Persistence of unsubscribes


It’s really, really frustrating when an unsubscribe request doesn’t take. And it happens a lot more than many people expect.
Most of the culprits are marketing companies. United Business Media is a huge problem, for instance. I never even signed up for their mail, but they bought an address I’d used to register for a conference. I unsubscribed at least a dozen times, but the mail kept coming. Of course, it wasn’t actually mail I’d unsubscribed from. Every email was part of a different list.
There was no way to find out what lists I was on through their unsubscribe page and preemptively unsubscribe. I tried mailing their privacy department, but it took multiple emails to get any sort of response. Finally, someone responded that they had removed me from all their lists.
Illegal? Probably not. Annoying? Totally.
This is the reason I don’t unsubscribe from mail if I don’t recognize the sender. Too many people who “acquire” my email address without permission don’t actually pay any attention to the law, much less best practices.
The other time I see this problem is with some of the addresses I’ve used for testing customers and their vendors. I unsub from any lists I’ve signed up for when I’ve collected the information I need. It’s not totally unheard of, though, for those addresses to lay dormant for years and then start receiving mail again.
This is a problem. They’re “reactivating” addresses. Again, they’re probably different “lists” so it’s not a CAN SPAM violation, but I don’t really care. I unsubscribed. I don’t want any more of that mail. I really can’t figure out what possesses companies to just decide, after not having interaction with subscribers for years, that the right thing to do is just add those addresses to a new list.
It’s not even like they try and re-engage me. Or ask me to opt-in. All they do is start sending me copies of the Annoying Meme of the Hour newsletter. It’s even more frustrating because I know that the sender has been exposed to best practices. I have spent anywhere from weeks to months helping them create a email marketing program that shouldn’t do this kind of thing.
I’ve tried talking to some clients after this happens. Usually, the issue is the marketers or IT staff that I worked with are gone. A new, shiny marketing group has moved in and decided that they had this huge database and of COURSE they should mail it, all of it, opt-outs notwithstanding.
It happens to me as a consumer and subscriber, too. In those cases I don’t have much recourse beyond reporting it as spam and blocking the mail. I don’t trust that a new unsubscribe will work, since the last one didn’t. I have to take other steps to make the mail stop.
In this case, I am much less persistent than the sender is. I think it would be better if senders actually believed me when I said I didn’t want their mail. But I don’t expect that will ever happen. Too many senders think they know better.

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  • Laura
    Completely agree with you. I would never buy or recommend anyone buy a list. However I do understand why some people do, in which case my recommendation would be never send emails on an opt-out basis.
    If you have to buy a list or acquire a company with a list then only send 1 or 2 emails asking for permission. After that never mail anyone who does not respond again.
    When it comes to legacy lists again I empathise with companies that have this problem too and my advice to them would be to tell them to treat any and all unsubscribes as global

By laura

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