Connected: A simple mistake lands All-Star voters on spam list
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Online voting ended on Thursday for the Major League Baseball All-Star Game -- a few days later than for those who voted at the ballparks. Yet, with all the articles and radio-talk show gabfests about the voting, I didn't hear anybody talk about how a small mistake while you're voting could make you do something you wouldn't ordinarily do -- sign up for spam lists.
Maybe that's because it's more important to sports talk-show hosts to debate the merits of the players who got the most votes each week. (There's nothing wrong with that. I like to do that, too.) Maybe it's because getting spam doesn't matter to the hosts or sports columnists. Or maybe it's because they simply didn't notice. That's my guess.
So here's how it worked, keeping in mind that Major League Baseball is driven as much by advertising revenue as it is by ticket sales -- although ticket sales help drive the amount of advertising revenue the leagues can command:
MLB sold the sponsorship of All-Star Game online voting to Monster.com, the online employment resource. Every time you went to MLB.com or to the Web sites of the ballclubs during the voting period, you saw a banner with the Monster.com logo, urging you to vote. Clicking on the banner would take you to a voting set-up page, branded with Monster.com, ready to take your name, e-mail address and birthday.
From there, you click on the "Vote Now" button to select your American League picks; then your National League picks. Then, when you're done, you can start all over again. When you do, your name, e-mail address, and birthdate are already waiting for you. Just click-through the screens again -- after typing in four characters so the league can make sure you're not cheating by automating your voting. In a nutshell, Major League Baseball has made it point-and-click easy to vote repeatedly -- up to 25 times. That's more than you'd vote at the ballpark.
Here's the rub. The page that asks for your name, e-mail address and birthdate also has two check boxes so you can sign up for commercial e-mail messages from your favorite clubs, MLB and Monster. What do you mean you didn't notice? They were very clearly labeled. And they were checked to sign you up by default.
That's OK -- and very standard business practice on the Web. I suspect that many people noticed and unchecked them when they first saw them. But it's not the first vote that bothers me. When you go back to vote the second time, as I said, all your information is still there. However, if you unchecked those two boxes the first time round, they have been rechecked for you. Frankly, I didn't notice until my fifth time through this virtual voting booth.
Remember, MLB wants you to vote 25 times. It's good for their sponsor (Monster). It's good for their image -- because a higher vote count suggests to sponsors that more rabid fans will see their advertising messages. And as we now find out, it also means more e-mails from MLB and the teams with which to sell merchandise and tickets.
With all the good things that MLB has done with their Web sites and technology during the past few years, I'm disappointed to get caught in this trap. It's not what I expect of the lords of America's favorite summertime sport. I hope they rethink this strategy for next year. As it is, it makes me -- and probably many more baseball fans -- more leery of purchasing from MLB online. And that's not good for anybody.
First Published July 1, 2006 12:00 am