Customer Gets Payless To Compensate Him For Text Message Spam

Peter was pretty frustrated when Payless Shoesource ignored his two opt-out texts and continued to pester him with SMS spam. His complained via email and got taken off their list, but then he decided to see if he could get back the money those texts cost him.

I had been receiving text messages from Payless Shoes about special offers. I remember giving out my number to them (I know, I dont know why I did) but they never mentioned anything about text messages. Here’s a letter I sent to them. I admit I was a little mean, but I was annoyed.

Dear Payless,

Please Stop sending me text messages. I have “opted out” two times already yet you still send them. My number is also on the do not call list and you are ignoring it.

As a matter of fact getting these so called “offers” actually reminds me NOT to shop in your stores.

To be honest, I would rather tie dead fish to my feet than buy anything at Payless ever again since you keep sending me these texts and ignore your customers requests.

My number is [redacted], do not send me text messages again.

-Peter”

They sent me this:

Dear Peter,

Thank you for contacting Payless Shoesource.

We apologize that you were inconvenienced by our message. Please rest assured that your comments have been forwarded to our marketing staff.

All of the phone numbers called during this marketing campaign were collected at the time of checkout in our stores. These numbers have not been bought or sold through any outside marketing firms. Your phone number has been removed from the data base.

Thank you for taking the time to provide us with your feedback.

Katelin
Payless Shoesource Customer Support Center

That should have been fine, but I thought about it and well… I got a little snotty with them.

Katelin,

I understand that, and while its good news, I was wondering if Payless will re-pay me my fees for the text messages I received TWICE. I had opted out and got them again.

I think its 5 cents a word and it’s 27 words. Thats $1.35 x 2 = $2.70. Plus I had to text “opt out” and that was an additional 10 cents.

Please, in these tough economic times it would mean a lot to me to pay me back my $2.80, since at NO TIME did your employee tell me BEFORE that my number would be used in this manner. Not to mention you name is “Payless” and I ended up paying $2.80 MORE upon visiting your store.

I’m awaiting your response.

Sincerely,
Peter

You’re not gonna believe this…

Dear Peter,

Thank you for contacting Payless Shoesource.

I can send you a Payless Shoe Source Gift Card that can be used on http://www.payless.com and in any U.S. Store. Please reply back with your address if you would like to accept the Gift Card.

Thank you for your time.

Katelin
Payless Shoesource Customer Support Center

So, Im not sure what the amount is… I’m really hoping it’s for $2.80, but I took the deal. Thought I’d share.

Hey, it never hurts to ask. We’re not sure what insane cellular provider charges Peter 5 cents per word, though.

Update: Peter wrote back to us:

I think you’re right about that pricing. I think it’s $.20 a message. I honestly DON’T text and wasnt sure what it was.

Plus I had a bit of an attitude with them that was a little unwarranted. I’m not sure if Consumerist.com is interested but I don’t mean to be a bully, I just dont like spam. So I sent them this letter.

Thanks again!
Peter

Katelin,

Thank you for your quick reply. I would like to take this chance to apologize for being rude. You have gone above and beyond and have kept a customer in the process.

Thanks again,
Peter

(Photo: crschmidt)

Comments

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  1. Joeb5 says:

    wow just wow what is that poser mobile?

    and incoming should be free as well text 911 as well.

    • amster77 says:

      @Joeb5: A while back, Sprint was charging for every incoming text as well as the outgoing ones. We had to beg people not to text us all the little forwards and silly questions … it was 10 cents a pop each way. Of course, that was before we had unlimited and I am signed up for every facebook and twitter update known to man ….

    • thisistobehelpful says:

      @Joeb5: I don’t have a contract so I pay by the minute for my phone service as well as by the text in and out. Any functioning cell phone is required by law to be able to call 911 even if it’s not activated. Texts and 911 have nothing to do with each other on cell phone plans.

      • Amish Undercover says:

        @thisistobehelpful: Same on having a prepaid plan… they are so much cheaper than the contract BS. (Even with paying per text.)

        BTW, for anyone interested, do not get AT&T for prepaid since they charge a lot for prepaid service, both calls and texts. T-Mobile is much cheaper on both, however, there might be other even cheaper prepaid plans with other carriers (not Verizon though, last I checked). For the record, I pay at most $150/year for my cell phone usage. A contract plan is a minimum $400/year with any major carrier.

