A RARE MOMENT OF CIVILITY IN THE SPAMALOT UNIVERSE

We all get a lot of junk email. I suppose I should be grateful that I don’t still get the pounds of paper I used to get. I felt guilty throwing away all that stuff … but I can delete email with nary a twinge.

A few weeks ago, I entered a contest to win a free Kindle. It turned out the result was that I got subscribed to dozens of indie author websites. I’m all in favor of free books … but this was a deluge of stuff and it was an avalanche, gaining momentum as it hurtled down the mountain.

I’ve been unsubscribing as fast as I could find the right link.

A few days ago, I got this email. It was so polite, so civil, so … well … just nice, I actually resubscribed just because I appreciated there was at least one person who recognized that spamming your potential followers might not be the best approach.

I was so impressed, I re-subscribed. Just to show my appreciation.


Dear Marilyn,

Last Friday you received an e-mail titled “What fantasy books to read for the summer”. This e-mail was sent to almost 5000 people, whose addresses were obtained through a contest run by http://www.freekindlegiveaway.com, a contest for which I was one of the sponsors.

One of the terms for participating in that contest was to agree to be subscribed to a number of authors’ mailing lists, including my own. This contest was run a few months ago, and I received your e-mail addresses early in June.

jeroen steenbeke books page

I hesitated using your e-mail addresses. Before said contest my mailing list only had 83 subscribers, so a sudden growth of 6000% is no small thing. That said, the responses to Friday’s mail have been mixed. I’ve seen a surge in downloads, and I’ve also seen a surge in unsubscribes. I kind of expected that. Had I participated in a contest that required me to subscribe to mailing lists I would probably unsubscribe at the first received e-mail as well. What I had not expected was the number of people who filed complaints with MailChimp, or the response by MailChimp itself. In essence: they strongly urged me to reconsider my strategy for obtaining new subscribers.

I have given this some thought, and have, after some consideration, decided to automatically unsubscribe every single person that received Friday’s e-mail. As such, this e-mail is a confirmation that you are no longer subscribed to my book update mailing list, and will not receive any future mass-mailings from me unless you manually resubscribe through my sign-up page.

In addition, I would like to apologize for any inconvenience my mails have caused. I am not a fan of unsolicited mail myself, and each time I get a newsletter I don’t remember signing up for I have a tendency to complain rather loudly. I am sorry for having caused similar discomfort to others, and I hope you’ll all forgive me.

Sincerely,

Jeroen Steenbeeke

ESCAPE FROM SPAMALOT

Back in the early 1990s, I donated $10 to a women’s group fighting to keep abortion legal and unencumbered. This $10 put me on the “potential donor” list of every single political organization from left to right. It was before the Internet really took over, so although it filled my mailbox with paper and killed a lot of trees, I could just throw the junk away.

Election day 2012

When we moved in 2000, most of the paper didn’t trail after us.

Some of us are slow learners. In 2011, I gave $3 to Obama’s campaign, and for the past four years, the amount of spam my tiny donation generated has been beyond belief.

Hickory-Smoke-SPAM

Apparently it’s policy for political parties to distribute our personal information to every pol and cause with whom they are even tangentially associated. It got to where my inbox had more than a thousand political spam messages every day. And the current presidential campaign hadn’t yet begun.

Last December, I blew up. I don’t know why I lasted as long as I did.

I spent an entire day unsubscribing to groups to which I never subscribed in the first place. These days, you don’t even have to sign or donate anything. All you have to do is visit a website. Someone will somehow grab your personal data and sell it. Which is how come I was targeted by all the parties. I was being spammed by Liberals, Democrats, Republicans, and Conservatives.

election-2016 head butt

It took me about 8 hours of clicking “unsubscribe.” Half of the sites asked me why I was unsubscribing. If I clicked “too much email,” they asked me if they sent less, would I stay subscribed?

If they had sent a lot less, I wouldn’t have needed to unsubscribe.

I unsubscribed to everything. Globally. From far left, to ultra right. My inbox stopped filling up every day.

Photo credit: CBS News

Photo credit: CBS News

A plague on all the houses. I won’t contribute to anyone’s cause or campaign. I won’t even visit their websites. And that’s a real shame because I used to really enjoy the political process and participating in it.

