Negative options

opt outDid you ever receive a credit card charge for something you didn’t (knowingly) buy? You have to follow up, dispute the charge, call Customer Service, exchange emails, and generally spend time and effort to resolve it.

If you can’t resolve it, sometimes you just pay the charge to make it go away. That, of course, is what the perpetrators of this evil practice are counting on.

Maybe you purchased or subscribed to something online and failed to click the tiny checkbox , following the unreadable disclaimer text, that said No Thanks. To your horror, that unreadable text obligated you to ongoing charges on the credit card you had just supplied.

Here’s the negative option at work:

If you don’t actively say NO, we’re going to take that as a YES.

An even more insidious version of the negative option is at work on social media. It appeared on email a few years ago, and has since infected Facebook, Twitter, et al., ad nauseam. (OK, enough Latin.) The point is that it’s everywhere. The goal is apparently not money. It purports to be participation or endorsement. The underlying purpose is not clear, and that’s the problem. Its message is:

If you don’t actively say YES, we’re going to take that as a NO.

Here are some examples:

  • Photo of a dying child. “Can I get an AMEN?”
  • Photo of person with shocking deformity: “LIKE if you think I’m beautiful.”
  • Sad animal: “SHARE if you’re against animal cruelty.”
  • Photo of wounded veteran: “COPY AND PASTE if you support our veterans.”

The implication is that if you don’t respond as they ask, you are a heartless, cruel, sub-human, awful person. There is no room for these responses:

  • I don’t know the source of that photo.
  • I don’t even know if that photo is real.
  • Where do you send my personal information if I respond?
  • Does this put me on some list?
  • Is there a legitimate charity involved?
  • I don’t have time to research this.

It’s a new form of emotional blackmail even more intrusive than those unwarranted charges on your credit card. If you have to depend on negative-option responses to make a point, maybe your real point is not so legitimate.

I have book coming out in the spring. If you don’t buy it, read it, and give me a great Amazon review, I will assume you have no taste and that you probably can’t read anyway. I will never speak to you again.

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2 thoughts on “Negative options

  1. If it is already assumed that I am a cruel, heartless, subhuman monster, that frees up my moral misgivings about actually being cruel, heartless, subhuman monster. How liberating! Because I didn’t respond to that sick puppy pyramid letter, I have nothing to lose, socially speaking, if I throw recyclables in the regular trash or kick over Salvation Army collection tripods. Stolen girl-scout cookies are the sweetest!

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