    • friendlynerd says:

      @Joeb5: incoming is not free on most plans.

    • BytheSea says:

      @Joeb5: Incoming isn’t free if you don’t have a text plan. He says he doens’t text, so obviously he doesn’t have a plan.

  2. brain_grenade says:

    The attitude really wasn’t necessary.

    • wvFrugan says:

      @brain_grenade:
      Attitude…ATTITUDE? I’ll show you fuckin’ attitude mister!

    • Easton21 says:

      @brain_grenade: I agree, Peter kinda sounds like a dick (or a lawyer). And five cents per word? C’mon, figure out the rate before you ask for a refund, it would’ve taken all but 30 seconds. I wonder if he expects a credit for gas he uses when he waits in drive-through lanes.

    • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

      @brain_grenade: Gee, what do you expect? The OP is upset. He sounds upset.

      You know, Payless, I love you and can’t live without you, but I’m a teensy, weensy bit bothered that you texted me without asking first. I really don’t care about the money; you know we’re not about that, but ould you please just think about it before you do it again? It would mean ever so much to me. Sorry to bug you! Hugs and kisses, Peter

  3. ohenry says:

    I guess I’m relatively inexperienced in the cell plan world (I go with Cellcom, a local carrier in Wisconsin that is great overall), but I’m curious what sort of plan charges by the word for SMS messages? And how does it calculate a “word”?

    That’s really cool of Payless to do that though. I never actually had a Payless store in my area, they were just a part inside of Shopko.

    • Derv says:

      @ohenry: Wait wait wait…Cellcom…Shopko…are you from Green Bay!?

      • ohenry says:

        @Derv: Haha, close! I’m in Stevens Point, actually, so maybe two hours away. But yeah, you can’t spell Win without WI! :D

        • voogru says:

          @ohenry: They would probably calculate the words by the characters seperated by spaces.

          So, remove spaces, voila, now you only pay 5 cents per message!

          bobwehadababyitsaboy

          But they probably don’t do it like that.

          • ohenry says:

            @voogru: I actually tried that on a collect call once, but my dad didn’t get it. I was in high school and I needed him to pick me up, so when it asked for the name I said “gameisovercomepickmeup” and he still accepted charges.

            Silly old people.

            But that’s what I was thinking too when they said they charged per word. Either don’t use spaces at all, or even/use/slashes/to/separate/the/words.

          • Easton21 says:

            @voogru: I think they would run your message through a list of dictionaries in every language and compute it that way. The system might cost $100,000 to develop (or more to make sure you’re not double billed for words like “hotdog”), but after that initial investment, it’s PURE profit! They’ll be making at LEAST 25 cents off each text Payless sends to Peter, who is certain to be their only customer. At that rate, they can expect a return in close to 200,001 years.

  4. cupcake_ninja says:

    So he got $2.80 back in the form of a gift card to Payless…a place he vowed to never shop from ever again. So he’s either going to be out the $2.80, therefore, wasting his time and efforts, or he’s going to go into Payless to spend more money just to get his $2.80. Yay!

    • shadowkahn says:

      @cupcake_ninja: Unless I’m reading this horribly wrong, he could have gotten between $500 and $1,500 depending on how bad of a mood a judge would be in, if he had filed suit under the TCPA.

  5. pmcpa4 says:

    Per word? This one might be bordering on “Bad Consumer,” but I do understand the frustration….

  6. icruise says:

    Yeah, I’ve never heard of a plan that charges by the word. And while I guess it’s cool of Payless to send a gift card, it’ll probably be for a small enough amount that it basically will cost them nothing. If there’s a chance it could get them a customer back, they’ve actually come out ahead.

    • PølάrβǽЯ says:

      @icruise: “it’ll probably be for a small enough amount that it basically will cost them nothing. If there’s a chance it could get them a customer back, they’ve actually come out ahead.”

      Which is what more companies need to realize. Be courteous and generous to an unhappy customer, and it will keep a paying customer coming back and, well, paying!

  7. H3ion says:

    If he’s paying five cents a “word”, whatever that is, he ought to change providers.

    I thought his first letter was juvenile and would have sent it straight to the shredder if I had received it.

    Cupcake_ninja is dead right. He’s going to have to spend something to use a $2.80 gift card. It would be interesting to see if there’s a usage fee on the card.

