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  • John Kuhlman

Creating Joy in Change of Terms Agreements



Buying a new smartphone sucks.


What used to be a thrilling shopping experience (new tech!) has now become the equivalent of stepping onto a used car lot.


“So, John, what kind of monthly payment are you looking for?” “None. I just want to buy a phone that doesn’t go out of date in two years.”


“Excellent. I can help you with that. What kind of monthly payments did you want -- so you can get this gadget you didn’t need 10 years ago but now can’t live without?”


I don’t think I need to beat that dead horse anymore, do I?


I held off on replacing my iPhone 5 for nearly six years, but the time had come to get a replacement.


Fortunately, I found Back Market, a used phone broker. Great deals and an even greater sense of humor.

Their mission? “To make resurrected devices mainstream. Yes it sounds churchy, but there you have it.”


I was sold.


Quick aside: I have no affiliation with Back Market and don’t write for them.


This is how you stand out in a marketplace of bottom-feeding customers who will buy from your competitor because they’re 10 cents cheaper: You offer great value and you serve a higher purpose.


In Back Market’s case, they serve as a broker between refurbished phone companies and consumers. They also want to have a positive impact on the world.


“We believe in redemption through circulation.”

You see, according to Back Market, we produce 74 million tons of e-waste each year. That’s a lot of stuff -- most of which are never recycled -- going into landfills just so we can play Candy Crush or send Snapchats of our avocado toast to our squad.


But, that’s not why I’m writing about Back Market. Yes, I was very pleased with the service. My refurbed iPhone worked like a charm. And yes, it’s cool they’re helping the planet while making money.


“Made in China. Refurbished in America.”

I’m writing about Back Market because somebody over there has a fantastic sense of humor. While not every organization can pull this off, it’s seriously worth taking a look at how you can use wit and charm to break through the inbox noise.


Every e-commerce company has as Terms of Service Agreement. They’re not meant to be funny because lawyers create them. When you update those terms, you are required to notify your customers of those changes.


Like most customers, however, I don’t read those dry and boring notifications when they hit my inbox. But I did open the one from Back Market.


This is a short and sweet email, but it conveys a lot about the company’s vision and vibe in 104 words. Let’s take a quick look at what they did to stand out from the herd.



  1. The subject line rocks - Seriously, what a fantastic way to deal with a procedural email. Nearly every other email subject line is “Changes to COMPANY user agreement.” Snoozer. I bet Back Market’s open rate for this privacy policy email outperforms most e-tailer’s sexy sales emails.

  2. The wit continues while making a connection with the reader - They use my first name (gold star for them!) and they tell me I’m rock-and-roll. How did they know I’m so amazing?! Two gold stars for anyone who can find the term “rock and roll” in any other user agreement email.

  3. They reconnect the reader with the company’s earth-friendly vision - Use colored pencils because they’re more environmentally friendly than markers? Duly noted. Also, check out the fine print at the bottom that lets you know the email was created on a refurbished computer. Smart.

  4. They show they’re not lawyers, they’re human - At least I think Greg is human. I’ve never met him. Greg, if you’re reading this, and you’re not an Autobot, send me a sign.

Do yourself a favor and check out their Facebook page to see them in action, or better yet, buy a refurb when you get your next i-leash gizmo.

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