immediately thought “What boxes below? There’s just a gap where they usually are!”

Now being technically minded, I miss the obvious things like read the next sentence and instead rolled my sleeves up to poke around in the code.

Argos Marketing Options Hidden by CSS

Argos Marketing Options Hidden by CSS

The style=" … " attribute holds CSS rules which defines how an aspect of a web page will look and the rule display: none; will cause the item not to display. Somewhat suspicious.

It wasn’t until the next day when Argos replied to my Tweet that I noticed the following sentence did have an option to opt out:

If you would not like to receive these communications, please change your preferences.

Argos marketing options are displayed after clicking a link in the small-print

Argos marketing options are displayed after clicking a link in the small-print

Clicking the “change your preferences” link in this small-print fires off some JavaScript to remove the CSS rule hiding the marketing preference opt-out boxes.

So is this fair?

Well, I would argue no.

To me, it’s clear that Argos are preying on the fact that customers are lazy and never read the small-print.  I wonder how many people reading this have reserved an item online and read every sentence of the small-print before doing so.

I strongly suspect two things: that Argos have worked out that if users see check boxes, they’re more likely to read why they are there, and that by making it sound complicated to opt-out, most users won’t be bothered.

I’m sure I’m not alone in that any time I see a check box, especially on a form such as this, I read the label next to it in-case it is an option to opt-out of (yet more) direct marketing.  Our eyes are drawn to the fact that this user input is there.  So by hiding these check boxes, it isn’t obvious at a quick glance that you’re being opted in to direct marketing, and that there is an easy option to opt out.

Secondly, Argos have chosen to use a link, which I have noticed some many are reluctant to click once entering a checkout process in case their basket is lost and they have to start over again. Additionally, the wording: “If you would not like to receive these communications, please change your preferences” sounds like a hassle. We associate “preferences” with settings and accounts i.e. when I first read that, I expected to be asked to register an account and change my ‘preferences’ to opt out of their direct marketing.

So when reserving an item from Argos, don’t let them pull the wool over your eyes. You can still opt out of their spam …if you can find it.