For all the talk of email marketing best practice, there are still those that persist in duping their customers to generate artificially high click rates.

One company, alas, is gadget retailer Firebox, which yesterday sent me an email with the following subject line: ‘And the winner is… you!’.

“Brilliant”, I thought, “I’ve won a gadget!”

The only concern I had was that I couldn’t remember entering any competition. But stranger things have happened. 

I opened the email. I clicked on the ‘display images’ link. And the image-laden newsletter duly unfurled in front of my eyes.

Oh for a light sabre!

Hmmm. My WTF radar started bleeping. The email appeared to be nothing more than a monthly newsletter.

But hold on, I’ve WON dammit! I would not be beaten down so easily. I started to read every word, slowly, to find the hidden (free) treasure. 

Something about a TV. Something about fizzy vodka. Something about a USB VHS converter. Something about a Stylophone. Something about a keychain. 

Mother of God, where is my prize?

Something about a beanbag. Something about an Aston Martin. Something about a micro chopper. Something about a laser pod. 

I smelt a rat. I knew it… I knew I hadn’t entered any competition. There was no prize.

Firebox has historically sent me a newsletter every fortnight or so, and I reckon I have open and read most of them. Partly because I trusted the retailer, having purchased from it in the past, and partly because I like stupid gadgets. Sometimes I’d visit the site and buy a remote controlled helicopter or some other object of interest.

But this kind of crass subject line has essentially duped me. I carefully read and re-read the newsletter in full. Right down to the footer, which asked a pertinent question: “If you no longer wish to receive newsletters from Firebox click here.” I duly clicked, and that’s the end of the road for Firebox and me. 

An email subject line is a promise. Break that promise and you’re damaging a relationship. 

Having done all of this I now finally understand the subject line. It related to the awards shows that Firebox promoted in the newsletter (The Brits, Fashion Week, The Oscars). Maybe I’m a dumbass but I didn’t second guess the content of the email before I clicked… I simply opened the email to discover my non-existant prize.

UPDATE: Firebox has admitted a human error here. It happens. As such I’ll retract that opening line about ‘duping customers’ as clearly this wasn’t intentional on Firebox’s part. It just goes to show that a) even the most savvy retailers make basic errors from time to time, and b) newsletter recipients occasionally act before they think things through properly.