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Anti-Spammers Need to Develop Better Manners

J. Stephen Pope

by J. Stephen Pope

I sent my e-zine out last week and I received a copy of it back. It had been forwarded to me by a subscriber. In the subject line was a two word sentence; since most publications and websites frown upon vulgarity, obscenity, and profanity, I have spared you the exact wording. Be assured, however, that Miss Manners would definitely not approve.

It is understandable the frustration that people feel when they are inundated with unsolicited commercial e-mail. I myself get more than my fair share.

Despite my Internet Service Provider (ISP) enabling a spam filter and in spite of configuring my own e-mail program filters, I still get spam.

However, the situation with my subscriber is different. He opted in and confirmed his subscription. I use an outside service to handle my mailing lists, in part, to protect myself from false spam complaints.

There are a number of possibilities here. Perhaps my dear subscriber forgot that he subscribed and honestly believed that he received spam.

Another possibility is that he didn't enjoy the content. The correct response when someone offers you something you don't want is “No, thank you” not “Expletive deleted”.

If you are offered dessert after dinner by your host and you don't want any, simply say “No, thanks.” If you accept one piece of pie and then you're offered another, you may either accept or decline.

My subscriber could simply have unsubscribed. Instead, he retaliated (either because he believes I'm spamming him or he doesn't like the newsletter).

He said “yes” when he subscribed; he can always say “no” by unsubscribing. Again, “No, thank you” not “Expletive deleted”.

Related to this rudeness is the ignorance some America Online, Inc. (AOL) subscribers show. By ignorance, I mean that they may not even realize they are doing anything wrong when they report e-mail they don't like as spam.

AOL makes it very easy for their subscribers to report spam. I would say they make it too easy.

Just click the button “Report Spam”. Unfortunately, there is no notation near that button that says “If you subscribed, just unsubscribe.” No, simply “Report Spam.”

And they do. Rather than unsubscribe, some AOL subscribers will report your e-zine as spam. They opted in and subscribed. They confirmed their subscription by e-mail. Their name, e-mail address, IP address, and date and time of subscribing have all been recorded. But, they are reporting you as a spammer.

This, to me, goes beyond rude, as it could affect the reputation and livelihood of the one being reported.

I wish I could say that receiving obscenities or threats by e-mail is rare. Sadly, this is not the first time for me.

Among the many messages I receive are some that say that the e-mail I tried to send (from some strange or nonsensical name at my domain) was undeliverable or blocked and is being returned to me. Of course, I never sent that e-mail in the first place.

Occasionally, I receive rude (sometimes threatening) e-mails from people who thought I sent them some of these spoofed e-mails. This is the equivalent of swearing at and threatening someone who you believe allowed his dog to defecate on your lawn. The only problem is that the man doesn't have a dog.

Again, I sympathize with those who are irritated by spam. I just wish they would direct their indignation at the spammers instead of me. In fact, Miss Manners would have reminded us all that there is never any excuse for rudeness.

eMarketers Club