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      I thought his first letter was juvenile and would have sent it straight to the shredder if I had received it.

      @H3ion: Wouldn’t blatantly ignoring his request to have his number removed for a third time justify his “juvenile-ness” in the first place?

  8. Knippschild says:

    Honestly.. 5 cents every word? I don’t know of any company that would do that. if so, people would just SendTextMessagesWithoutSpacesAndSaveABargain.

    I’m gonna have to call BS on that.

    Plans usually charge on a per text basis. Each text is a max of 160 characters due to the implementation of technology. It costs the carrier the same whether 5 characters are sent or 160. Charging the customers 5 cents per word would be a GREAT profit, however, I don’t think they’d have many customers.

  9. nstonep says:

    Wow…you get money to spend on subpar chinese made shoes. Frankly, you should just block text messages because 95% of them are spam.

  10. macinjosh says:

    by the word? Who’s his cel provider, Western Union?

  11. eelmonger says:

    So it’s OK to lie to companies if it gets you a free $3?

    • TreyWaters says:

      @eelmonger: Exactly. This is probably why customer service is so terrible these days. It’s too expensive to deal with people like this. So they make dealing with customer service an absolute pain, which kills it for people with legitimate issues.

      I understand the initial complaint – receiving unsolicited texts, and I could have understood if he asked for actual monetary damages – I’m agreeing with most other comments that $.05 per word is unheard of. So, based off of my cell plan, for 3 text messages (2 incoming, 1 outgoing) that would total $.45 in reimbursement.

      Kudos to Payless, though, for appearing to have a wonderful customer service department, though!

  12. theSuperman says:

    The gift card offer from Payless is such a slap in the face, although his request for $2.80 was quite arbitrary and not based on what he was actually charged by his cell phone provider.

  13. P_Smith says:

    Never mind the cost of the SMS, how about Payless paying for his time? How much personal time did it take him to deal with their stupidity? Two hours?

    I value my time dealing with companies at the same rate I get paid per hour. If they force me to take four hours of my personal time to get a problem resolved, I expect at least $100 in compensation or credit.

    Of course, I rarely get that much, usually only what I was originally paying for, but if a company is costing me money through their errors, they should have to pay for it. They would certainly demand payment if the situation was reversed.

    • h3llc4t, breaker of office dress codes says:

      @P_Smith: I doubt it took him two hours to send two “opt out” text messages and send two emails (if he had sent them via postal mail I presume he would have asked to be reimbursed for the stamps, too).

  14. Chris Walters says:

    READ BEFORE POSTING MORE COMMENTS

    I’ve updated the post with a follow-up from Peter where he admits he has no idea what text messaging costs, so everyone can stop abusing him for his wild guesstimates as of now, kthx.

    Those of you who think he was too rude: he twice followed their instructions to opt-out of SMS marketing, and the process didn’t work. He has every right to be annoyed that he has to take extra steps to get this to stop. He also has has every right to try to get some sort of compensation for his trouble.

    If you think that his barely rude communications make him a “bad customer” then I pray to FSM that you don’t work in customer service, because you don’t have the ability to understand that sometimes customers are upset and/or emotional over something your company has done, and it’s your job to put them right again. Clearly he was once a paying customer of Payless; they pissed him off, and by apologizing and making a token gesture of goodwill they got him to come back and shop again. That’s how customer service is supposed to work. Companies don’t get to dismiss their customer’s complaints merely because he or she is upset at what has happened.

    Hell, half of our commenters are ruder than this every day in our comment threads.

    • h3llc4t, breaker of office dress codes says:

      @Chris Walters: Not to try to argue, Chris, but is he sure that texting “opt out” was a valid way to do so? Did it say something like that in the text message? Without knowing what the message said, it’s possible that he just sent an invalid response back that didn’t accomplish what he wanted.
      Personally, it seems like if you’re going to make a claim for reimbursement, you ought to have your charges correct before making the claim.

      • Chris Walters says:

        @h3llc4t has a slow work day: Good point, and I don’t know.

        What’s important to me about this story is that a consumer attempted to get reimbursed for being marketed to in a way he didn’t explicitly approve of. And he was successful! The amount he asked for seemed pretty transparently arbitrary, but I don’t think that detracts from the value of what he did.

