The other day I received an email from Dean & Deluca with the subject line: “Oops!”

Oops what? I hadn’t order anything. Was this spam? Did D&D get hacked? Did I leave my credit card somewhere? Am I receiving a gift (cheese please!).

WTO!!! (What the Oops!)

Turns out, D&D had apparently sent me a marketing email earlier with a link to an item that was out of stock—or so they claim… To patch things up I was offered a coupon for 10% off my entire next purchase. Talk about pro-active customer care. Or was it?

I am suspicious; I smell the next evolution in relationship marketing. It’s dead simple to purposely generate an “adverse” event like an out-of-stock SKU, and then leverage that occasion into a “positive” situation for the vendor.

D&D’s email doesn’t say which product was out of stock, they only apologize for something being out of stock. Then they offer me a discount on hugely overpriced merchandise (some of which I’d really like to own). Any marketer could purposely create a minor annoyance, apologize profusely to endear themselves to me, then offer me a discount not on the item out of stock, but on my entire next order to entice me to spend A LOT more money on them than I had previously planned to. Thus emptying my wallet and driving their bottom line.

One of two simple scenarios is at play here: (1) D&D accidentally screwed up and wants to make things right by diffusing my negative emotions; or (2) D&D purposely screwed up and wants to make things “right” by exploiting my positive emotions brought on by their corrective effort.

Do I honestly believe D&D purposely created this situation? I can’t claim nor prove that they did. But their vague message about something being out of stock made me realize how easy it is to manipulate consumers’ emotions into larger than planned purchases.

Lesson? Beware of your own and marketers’ intentions.