If anyone reading this is involved in political campaign management? You are your own worst enemies. Deluging supporters with junk mail and intrusive phone calls is a poor way to say “thank you.” It doesn’t get donations. It drives people away from your worthy causes.

You should think about this.

WHAT’S THAT NOISE?

I heard it, but it didn’t make any sense. Noise. Music. Shrill, loud music. Mozart. What does Mozart have against me? I never did anything to him …

fruitfly magazine telephone solicitationOh. It’s the telephone. Someone — maybe something — is calling. As the fumes clear my brain, I pick up the receiver, realize it’s an 800 number. No one in my world has an 800 number so I press “on” then “off” and the phone goes quiet.

I only answer calls from people with names or real numbers. Or which come from a number that looks like a real person’s number. No 800 numbers because they are not people. Most of the time, these calls are recordings. At best, they are hired guns trying to get my money.

I know everyone’s got to make a living, but you aren’t going to make it calling me. If I could reach through the receiver and get to a person on the other end, I would choke the life out of him or her. Or make my best effort.

These calls come in by the dozens. I don’t know how exactly the find me, but they do. My favorite recent one was a recorded message that started with “We are calling in response to your inquiry about a television advertisement for a back brace.”

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Speechless, I stared at the receiver. Then I pressed the off button. I have never called in response to any television advertisement for anything. Not even once in my entire life.

So I was awake. Fortunately, it was already 10 in the morning and I would be getting up around now anyhow. Though just once, I would like to sleep in and not be jarred out of a dream by the telephone. It turns out you can only program the ringer to not ring between the hours of 11 pm and 9:30 am. After that, you’re on your own.

In case you didn’t know it, putting yourself on a “Do Not Call” list is the perfect way to distribute your phone number to organizations who sell data to telephone solicitation spammers.

I cannot stop the calls. All I can do is turn them off when they come. Too many mornings are the same, beginning with a ringing phone … followed by a day peppered with similar calls. Maybe that’s just life in the no-privacy, let-it-all-hang-out connected world.

I have only one question: Do these recorded calls actually earn money for anyone? Does someone actually buy a product because a recording called them?

I DON’T WANT TO SEEM MEAN-SPIRITED BUT

What is it about “I don’t accept award nominations” that is hard to grasp? I know it’s difficult — virtually impossible — to find people to whom to pass these chain letters awards. Maybe it’s time to rethink them? Or just don’t pass them on. Especially not to those of us who have clearly said we do not want them.

'Wow! I've got one from someone I know!'

Don’t start your unwanted gift with “I know you don’t accept awards, but I thought …” I get the guilt thing. I will graciously acknowledge the honor, but I will not play the game. The Internet is full of spam, junk mail, chain letters, political advertising, and product promotions. At least once a week, I unsubscribe from organizations, individuals, and groups — many of them representing causes in which I believe or selling stuff in which I might be interested — that have become spam. Don’t be one of them.

JunkmailCartoon2

Those of you who post 20 times a day, one picture or a few lines of text per post … really? Seriously? After the fourth post, unless the subject is topical and timely, you are spam. Even if I love you, I will delete your stuff unopened.

A final point: if you compulsively post something each time you sit down at the computer, those of us who feel assaulted by the deluge of email notifications will likely miss the one thing you wrote that was important, into which you poured your heart.

Here are a couple of helpful guidelines:

1. If you are a multiple time per day poster, do not exceed the number of fingers on the hand of the average humanoid, which is to say, five. If I need to use another hand to keep count, it will be used to hit the delete key.

2. If you write one post a day, you can write long form pieces. If you’re a good writer with something to say, I’ll enjoy it. If you add a few good photographs, I’ll like it better. I may even pass it around. Occasionally re-blog it. But, not every word you — or I — write is golden. Edit with enthusiasm. We will all thank you.

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Most of us have other things going on in our lives. If we follow you, we like you, but you are not the only blogger filling our inbox. I spread my time thinly as is. If you load my email with dozens of posts, I will not be thinking kind thoughts.

Get a grip. Please.

HELL IN A HANDSET

Remember junk mail? Now it’s spam in email and worst of all? It’s those phone calls from fake charities, surveys that are really sales calls, scammers, rip-off artists … and so much of it not even human. You get woken up at 7 in the morning by a machine telling you to hold for a real person. Does anyone really hold because a machine tells them to? I hope we aren’t that mindless yet. From the incomparable Beasley Greene … “Hell in a Handset”!

