UNsubscribe Today!

by | Sep 18, 2010

You know how it is when you move? You carefully pack the expensive window treatments from the old house only to discover there’s no way they will fit in the new one. Also, they don’t look right.

But the internet! You can find anything on the internet and soon you do find exactly what you want from a wonderful company with great guarantees and ratings and you order the exact, perfect window treatments for your new windows, maybe 6 of them.

And they are perfect, and the company even nicely rushes you a replacement for one that arrived damaged.

So when I started to get catalogs from Smith & Noble I wasn’t surprised, they were a direct seller. Then I started getting emails, since we had a “business relationship.” Well, like my father always said, “Don’t call that junk mail! Think of all the printers getting paid to print that crap!”

Some companies will take you off a catalog list if you don’t order after a set period of time. But what’s the rationale for taking people off an email list? No, they’re never going to take you off and by this time, 6 years later, I’ve probably received 3 or 4 dozen catalogs and hundreds of HTML emails.

The Flies of Commerce

The Smith & Noble emails just became part of the background sound. Since we hadn’t moved again, we had no need for window treatments, but the computers at Smith & Noble didn’t care. We had a “business relationship” so we could look forward to lots of specials on blinds and shimmery summer colors.

I realized I was spending part of every day deleting Smith & Noble emails, and a lot of others too. Unwillingly, I was giving them mental space, attention. One day I asked myself why? I know, as a mailer, that every piece of mail has to have an “unsubscribe” link at the bottom, or it’s spam. Mental gears clicked into place.

I was gripped by a sudden giddiness. Was it possible? The emails had become a swarm of ever-present unsolicited-unwanted-but-legal-commercial-email. Could it be swatted away so easily?

I dove into my inbox, on the hunt, and sure enough, there was the day’s Smith & Noble ad. Scrolling to the very bottom I found it, the magic link. Soon I was weilding my keyboard like a swatter, looking for the little buzzers.

We bought a lovely bookshelf at Design Within Reach—6 years ago, and the mail hasn’t stopped since. Out they went.

DWR was very civilized about the breakup:

internet life

How about Office Depot? I stopped shopping there about 10 years ago, switched to Staples, but still the emails came, and came.

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Why do you think it takes 10 days to switch off? Their servers too busy?

I mean, when I make a bank deposit, I can walk outside and punch up a balance on the ATM and my deposit is right there, at every ATM in the system, instantly. What’s with these direct mailers that need 24 hours, or 10 days, to “remove you from the list.”?

Here was one from Toys r Us/Babies r Us. That would have been a while ago, yes. Another name I just “delete” whenever I see it in my inbox, which is roughly every day.

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Remember when I bought that vacuum packer, to keep leftovers fresh? Still use it, but don’t have any use for the regular weekly sales Food Saver have been running ever since. I like how forceful this kiss-off is:

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Then there were a whole bunch of companies in a row I don’t recall, but they all seemed to lead to exactly the same unsubscribe page, somebody else with the same “slow server” problem:

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How about Ticketmaster? What a blessing it would be to not have to keep deleting all those “upcoming shows” announcements I’m never going to. Notice they have only moderately slow servers here.

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Okay, here it was, I had found the motherlode, the queen of the flies buzzing around my inbox for the last few years. Classmates.com, which our class had used for a renunion years ago, was the one I hated the most. Well, that and Morningstar.com, which defeated every attempt to unsubscribe from it’s incessant alerts and newsletters no matter how many times I tried.

But I had a special circle reserved for Classmates.com, for their manipulative and constant pitches to sign up for a paid subscribtion. “Hey Joel! 5 people signed your guestbook today! Don’t you want to know who they are? Just click here” and hold onto your wallet. Goodbye Classmates. Somehow I knew you would have the “10-day” server virus.
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On I went, finding more and more companies in an all-out assault on my inbox.

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Any thoughts of a community of interests between us were long gone years ago. There was no reason to take me off the list, so one just added to another until there were dozens of them, every day.

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As I worked through them I thought about convenience and cost. For every convenience there is a corresponding cost, whether we see it right away or not.

Fast food? A pretty high cost. Processed food? Ever notice how the cheapest things in your basket are the living, fresh foods? The difference is the overhead we pay for convenience.

So it is with the power of the internet on one hand to connect us to what we want, if we only know how to search for it.

The cost? Opening yourself up to a bombardment of pitches, hype, hustle, and sales, sales, sales.

I’m still skeptical I’m going to escape the assault, but I’m waiting for my 10 days to expire, and I’ve got my fingers crossed.

What about you? Tired of the “delete” button? Here’s my tip: Unsubscribe Today!

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  1. Sue Collier

    Ha! Great post, Joel. I have been dealing with the same thing lately–and suddenly, it occurred to me that I could actually unsubscribe. Duh! Man, how did I manage to sign up for so much crap? The worst was a maternity site I signed up for when I was pregnant; among other things, it noted what month of your pregnancy you were currently in. Now that I seem to be 60 months pregnant (my son is 4 years old), I have FINALLY managed to unsubscribe.

    • Joel Friedlander

      Sue, that is hysterical. The problem is that many of the “unsubscribe” links are fantasy, and it doesn’t matter how often you try, you can’t get off the list. That’s one of the reasons I switched to Gmail so at least I don’t have to see them.

  2. Steve Lovelace

    I can’t believe Classmates is still in business, considering the ascendance of Facebook.

    Last year I finally unsubscribed from a college mailing list that I signed up for in my freshman year (that would be 1999). I actually had to email a person to search for my old email, because I had been on the list for so long.

  3. Douglas Bonneville

    I can’t thank you enough for writing this. It was cathartic. I can’t say any more, most especially about Classmates.com. What a contemptible site and scheme they employ. Agggh, I can’t even discuss them!

  4. bettymingliu

    hey, thanks for the motivation, joel. so today, i unsubscribed from telecharge, priceline and a few other things. i even unsubscribed to some goggle alerts. that shows just how out of control this is…after all, i created those alerts for myself!

    • Joel Friedlander

      LoL, I feel your pain! I had to stop after about half an hour and still have tons of them coming in. Domino’s, Safeway, it’s like a tsunami. And I know I signed up at one time or another for all this stuff, or checked a box somewhere. Gads!


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