Direct retail site search, back to my email - how did they do that?

I did a google search for Michaels (art supplies), clicked on their general link, and searched for something. I also clicked on several of the items in the resulting list, still on the Michaels site, to see if they met my needs. None of them did, and I didn’t buy anything.

A couple of hours later I got an email supposedly from Michaels but actually from something called, entitled “take another look” and showing exactly the items that I had clicked on from my search results list from within the Michaels site.

How did they get my email from that sequence?

I find this troubling and creepy. Am I over-reacting? I am considering sending their customer service an email telling them that I will never shop there again because of this intrusive behavior. Small potatoes to them, of course, but possibly worth doing anyway. What do folks think about this?

eta: I have never been on Michaels site before and never registered there or anything like that.

People are selling your data to everyone all the time. The chain of information passing would be too complicated to figure out. Someone out there has our email and some other info. They sold it, resold it, etc. to someone who is tracking your with a cookie. You landed on a page tracking you by those folks. Time for an email.

Facebook, to give just a common example, sells your data to hundreds of companies and you have no way to stop this. Even if you’ve never visited Facebook, they have those “sharing” icons on millions of sites and if you visit one of those Facebook collects some more data on you … which it sells.

Personally, I don’t mind it. Seeing ads directed to me makes it more likely that I’ll see an ad that helps me in some way. I guess I hate all advertising equally, but would rather see an ad about beer (which I consume) than an ad about mascara (which I do not use).

As said, you didn’t give your email address to Michael’s art supply store, but you probably did at another site, and if you look at the privacy policy for, they say that they combine info from various sources. If it bothers you, open a private/incognito browser window when browsing sites like that.

I can’t see why anyone would appreciate this. If I didn’t give the site my email, then obviously I wasn’t that interested in buying anything. It would be one thing if I put items in my cart but forgot about them, as then a polite reminder can be useful. But just looking online? People do that all the time.

The time to advertise is while I’m still looking. Not unexpectedly later. Ads when you don’t want them actually turn people off of buying the product.

I shouldn’t need to use a special mode of my browser to avoid stalker-type behavior from websites. It’s one thing to use it to show me relevant ads while I’m out where I’ll see ads anyways, but another to intrude on me by sending SPAM to my email address. And it is spam: it’s advertising that you didn’t opt into. It’s possibly even illegal.

It should not be up to me to use a special mode of my browser designed to allow me to go to sites without leaving a history in order to try and avoid creepy marketing tactics. I’d write a stern email to the company about how they had soured me on ever doing business with them again, and, rather than opt out, I’d mark every single marketing mail as spam, as well as forwarding it to any stop spam type service.

This shit isn’t acceptable, and it honestly would make me think the original store is disreputable if they use such a service.

I know that on my site I can set it up to send off an email to someone about anything they left in their cart after the leave the site. Of course, you have to be logged in to do this or the site wouldn’t have an email address to use.

However, it really bugs me when websites do this. There’s one website (farmandfleet, I think) that sent me multiple emails over a few days instructing me to go and buy what I was looking at or empty my cart.

The only time I don’t mind it is when the email contains a significant discount in order to coax me back. The auto parts stores will do that, however, it’s always just a 20% discount which all of them offer anyways.

This behavior (**Joey P’**s post) can be beneficial to the consumer. Some sites show a price for an item you are searching for, but if you don’t buy right away, the email quotes a better price. If you were on the fence originally, you might buy it now, and both parties benefit.

Conversely, I have noticed some sites where a later search turns up the same item for a higher price. I’m suspicious enough to think that maybe the merchant did this deliberately, knowing that you are a potential [del]sucker[/del] customer, but it’s entirely possible the price went up over time for everybody. No way to know for sure.

So, they make toilet seats that attach to a five gallon bucket. My gf wanted me to get one to keep on our pontoon boat for emergencies when she had to pee but the water was too cold for her to jump overboard. I shopped around and sent her a bunch of links to see if she preferred one over the others.

That afternoon she did a presentation to a group at the ad agency where she works. She projected pages the agency had done for a client, and on every page she was served banner ads for porta-potties. It got some laughs.

Browsing the site in private mode and being logged out would prevent the site from using cookies to adjust the price. Also, you could double check the price on your phone, with wifi turned off (so you have a different IP address) and not logged into the site.

