You're in Trouble, They Think You're a Spammer!

from Al Bredenberg
Publisher of

Have you ever gotten accused of spamming? Believe me, it happens to all of us. Here's why -- and how you can minimize the glitches.

You did everything right. You only used opt-in email lists. You didn't add anybody to your in-house list without their permission.

But after all that, you still get an angry complaint: "GET ME OFF THIS #%&*$ LIST, YOU %^*&# SPAMMER!" What's worse, this nut is threatening to complain to your ISP and get your Internet account shut down.

Well, no doubt you will find a way to smooth things over, calm this person down and keep from getting kicked off the Net. But why does this happen, when you're trying to do everything the right way? And what can you do to prevent this kind of foul-up in the first place?

One reason this happens is that people sign up for email lists and then forget. Also, sometimes people will subscribe their friends (or enemies!) to email lists without permission. When those friends start to receive your mailings, they think you're spamming them. Another scenario: One of your subscribers forwards your newsletter to a friend, and the friend thinks you sent it unsolicited.

Regardless of why they received it, if someone complains about your email, it's important to remove them from your list as quickly as possible. Don't react to their anger and rudeness. Apologize politely and let them know that your mailings are permission-based but that sometimes these glitches occur.

Here are some additional suggestions from Matt Magri, president of Netmeg [], a Connecticut-based Internet service provider:

  • Don't buy lists from other folks; collect them yourself.
  • Make people take a positive action to get on the list (e.g., make the default choice on the Web page or whatever be "no mailing.")
  • Send a "Thanks for signing up" note by email when they subscribe.
  • Dont let a huge amount of time go by between mailings.
  • Mention the URL where they signed up for the list at the end of each mailing (or wherever the unsubscribe information is).
  • Don't look like a spammer (use real headers, a real reply address, avoid the cheesy "Made you look!" subject lines).
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