Accidental SPAM

March 14, 2012

So, interesting thing happened the other day.

I’m an avid Gmail user, but BG (Before Gmail) I used to use Hotmail. I remember the days when Hotmail only allowed 2MB (yep, you young-ans, 2 MEGABYTES) of email storage. I was constantly deleting emails, never able to save anything, always had to delete everything!

Well, on occasion I do check my Hotmail email, purely because some things I haven’t switched over yet, and it’s always handy to check emails you’re designing in various different email providers to check the deviations and variations.

On this particular occasion I had 148 unread emails, now this is exceptionally more than normal, and looked something like this:

148 Unread Emails?

148 Unread Emails?

So, clearly what has happened is a fault in the unsubscribe system on YFU‘s website. What’s happening is when people are clicking “unsubscribe”, the email is being sent to the entire email list, instead of auto-unsubscribing them.

As a bit of background to being on this email list: I have previously requested to unsubscribe from them as I never requested to be on it, and have no desire to be as I’m not in a position to host someone. I assume I was an accidental sign up (I frequently get emails for someone else with a very similar email address) – but even still, I never had to confirm a request to being on the email list in the first place. Confirming a sign-up is part of the ACMA requirements.

This was the first email, and perhaps 2 or 3 similar followed in quick succession:

Please Remove Me From The Mailing List, Thank You

Please Remove Me From The Mailing List, Thank You

So, what happened next was nothing short of mob mentality:

Please Take Me Off The Mailing List. Seeing As That's The Fashionable Thing To Do.

Please Take Me Off The Mailing List. Seeing As That's The Fashionable Thing To Do.

And then…

I Don't Even Know Why I'm On This Mailing List... But Yeah I'd Like To Get The Hell Off

I Don't Even Know Why I'm On This Mailing List... But Yeah I'd Like To Get The Hell Off

To lots like this:

Remove Me At Once From This Very Annoying List - You Are Sending Me Hundreds of Random SPAM

Remove Me At Once From This Very Annoying List - You Are Sending Me Hundreds of Random SPAM

Yes All Coming To The Wrong Address Its Not Me Stoppppp

Yes All Coming To The Wrong Address Its Not Me Stoppppp

All in all, there were over 100 of these filling up my inbox (imagine if I only had 2MB still). I understood people’s frustration, it IS really annoying especially if your main email is being hit with all these irrelevant unsubscribe requests. I could only imagine this hitting my gmail, and my phone beeping and buzzing every 10 minutes, I’d probably send an angry email as well. Jump on the virtual bandwagon. Wave the virtual pitchforks. Throw the virtual rotten tomatoes.

You get the idea.

So, the company issued an apology out on the 7th March stating technical issues which they were looking into immediately. The strange thing is though, from 7th of March until the 11th of March, we were all continuing to receive each others “unsubscribe” request emails. This is a problem a standard HTML beginner could fix up. A webform is not rocket science.

Not having ever encountered this company before, aside from receiving irrelevant emails, they seem like a small company – and considering I received about 100 unsubscribe requests, I imagine that’s a large portion of their list base. Otherwise, there would have been a LOT more.

As a company, they obviously provide a good and needed service, and I would never doubt that. But each company today needs to protect and project their brand identity online – small technical glitches should be spotted immediately. When people actually request to be on a mailing list – they are entrusting you to not spam them, and provide them with relevant emails.

As with everything else in life, I’ve worked with small mailing lists and gargantuan mailing lists as well. Mailing lists for all companies can drive massive traffic and business to their website/company. Make sure you manage peoples data correctly, because aside from what happened being incredibly annoying, I also got over 100 different email addresses in my account. Privacy is an issue there too.

I’m sure you’re all dying to know whether I unsubscribed too? Well, as it happens, I didn’t want hundreds of random people receiving my email address, so I will happily wait until I’m assured the issue is fixed, and my request will slip in too.

Maybe when I’m at the point in life where I want to send a child away on an exchange program, or host one myself, I will actually request to be on the list.

Lesson of the month: manage your data like you would manage your best china; polish it on occasion, handle it with care, and make sure you keep it somewhere safe.

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