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Unsubscribe policies

Our local brewpub has an email list. For various reasons I have multiple addresses on the list and finally decided that getting 4 copies of each mailing was silly. About a week ago, I sent in unsubscribe requests for 3 of the addresses. Today I get another 4 copies of their mailing. That’s not good. Luckily, I know one of the delivery folks at their ESP so I send her an email.
I know unusubscribes can take a few days to process, but it has been seven and CAN SPAM is pretty clear about the 10 day requirement. My first email to their delivery expert is just asking how long unsbs normally take. She responds they take 3 – 4 days. Uh Oh.
I tell her I unsubscribed these 3 addresses (with the unsub links) on 6/10 and received more email this morning. I did tell her that there were multiple subscriptions and they were all legit, but the reasons were really not important. Just that I didn’t want quite so many emails and their unsubscribe process seemed broken.
Now we get to the part where it all goes a wee bit pear shaped. The next email I get back from her explains why I am on so many lists. Fair enough. The more concerning bit is that they have not only gone through their database and unsubscribed all my addresses, but they have also found Steve’s addresses and unsubscribed those too. What the email does not contain is an explanation of why their unsubscribe process broke.
At this point I am a bit annoyed. I did not want all my addresses unsubscribed, just some of them. And the bit about unsubscribing Steve? That’s just silly and unnecessary. Another round of email ensued, pointing out this is bad and please put everything back how it was except please unsubscribe these three addresses I sent originally.
Things are back how they were, although the technical staff is still looking into how their unsubscribe process broke. The initial thought is that during a technology transition they lost some unsubscribe requests.
This whole process has bothered me for a number of reasons. One is the utterly cavalier attitude of the delivery people at the ESP. Their unsubscribe process broke. This is, to my mind, an emergency. ESPs have been fined for broken unsubscribe processes. Two is the process of unsubscribing addresses that belonged to a completely different person. The ESP did explain the policy behind that, sorta.

When members who wish to unsubscribe write to say they are still receiving emails, the first thing we do is to search the database by name and unsubscribe other addresses if the information… first and or last name, birthday and location…matches their profile. Many people don’t remember the address they used, and may be enrolled at several without realizing it. We feel it is better to unsubscribe first and then double-check with the member than to have them receive another unwanted email. We reply to let the member know what we have done so they can let us know if they want us to change anything.

I get that. But, in this case, I was very specific about the addresses I was still receiving mail at and my initial email even said that I just wanted to receive mail at fewer addresses, not that I did not want email at all.
Generally a disappointing experience. I also blame the ESP much more than I blame the brew pub. The reason I recommend companies use ESPs is because sending mail, and managing subscription practices is what ESPs do. They are the experts and they should be guiding their customers to do the right thing. In this case, the ESP fell down on the job.

2 comments

  1. DJ Waldow says

    Laura –
    My concern would be why does it take more than say…3 seconds…to unsubscribe a specific email address? All (yes, ALL) ESPs should have an automated process in place. In other words, a subscriber clicks “unsubscribe” in the email and…voila!…they are made inactive. I understand if the request was in the form of a reply. That often requires a more manual process.
    Am I missing something?
    dj at bronto

  2. How not to handle unsubscribes at Word to the Wise says

    […] the heels of my unsubscribe experience last week where an ESP overreacted and unsubscribed addresses that did not belong to me, I […]

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