Well, it’s the New Year and everyone is making resolutions – including me. This is the year I take control of my Inbox. Every morning, I spend at least 10 minutes deleting all the junk email I get before I can actually get to work reading the ones that are important. But it doesn’t stop there. Throughout the day, the junk continues to flow in, disrupting me further. My resolution is to take a few extra minutes each day to unsubscribe from these email lists rather than kicking the can down the road as they continue to bombard me.
Please note that I am not talking about the obvious phishing attacks that seem to pop up occasionally in everyone’s Inbox. In those cases, my advice is to just delete them.
I am talking about those legitimate business emails trying to sell me, survey me, or sign me up for something I don’t need. These emails are not only annoying, they may even be illegal. Here are some facts you need to know about spam and some tips you can use to fight back.
Did you know that email marketing is regulated by Federal law? In 2003, the United States Congress passed an act that legislates how and when a business can send emails to customers or potential customers. This legislation is called the “Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003,” or CAN-SPAM. In simple terms, the law requires the following:
- Email must have an “unsubscribe” option included somewhere in the email.
- The company cannot make it purposefully difficult to find, or confusing for recipients to try to opt-out.
- The company cannot charge a fee to unsubscribe.
- If you unsubscribe, they can’t email you again. Ever.
Most reputable companies using email marketing are following these rules, and I am able to easily unsubscribe to their emails. However, you want to exercise some caution in this process, because while they may be following the letter of the law, the intent of the law may be getting stretched a bit. Here are some things you should know.
The “unsubscribe” link is usually found at the bottom in a very small font, though I have seen it in other places. Typically, it will appear in a different color to make it easy to find. Rather than “unsubscribe” it may say something like “To stop receiving these emails click here” or “To update your email preferences click here.” Just be diligent and look around for it.
The unsubscribe process should only take 1-2 clicks. The really good ones will just take you to a website which states that “Your unsubscribe has been successful”, but sometimes you need to click another button to confirm your intentions. The more annoying sites require you to enter your email address to confirm the unsubscribe. In most cases, the email address they have on record for you is partially displayed on the webpage. For example, it may show the address as firstname.lastname@example.org. This is helpful if you use multiple email addresses.
Read the website page carefully. Some websites will make you uncheck boxes for the various email subscriptions they offer, or they will make you check an Unsubscribe box. The big confirmation button you see may actually be a request to re-subscribe you. Make sure you know what you’re clicking.
Some websites will ask why you are unsubscribing. I have yet to see the reason “Someone sold you my email address without my permission and you started spamming me”, so I just ignore this question – but you may wish to get more “creative” in your response.
Some email marketers use multiple lists to send their emails from, so when you unsubscribe, you are only removing yourself from one of their lists, while you continue to get emails from others. Be just as persistent as they are and keep unsubscribing.
If the thought of spending time every day unsubscribing from email lists puts you in a foul mood, consider dragging them into a temporary folder and handling them all when you are in the right frame of mind – like on Friday afternoon, or after a fine Chardonnay. Your email program may even allow you to set up filters that will automatically move the emails for you.
And lastly – be patient! A company has 10 business days to comply with your unsubscribe request, so don’t get frustrated if you see a few more emails sneak through. However, statistics show that unsubscribes are only about 90% successful. Even with good intentions, some companies have systems in place that just don’t work. In those cases, you may need to contact them via email (ironic) or by phone to get removed from their list.
The only real way to never get spam is to never give out your email address, and that’s just not realistic. Following these tips and taking the time to actually “unsubscribe” will reduce your spam, lower your frustration level, and make you more productive in the long run.