Beasley Green

Phonedeath

Although it seems a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, it wasn’t too long ago when receiving a letter or correspondence through the post was greeted with excited anticipation. Now the sound of the letterbox and the sight of mail on the landing tends to be a portent to debt and threat –  ‘Your bill…’ ‘To be paid by…’, ‘You owe…’, ‘FINAL NOTICE’, ‘Summons to Court’, etc.

If it isn’t bills or requests for payment, it’s usually junk mail or menu’s from local takeaways. You no longer get letters from friends or lovers who you haven’t heard from in ages, those types of messages were replaced by email. That is until the spammers, hackers, marketers and account departments hijacked that outlet for private communication. Now most of your [non-work related] email is advertising, notification of pending bill payments or just total junk selling you pills, penis enlargements…

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10 LITTLE THINGS TO MAKE YOU CRY UNCLE

Customer Service waiting

Why does the translator always pop up and offer to translate my Spam? Isn’t there some way to make that go away and never come back?

When I get put on hold, they always tell me how important I am to them, often just before they disconnect me or start playing the most annoying music ever to assault the ears of humankind:

  1. If I’m that important, hire a person to answer the phone.
  2. Is there a special place everyone goes to buy really annoying music so you can not only be on hold for hours, but listen to the same orchestral rendition of Something From the 70s over and over and over?

You call customer service. They ask for your account number, phone number, social security number, date of birth, home address. When — if — someone comes on the line, they will ask for the same information again. All of it.

CustServCartoon

You will be required to listen to a menu from which you must select your “problem” because “our menu items have recently changed” even though you’ve been working with this company for years and the menu has never changed. You cannot skip ahead to the menu selection you know you need.

The menu goes on forever. All the choices are apparently irrelevant. By number 7, you have no idea what the first six choices were and anyhow, you need to talk to someone. If — in desperation — you are fool enough to select from the list, you will get a robot that will send you back to the same menu.

If you press none of the selections and just wait, you may get a live person. Or disconnected. It’s a crap shoot.

Whoever you get will tell you it’s not their department. The department to which they direct you will tell you to go to the place that just sent you to them. If you point that out, they will disconnect you by “accident.”

Every company records every conversation “for quality assurance purposes” (and if you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you), but the call during which they promised to fix your problem/refund your money was (oddly enough) not recorded. Nor did the person with whom you spent an hour on the phone add that all important note to your file.

Death cust serv

If you remember to get the name and some kind of ID of the person you are talking to, he or she will not exist when you call back.

No one has a number you can call back. Ever.

Is it just me? Or is there an international conspiracy to make us simply give up and live with whatever crap they throw at us?

A Place of Peace

Despite all the blogs and bloggers who have posted articles on the etiquette of commenting, too many people still don’t get it. Maybe they just don’t want to understand, because it isn’t so complicated.

I got a really nasty note yesterday from an individual who took issue with something I wrote. I think she didn’t even understand how rude she was. Another — even nastier comment — expressed displeasure with my failure to address his comment — 3 months ago. The original comment was insulting (which is why I didn’t respond). Today’s follow-up was much worse.

In both cases, the result was identical. Bye bye. You’re out of here. Don’t come back.

This is not a forum, public or otherwise. This is my personal blog, my website. My little piece of peace in a nutty, wacko cyber world. In this place, we discuss, but we don’t fight. If I don’t like your comment — for whatever reason — I can choose to not publish it, delete it, edit it … or call it spam and make it so you trouble me no more.

It doesn’t mean you aren’t free to disagree. You are welcome to disagree. Politely. Reasonably. Friendly. But if you feel like sniping, insulting me, calling names, think this is an opportunity to show how smart you are at my (or anyone else’s) expense? Bye bye.

If you do not appreciate what I have to say or how I say it, no one is forcing you to read it. You don’t have to look at my pictures, read my opinions, like me or follow me. Cyber space is infinite and you are welcome to be virtually elsewhere.

I do not have to take crap from you. Not here. In the rest of my life, I deal with all the stuff I don’t like. In this place, this tiny corner of the huge universe, I hold fast to an illusion of control. I don’t think it’s too much to ask.

In this place, this space, we dwell in peace and harmony, even when we differ.