        I also think it’s important because it shows us a company that’s willing to treat each customer seriously when it comes to marketing and customer service–two things we are always railing against.

      • Chris Walters says:

        @h3llc4t has a slow work day: (more thoughts) In all likelihood, there was some fine print somewhere that said “we’re gonna text ya,” or the clerk was supposed to get his verbal agreement but didn’t, or he just forgot that he agreed to it. The point isn’t that Payless broke a law on spamming. It’s that a customer decided “I don’t want to be marketed to like this, and I’m going to see if I can get the company to do something that shows me that they actually do value my time and my business.”

        I also stand by my argument that he wasn’t actually that rude. And seriously, it’s okay to be rude about a corporation–they’re not people. (He was blunt but never insulting to Katelin.)

        • h3llc4t, breaker of office dress codes says:

          @Chris Walters: I think the last comment might have been aimed more at Knippschild rather than me, but there are still some good talking points…
          I suppose my point is that he (presumably) consented to receiving promotional material. He didn’t want to receive it any more. He tried to stop receiving it in a way that perhaps the system didn’t recognize. He got said material again and wrote a pissy email to Payless. They said “no problem” and took him off. His not being taken off the list sooner than that email to Payless was received might not have been Payless’ fault, because they hadn’t been contacted in an appropriate fashion before then. I’ll keep my opinions on his attitude and the worthiness of that rebate to myself, but I am glad Payless responded in such a timely manner and in such a positive way.

    • Knippschild says:

      @Chris Walters: At the same time, he shouldn’t be invoicing them unless he knows exactly how much he is being charged himself. Making up numbers is bad..

      I do agree with h3llc4t. A lot of these types of text are hardly spam. Spam suggests that it is unsolicited. He had a business relationship with Payless. Of course, with government regulations there needs to be a way to opt out of the service. Remember that these services are monitored by a computer program, if they don’t get the expected text string to opt out, you won’t be opted out.

      It generally does say in the message “To stop receiving these texts, reply with STOP.”

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      Hell, half of our commenters are ruder than this every day in our comment threads.

      @Chris Walters: Hah! Truthful statement is truthful.

  15. johnrhoward says:

    Yh, Ptr s fll f sht wth hs 5 cnts wrd crp.

  16. aparsons says:

    Actually, the first time you receive an unsolicited text message, it’s a $500 fine. Subsequent unsolicited text messages are subject to a $1500 fine per message. You let Payless off way too cheap!

    File a complaint: [www.fcc.gov]

    • Knippschild says:

      @aparsons: He had an existing business relationship with payless.

      • Rectilinear Propagation says:

        @Knippschild: I don’t think that means that they can send you text messages though. They can send you mail or call you but it costs money to receive text messages. They should be getting explicit permission to send text messages to people.

  17. That's Consumer007 to you says:

    His attitude was justified and a credit of $2.00 towards worthless ass shoes he isn’t interested in is worthless as well. They need to just send him a check for the damages.

  18. almightytora says:

    So, the OP lied about the cost of the text messages and then lied that he’d never shop at Payless ever again?

    I would have refused the card and asked for a check in the mail.

    I apologize if this comment is kinda bashing the OP, but if you tell a company you’re not going to shop at their locations ever again, then accept a gift card for their store… kinda makes you look silly.

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      @almightytora: There’s a difference between lying and being wrong. You have to know what your saying isn’t true for it to be a lie. He did say that he ‘thinks’ it was X per word. Payless could have asked to see proof or just asked him to get the exact number from his bill first but I imagine they didn’t care about such a small amount of money.

      I would also argue that it’s not lying if you change your mind. For him to be a liar he would mean he always planned to go back to a Payless even if they didn’t fix their mistake. We have no reason to think that he wouldn’t have avoided the store if they kept sending the text messages.

  19. Schildkrote says:

    I’m gonna go with the people who said he should reject the card and asked for a check; I also don’t think he was being rude. If more people would take this sort of zero tolerance stance with letting their personal information be abused in this way, I imagine we’d see a lot less of it happening.

  20. Tryst says:

    I’m a payless customer and was asked by the store sales lady to give my phone number so that she could send me text coupons on my cell phone. She said that Payless was trying to cut back on the amount of paper they were sending in the mail and that it would save millions of trees. I though it was a good idea and I love it. My text messages ask me if I want to opt out every time, maybe I just don’t get it.