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Is Mother’s Day hard for you? Companies let you opt out of painful reminders

For people who struggle with loss, infertility and other issues surrounding the May holiday, Etsy and other businesses offer not to send Mother’s Day emails.
A California florist prepares for Mother's Day last year. For some the barrage of advertising leading up to the holiday can be difficult.
A California florist prepares for Mother's Day last year. For some the barrage of advertising leading up to the holiday can be difficult. [ RICH PEDRONCELLI | AP ]
Published May 7, 2021

For Timur Aydin, whose mother died unexpectedly at 51, Mother’s Day can be tough.

When May approaches, he sees his inbox fill with advertising emails telling him not to forget mom on her special day. One year, he asked a florist to take him off the list for those annual reminders, only to get an email the next year about a Mother’s Day flower deal.

“That can be a lot,” said Aydin, 33, who works in communications and marketing in Tampa.

But this year he received an unexpected note from the global online marketplace Etsy.

“We understand that Mother’s Day can be a difficult time for some,” it said. “If you’d rather not receive emails from us about Mother’s Day this year, let us know by removing yourself below.”

Impressed with the opt-out option, he did.

“I think it just shows the thoughtfulness of the people that are behind the machine and the corporation,” Aydin said. “I think that speaks volumes.”

The second-Sunday-in-May holiday to honor moms is widely celebrated, but it isn’t a happy occasion for everyone — people dealing with grief and loss, estrangement, infertility, complicated family dynamics and other highly sensitive and personal issues.

So some companies have started offering customers the chance to avoid Mother’s Day emails with what’s called “permission marketing” — letting consumers decide whether to get the promotional messages or not.

Etsy sent this email to customers this year.
Etsy sent this email to customers this year. [ Etsy ]

“The opt-out email came about because in a year when so many of us lost loved ones, we wanted to be especially sensitive,” Ariel Kaye, founder and CEO of bedding and bath company Parachute, told the Tampa Bay Times in an email.

Greetabl, which sends small personalized gifts in unique boxes, has offered the opt-out for several years. The company collaborates with the Fertility Tribe, an infertility support network, and carries gift boxes for people who struggle with Mother’s Day.

“Not only have hundreds of consumers opted out of our Mother’s Day emails, but we also had an outpouring of emails from our community telling us how much this small gesture meant to them.” Greetabl’s marketing director Brittany Wells said via email.

Several companies are offering the same option for Father’s Day in June.

But wait. Doesn’t this mean businesses risk losing the chance to connect with customers during lucrative gift-giving holidays?

“Research suggests that when you give the consumer control in the dialogue and the interactions, it fosters a stronger relationship,” said Jill Mosteller, professor of marketing at the University of Tampa. She called the Mother’s Day option respectful, gracious and smart.

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“It’s acknowledging that not everyone responds to the same event in the same way,” she said.

Sherry Ciurczak, a freelance writer who lives in Inverness, lost her mom in 2014. When she got Etsy’s email, she wrote to thank the company.

“I don’t expect the world to stop celebrating Mother’s Day because the day is an unpleasant reminder to me about the loss of my mom,” she said via email to the Times.

“But I could do without opening an inbox to see a dozen message subject lines like ‘Mom really wants XYZ for Mother’s Day’ and the like, and I wish more companies would follow suit.”


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