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IKEA cans spam-like postcard promotion

Bowing to criticism, home furnishing retailer IKEA pulls the plug on a spam-like email postcard promotion.

Bowing to criticism, home furnishing retailer IKEA has pulled the plug on a spam-like email postcard promotion.

As earlier reported, IKEA offered shoppers up to $75 off on purchases if they sent 10 friends an online postcard announcing its store opening in the San Francisco Bay area. After only a week, the program generated 37,000 emails.

Although many IKEA fans embraced the email and savings, critics called the promotion "poor judgment" because of its likeness to spam, or unsolicited email, long a controversial practice in the Web community.

IKEA's turnabout is the latest example of a brick-and-mortar retailer struggling with a Net marketing plan.

"We started to get a handful of emails complaining about the program," said Rich D'Amico, new business development manager for IKEA North America. "We decided this program is a bit more controversial than we'd like."

Customers will still get their discounts. IKEA is offering four coupons online--$10 off a $100 purchase, $25 off a $150 purchase, $50 off a $250 purchase, or $75 off a $350 purchase--and you don't have to send anyone any email.

"We realize we may have made a judgment error on this program. It was our first time running a promotion like this," D'Amico said.

In another sign that the company is new to this kind of technology--let alone to "netiquette"--IKEA had a privacy breach in the online postcards that they fixed last week.

Steve Hoeffer, a San Francisco-based product developer who received one of IKEA's postcards, notified CNET News.com about the breach Wednesday. Recipients of the postcards could change a number in the URL to tap into other postcards and grab the email addresses of other recipients, Hoeffer said.

D'Amico said the company noticed the breach early in the week and fixed it within a half-hour.

Founded in Sweden in 1943 and known for its sleek, do-it-yourself designs, IKEA has caught on mostly through word-of-mouth. Close to 85 percent of IKEA's sales originate in Europe, with the United States contributing 13 percent.

IKEA plans to open a store in San Diego mid-September and to launch a new site that lets customers track their orders and check product availability.

IKEA's new store opens April 12 in Emeryville, just east of San Francisco.