I don’t know how common it is for ‘normal’ websites to adjust the price based on how much they think you want something*, but it’s common enough for travel sites to do it that I saw a short news special about it where they proved it was happening and then confronted several companies about it.
*For example, if you look at the same chainsaw at a hardware store’s site everyday, they could bump up the price from $189 to $195 to get you to buy it because you assume the price isn’t going to go down any time soon, so you should buy it now before it goes up again. And, since it’s apparently okay for websites and their stores to sell things at different prices it this would be allowed as well.
Oh, and something else semi-related, I remember quite a while back, multiple times over a few years I went to best buy, found the item I wanted and noticed it was a different price than what I saw on their website. I’d go over to the kiosk, pull up the same item on the computer (via the BB website) and it would confirm the price on the shelf. Okay, so I misremembered. Eventually there was a huge news story about how they were charging more in the store and the Best Buy website, when accessed from the computers in the store had prices that matched the ones you saw, not the prices on the ‘real’ website. That was some underhanded BS.

Don’t ever respond to an unwanted email or robocall, especially using the unsubscribe link which may ask you a bunch of questions before allowing to opt-out.. Doing so confirms they’ve hooked a live ‘phish’ and will prompt the sender/caller to bombard you with even more spam. Also, if you buy a MyPillow online (they’re great BTW), don’t opt-in for special offers unless you’re really planning to buy again. I was bombarded with multiple emails daily until I unsubscribed.

Even website cookies are insidious. While searching for rates for a local airline, I noticed the prices kept going higher the more often I refreshed the page. I soon realized the site was real-time tracking my visits as seats purchased. Once I decided on a depart/return time, I’d clear my browser cache and the prices would return to where I started.

Even Amazon changes pricing according to supply and demand. I don’t think they do it on their warehouse items, but I’ve seen items go up in price when they’re down to the last one or two, then return to the regular price when they’re restocked. I’ve seen it happen when it goes from ‘Fulfilled by Amazon’ to ‘Fulfilled by <third party vendor>’, then back to the regular price when "Fulfilled by Amazon’.

Some sites like Sears and I think Newegg will alert you of a price drop on items left in your cart. Sometimes its a good deal and I’ll return if I haven’t already bought the item(s) somewhere else.

I actually did this, more in sorrow than in anger, but I did express that, rather than making me want to buy something from them, the email made me regret I had ever visited their website or their store. I didn’t hear back from them, and don’t expect to.

I don’t disagree with any of this, but I don’t find anything in my posts here that would warrant such a lecture. Thanks anyway.

I apologize that what I posted was viewed as a lecture, but you did state in your OP that you were considering emailing their customer service to express your dissatisfaction and asked for an opinion, which I provided, admittedly sternly. An opinion which BTW, is supported by numerous anti-spam websites.

I used to call the McDonald’s customer service hotline to complain about a particular McD’s close to my old home because of their incredibly slow drive-through, 15-20 wait just to get to the order box! The first couple of times I called, they’d email coupons for a free large sandwich, but after that I must have been tagged a just a complainer because after that all I got was “Thank you for calling”. Shame on me because I continued to give that location a try every few months at different times because it was less than 1/2 mile from my house (with the next closet location 3 miles away), thinking it would be better the next time. Never was.

Deep tracking is a lot more sophisticated than just cookies or IP address.

I don’t know what the state of the play is now: a couple of years ago it was well known that some of the big players were using multiple other methods, and that there were no effective privacy mode for the majority of users.

For example, do you stay logged in to Facebook? Sites can use your Facebook ID to identify you, and remember what you have looked at and what price has been offered. Or what apps do you have installed? They have independent caches too.

Yes, this is actually how the platform is designed. You have multiple sellers for a typical item, some of them with a “fulfilled by Amazon” agreement where their merchandise is in an Amazon warehouse, others shipping out of their own facilities / garages / basements. The various sellers have similar but not always identical prices, and the lowest-priced ones tend to sell out first.

My OP was about a legitimate business that used a dodgy business practice on me. Your advice was more about unknown senders who have more nefarious motives (cheating me, stealing my identity) than a desire to sell me stuff that I already looked at. So it was not only stern but off target.

That said, it was good advice for people new to or uneducated about these isses. What I really wanted to say to you when I read it, though, was “go teach your grandmother to suck eggs.” Because I’ve been aware of this stuff for some time. If I were a woman, and assuming you are a man, it would have been a fine example of mansplaining.

As Melbourne said, tracking is a lot more sophisticated than it used to be. But getting your email was probably a basic cookie track.

You went to
Michael’s contracts with for tracking.
123ads has assigned you the customer ID 12345 which is stored in the 123ads cookie in your browser.
123ads also contracts with a website where you have a registered account or at least have supplied with your email.
Therefore every site that has a contract with 123ads has access to your email through 123ads.

Michael’s can either then get your email from 123ads or send 123ads an email to forward to you on their behalf. Depending on the agreement Michael’s has with 123ads.