Admit it – we all enjoy online shopping from time to time. I’ve personally fallen victim to Amazon Prime and can get my favorite items in two days or less. I’ve been known to frequent the shopping section on the T.J. Maxx website, and a box of goodies “magically” appears a few days later. When life gets busy, online services are a wonderful modern convenience. But, there are a few times where brands and online retailers get it plain wrong. This example is just one.
Let me explain what I mean. Earlier this year, I was feeling a bit under the weather. It’s not abnormal for me to get sick during the wintertime, especially since I reside in a colder-than-usual climate in Minnesota. My symptoms were flulike, so like many people, I began searching on WebMD and Google for potential remedies. I typed things like “nausea, vomiting and bloating” into the little blank search bar in hopes of uncovering an answer. One helpful search resulted in related pregnancy symptoms, so naturally I headed to the pharmacy and took a test to confirm. Three urine-soaked tests and a few happy tears later, I learned that I was pregnant with my first child. At age 26, I was nervous, happy and totally curious about what to do next. Of course, I began searching the Internet for first trimester tips. I scoured blogs, websites, forums and retail sites. Little did I know that I was leaving a trail of data for advertisers to access.
Eventually, I began getting advertisements online for baby products. I’m assuming that it was based on my online activity and purchases that were made. One by one, I clicked to see what the advertisements were selling. Coincidentally during this time, I purchased a few cute baby shower gifts for a friend who was also expecting her first child. I swiped my Target RedCard and scanned my discount code through the Target app. I kept leaving a peppered trail of baby-related purchase data wherever I went.
Then, reality began to set in. My first doctor’s office visit was filled with anticipation and excitement. It was the perfect time to ask the nurses and doctors the nuanced questions that weren’t so easily found on the Internet. When I went in for my first ultrasound, I was more than ready to see the sonogram. After a few uncomfortable minutes, the nurse seemed to be having trouble locating a heartbeat. She kindly stated, “It’s probably just too early to detect. Come back next week for another visit!”. Nervously, I left the room and scheduled another appointment. I remained as optimistic as possible, but seven anxiety-filled days later, I discovered that we couldn’t locate the tiny heartbeat. I was told to come back one final time to see how things progressed, but there was a part of me that simply knew something wasn’t right. Just three and a half weeks after I learned I was pregnant, I found out that I was having a miscarriage while sitting in a cold, sterile doctor’s office. I learned that my body was still holding onto the unsuccessful pregnancy with a vengeance, so I made the difficult decision to terminate the pregnancy faster with a hospital procedure – something that I will never forget even though I want to. This bit of news was conveniently slated between a vacation to see friends in Colorado and my boyfriend’s 29th birthday celebration. Not ideal timing, right? I guess there’s never a good time to hear bad news.
As I write this, I calculate that I would have been about seven months pregnant had things gone perfectly. I consider myself a tenacious person, but I carry the emotional weight of a loss around with me most of the time. It sits on my chest like a ton of bricks and creeps back up on me when I least expect it. I attend baby showers with a smile on my face even though I choke back tears and feel a lump in my throat. I stand in line at the grocery store and smile at the newborn nestled comfortably in his carrier as his mom looks down and kisses his cheek. I’m basically a puddle of tears when I see newborn puppies and kittens while scrolling through Instagram. There are little reminders hidden everywhere throughout my day.
So, it’s probably important for me to make my point – as smart as Target and other online retailers are in figuring out what products to sell you, they sure are terrible at learning when bad things happen. Like losing a child or any tragic event for that matter. Since having my miscarriage, I counted nearly 15 separate emails from Target with a baby-centric focus:
“Essentials for baby, $20 gift card for you.”
“Soft sheets. Soft swaddles. Pretty awesome prices.”
“That moment when your fave baby gear is on sale.”
Of course, I know that marketers and advertisers are simply trying to be helpful with these emails. At the end of the day, it is their job to sell consumers products that they need and want in their lives. From a professional standpoint, I have my degree in Mass Communication and Advertising, and I’ve worked at advertising agencies for most of my career. I understand the need to sell products, but I just can’t help but wonder why advertisers haven’t learned how to anticipate things like loss of life, death or hard times. The last thing I wanted to be reminded of when I’m checking my email is that I don’t have a sweet little one to buy that discounted stroller for.
Loss of life isn’t a popular topic of conversation at the dinner table, fun water cooler banter or great happy hour fodder. These thoughts and feelings usually get put on the back-burner for counseling sessions or late nights as you ugly-cry yourself to sleep. My hope is that someday I (and others) be able to move on without these constant triggers that appear throughout the day. For now, I’ll just swipe away, delete and unsubscribe from these now irrelevant emails from brands.