Unsubscribing is hard


A comment came through on my post about unsubscribing that helpfully told me that the problem was I didn’t unsubscribe correctly.
As you know, there are usually two unsubscribe options in many of the bulk senders emails. Are you unsubscribing from the global or the offer unsub? Unless you are unsubscribing from both, you will still be on the lists.
To address the underlying question, I did unsubscribe from both links for those very few mails in my mailbox that had double unsubscribe links. I know that some spammers use multiple unsubscribe links in their emails. We routinely recommend clients not use 3rd party mailers with double unsubscribes because it’s a clear sign the 3rd party mailer is a spammer.
Given the presence of double unsubscribes I generally assume the point is to confuse recipients. By having multiple unsubscribe links the spammers can ignore unsubscribe requests with the excuse that “you unsubscribed from the wrong link.” Plausible deniability at its finest. The best part for the spammer is that it doesn’t matter which unsubscribe link the recipient picks, it will always be the Wrong One.
I’ve been dealing with spam since the late 90s, and have been professionally consulting on delivery for over 14 years. If I can’t figure out what link to use to unsubscribe, how is anyone supposed to figure out how to make mail stop?
In some cases, the unsubscribe links admitted that the address I was trying to unsubscribe was already removed from the list. They helpfully refused to let me unsubscribe again through their form. But they offered a second way to unsubscribe.
The address I was unsubscribing was the same one I was unsubscribing. Some of the emails even helpfully told me “this email was sent to trapaddress@” which is the address in the above screenshot.
I’m sure my friend will come back and comment with “why didn’t you unsubscribe by forwarding the email?” Because I was spending enough time unsubscribing as it was, and I didn’t want to have to try and navigate yet another unsubscribe process. I knew they weren’t going to stop mailing me, no matter what hoops I jumped through.
I’m not saying that all unsubscribe processes are broken, there are millions and millions of emails sent every day with simple and effective unsubscribe links. What I am saying is that there is a lot of mail getting to inboxes that users never requested nor wanted. “Just unsubscribing” from this mail Does Not Work. It just keeps coming and coming and coming.
But of course, the mail still coming is my fault, as I was unable to correctly unsubscribe. 53635233

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  • This is an all too typical example of why we don’t give bulk mailers the benefit of the doubt. Someone may have thought this kind of trick is clever, but it’s just sleazy. Mail system operators solve the problem by blocking the mailer, since mailers like this are unlikely to send anything the users will miss.

  • The bulk mailers, “legitimate” or not are sure that if they can only email you their offer, get it in your inbox and get you to open and read it, they’ll be *rich, rich, rich*.
    So they don’t want to stop bothering you. They sure don’t want you to unsubscribe.
    They want you to read their email so they can make money. And they are sure that’s how it works. Simple as that!
    So no, unsubscribing is not only hard, it’s intentionally broken. Mostly.

By laura

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