Unsuccessful unsubscribing

In the era of knowledge economy we are bombarded with invitations to download information products or attend events – whether in-person conferences or online summits and webinars –  and subsequently be signed up for innumerable e-mail newsletters.

As a person passionate about culture and leadership, I’ve been a participating in the world of coaching, consulting and delivering trainings for years. And I frequently – albeit irregularly – send out my email newsletter inviting people in my sphere to read my blogs or participate in the events I’m involved in. Over the years I’ve also subscribed to receiving information from a wide variety of interesting causes, organizations and people.email stats

Here is what I have noticed, though: just in the last couple of years, with the emergence of new email and webinar technologies, there has been an explosion of promotions for programs and services that now fill my inbox daily. The coach-to-coach email marketing of “how to make more money programs through selling to other coaches” has increased exponentially. Most of these feel like modern day pyramid schemes: coaches and consultants all over the country (and the world) are now co-marketing the “steps to success“ created by people who were in the JV (joint venture) game early. The most effective of JV leaders have an ever-expanding group of affiliates who promote the JV leader’s programs to their email lists. I assume the JV partnership arrangement is very profitable, and I’m very happy for the people involved.

However, I’m tired of a constant barrage of email marketing. Especially when it is the same message sent out by different people, promoting the same programs by the same people. It has become a major frustration because I have not found an effective way to limit or stop the redundant flow. I’ve spent hours unsubscribing in vain. Wait a day or two and I’m back on their lists again!

As I’m trying to clean up my inbox and manage the crazy number of emails I’m receiving daily, I don’t understand why it’s so difficult to unsubscribe. What strategies have you found effective in cleaning up your inbox? Let me know and I will share the best of them.

2 thoughts on “Unsuccessful unsubscribing

  1. Kristiina,

    Thanks for raising this issue.

    Here in the US I believe it stems from a confluence of several factors:

    1.) The 2004 CAN SPAM Act which conflates “Opt in” (for something I want at a time of MY choosing) with “Opt out” (of something I do not want at a time of someone or something else’s choosing) among many other problems.

    2.) The Act created the “legitimate SPAM” or “e-mail marketing” industry, which now has a trade association and a lobby. They sponsor programs on NPR to improve their image.

    3.) The asymmetry between personal convenience and personal security which increases as more technically illiterate and security unconscious people use Internet services with little or no training or awareness.

    4.) The asymmetry increases greatly when the tension is between personal convenience (or corporate expediency) and someone ELSE’s security and privacy. Like any SPAMmer, people and organizations treat e-mail addresses like these are data they OWN and have no restrictions on what they do with these, or with whom they may share them.

    When you confront the SPAMmers and tell them “It’s my e-mail address. It’s my choice.” they pause or say something stupid or self-serving. This simple fact undoes their business model which depends on their clients making that choice. As I believe Upton Sinclair once said “It’s difficult to get a man to change his mind when his income depends upon it.”

    The only effective strategy I have found to deal with this problem is to perform a series of WHOIS queries for the domains of the e-mail marketer, not their client. So, if I get SPAM from Walgreens delivered by Constant Contact, I look up Constant Contact. By iteration, I try and look up everything that is owned by the same people. Once someone has stood up one e-mail marketing firm, they can stand up another service, branded as similarly or as differently, as they like.

    Once I have found the oldest one, usually the contact information contains the founder and CEO. One can confirm these separately. A little more searching usually provides a telephone number, on occasion, a home phone number. Then I can that CEO at a time of my convenience and ask, politely, to have my e-mail address added to his or her GLOBAL BLOCK LIST and I make sure that no matter how many e-mail marketing firms they create or acquire in the future, the GLOBAL BLOCK LIST will prevent me from receiving an e-mail no matter who gives them my e-mail address.

    At present I am on eleven GLOBAL BLOCK LISTS.

    Several times I have had to explain to a CEO who was pretending to be clueless what a GLOBAL BLOCK LIST was or what the difference between Opt In and Opt Out was. They all very much want to believe that they are on the side of good. They see themselves as distinct from SPAMmers. They will wax poetic about their double opt-in protections and their privacy policies. Unfortunately, the owner of the individual e-mail address is not afforded the opportunity to opt in or to agree to any terms of service or privacy policy before his or her e-mail address is surrendered to the e-mail marketer. What happens to these e-mail addresses when the e-mail marketer is merged with another company, goes bankrupt, receives a National Security Letter, is cyberattacked, etc.? No one can say.

    Once I am on the GLOBAL BLOCK LIST I ask the CEO how they charge their clients. It is usually some formula, based on the number of e-mail addresses supplied by their client. The longer the list, the more the client is charged. Then I ask if they charge their clients for e-mail addresses on the GLOBAL BLOCK LIST. There is usually a pause, followed by a rapidly generated excuse. My favorite is “We’re still providing a service to our clients by not angering the people on the GBL.”

    If these SPAMmers are willing to cheat their clients, why should I expect them to treat me with any dignity or respect?

    1. Thank you, Mark, for your well-thought out points. Several years ago I registered with the NO CALL registry. It eventually had some effect but didn’t completely eliminate solicitors. I no longer answer my phone calls. I only return them if the caller leaves an appropriate message and explains why they call/what they want. But emails seem more insidious. I try to do my best to delete all contact information from my list if someone unsubscribes. However, MailChimp does make it not easy to eliminate someone’s information. I agree with you calling for respect all around. It seems to be in short supply in the digital age.

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