Here's the Scoop: July 22, 2009
I don’t want anymore. Really
For the most part, every good invention has a negative side. Take e-mail for instance.
This innovation has made it possible for anyone with a computer to effortlessly communicate with anyone, anywhere. That’s pretty cool.
Naturally, it didn’t take long for some folks to figure out that e-mail is a great, really cheap way of advertising stuff to anyone, anywhere. That’s not always so cool.
As e-mail has evolved, the tools that can be used against unwanted e-mail — “spam” — have become more sophisticated. Among the weapons now employed against spam is the “opt out” option. This is required to be placed in e-mails so that recipients who don’t want mail from particular companies can politely say, “No, thanks.”
The idea of opting out or “unsubscribing” can sound a bit too good to be true. Because it is.
It sounds easy
On the surface, unsubscribing is like clicking a button on your TV remote that allows you to skip commercials — only they’ll never come back. With the e-mail, unsubscribe, the theory is simple, but making it work isn’t always so easy.
In the interest of disclosure, I have been accused of being a Spammer. I’m not (at least not in my mind), as I try to send out informational material only to those with interest in the stories I’m writing. Still, it seems there are those recipients whose interest I overestimated. When they reply with an “opt out” message, I make sure they are promptly removed from the list. It’s good business, I figure.
Others don’t necessarily follow the same rules.
I’m writing about this, because I recently must have had my e-mail address sold (for a great price, I hope!) to some company that must have re-sold it and…well, let’s just say my e-mail “in” box has never been so full.
So, every day, I spend an obscene amount of time diligently trying to unsubscribe from dozens of lists in which I don’t have an interest. You’d think I could just click a button and be done with the process. Ha!
Here’s an example of one list I tried to get off today. After clicking unsubscribe on the HearthSong site, I was directed to a page that gave me the option of changing e-mail frequency, adding a new address and, oh, yeah, getting off the list all together.
Choosing this option, I was directed to a new page. There, I encountered a seven-choice quiz of why I no longer wanted to receive these e-mails. I chose other and added a friendly note: “I find them annoying — but I did receive column material from your e-mail.”
I will admit, that the HearthSong unsubscribe booby trap was more polite than most. Of course, after I unsubscribed, the page informing me of this achievement (a tribute to my stamina, I guess) also brought me back to the company Web site. Plus, I was staring straight into click boxes that tantalizingly offered “HearthSong Exclusives” and a “Super Sale!”
What a dilemma! I would have probably checked out the specials, but I had too many more e-mails from which I wanted to unsubscribe. In theory.
— Brian Sweeney