Blog

Posts about writing, travel, fashion, and my life.

Gmail's new tabbed inbox, and imploring emails from advertisers

Gmail is forever trying to help us out with inbox clutter, and while many of its experiments are...ahem, questionable at best (I'm looking at you, Mail Goggles), I'm actually a fan of its inbox tweaks.  Once I get used to them, of course.

Anyway, I've been using Gmail's Priority Inbox for awhile, and I've liked it a lot -- it does a good job of sorting out EMAILS I MUST READ RIGHT NOW from emails that I will probably delete without opening.  At the very least, it managed to get the EMAILS I MUST READ RIGHT NOW in the Priority Inbox, so that was good enough.  For more on why Priority Inbox is super-awesome, check out this article over at Lifehacker.

Well, recently I switched from Priority Inbox to the new Tabbed Inbox.  For those of you who don't know what this is, it means that Gmail puts tabs in your inbox.  Crazy, right?  There are five tabs that you can choose to show: Primary, Social, Promotions, Updates, and Forums.  Primary is where you'll find your main emails -- emails that are sent directly to you, for example, or that are sent from people on your contact list.

Under Social, you'll find emails from social networks, such as Facebook updates or those annoying Twitter weekly round-ups.  Promotions is where emails from retailers live, as well as emails from deal sites, and anything that looks like a solicitation.  Updates features auto-generated updates, such as confirmations, bills, bank statements, etc.  (I also like to put PR people in my Updates tab, but more on that later).  Finally, Forums is where you'll get emails from online groups, mailing lists, and discussion boards.

You can choose to show all -- or none -- of these tabs.  For example, I chose not to show the Social tab, because, let's face it, I opt out of emails from social networks and so it would just be taking up space.  If a "Social" type email does come in, it will likely end up in my Updates tab (or Primary, before it's categorized manually).  You can also force emails from one tab to show up in another tab, by dragging the email from one tab to the other.  Gmail will pop up a notification that asks you if you want future emails from that sender to be categorized under the new tab, which is weird, because, seriously, if you're dragging it into another tab then yeah, you probably do.  But you have to click "Yes" for future emails from that sender to appear in the new tab, which is an annoyance -- a minor one, but an annoyance nonetheless.

So far, I'm a fan of the new Tabbed Inbox.  I particularly like the fact that each tab has its own "new email" counter, so I know if new emails are worth checking (instead of having to wade through an inbox that's got a mix of promos and PR pitches).  I also like that I can mass-delete emails from, say, the Promotions tab, without worrying that I caught an "important" message in the crossfire.

Since I switched to the new Tabbed Inbox, I have noticed that I've been getting a lot of imploring emails from retailers -- beyond their normal solicitations, that is.  They look something like this:

free+people.jpg

Really, Free People? Do you REALLY THINK YOU ARE THAT IMPORTANT?!

And they make me So. Annoyed.

Let me explain -- retailers are basically sending out these fear-mongering emails that say something akin to "DON'T LET US GO TO YOUR SPAM FOLDER," as though the Promotions tab is essentially a spam folder.  I can't exactly put a finger on why I am So. Annoyed. (TM), but I think it might have something to do with the fact that (1) they're fear-mongering and (2) they're making the assumption that they are so important that I would actually want them to show up in my Primary tab, rather than in my Promotions tab.

I get what they're trying to do, but it bothers me.  Probably because the new tabbed inbox is designed to thwart EXACTLY THESE PEOPLE, and their generally obnoxious, cluttery efforts.  I am also bothered by the fact that they're telling me I will "miss out" on their emails if I don't move them to the Primary tab -- as though the Promotions tab is the Tab Of Death, or something.  I imagine they're banking on people not really understanding the tab system -- people who will get scared that they'll "miss" sale emails if they don't follow these instructions.  I am also annoyed that these retailers assume that I think their emails are important enough to be in my Primary tab.

Right...basically, we can sum this up with: Me = So Much Annoyed.  Seriously, it annoys me enough that I'm considering marking any stupidly solicitous emails as spam.  Don't do it, companies.  I will flag your messages.  I will.

TL;DR -- Don't fall for company solicitations that tell you you'll miss out on their emails if you don't hand them the keys to your house -- ahem, Primary inbox tab.  And maybe flag them as spam JUST TO SHOW THEM.

(Also: Looks like I'm not the only one who thinks this is OBNOXIOUS AS CRAP.)