BOSTON (05/08/2000) - We know that more discussion on the technology of your listening pleasure was scheduled for this week, but spleen and fury has diverted us from the appointed path and we feel compelled to comment.
Now if there's one thing that's guaranteed to drive Gearhead into a paroxysm of apoplectic rage, it's not being able to get off e-mail lists. And we don't mean those countless spam lists - we mean e-mail lists from real, branded, we-know-where-your-corporate-offices-are companies. Companies that pride themselves on the quality of their customer service. Companies that should know better.
Let us wander slightly off topic for a second and discuss those spam lists.
Spams can be identified in dozens of ways, the most common is that you have never heard of the sender's company.
Just in case you are new to all this, whatever you do, under no circumstances should you respond to a message that invites you to reply to be removed from that list. If you do, they know that a warm body is behind your e-mail address and within hours you'll be swamped with messages inviting you to join "Naughty Nina" for any number of dubious pleasures.
But when it comes to real companies and their mailing lists, getting removed can be a near-impossible job.
For example, American Express Co., a company that Gearhead has been consistently impressed by the quality of their customer service, will not stop sending offers every few weeks. And these aren't just any offers, these are invitations to see the likes of N'Sync in Atlanta or Julio Iglesias in Boca Raton.
As Gearhead a) cannot stand either act, b) lives on the opposite side of the country and c) never asked to be offered concert tickets, the messages are, at the very least, irritating. So as invited in the message, Gearhead clicked on the link to be unsubscribed.
The link points to a Web page that allows you to select which newsletters you would like to receive and, every time Gearhead goes to that page, none are actually selected. Despite that, messages arrive with monotonous regularity.
Although Gearhead has written to Amex customer service, it seems we are destined to be forever bombarded with offers to see Christina Aguilera in New Jersey or Tori Amos in Boston (we would rather be savaged by wild dogs than endure such entertainment).
So here are some simple rules to ensure that if you run a list, you won't incur the wrath of its recipients:
First, don't require them to unsubscribe by e-mailing from the subscribed address. Sometimes this isn't possible and leads to the recipient jumping through hoops, which leads to cranky ex-customers.
Second, don't make unsubscribing complicated. Ideally, the recipient should be able to follow a link or reply, and have to do nothing more than confirm that they really want to be unsubscribed.
Finally, if you offer customer service to help resolve problems, respond in somewhat less than a glacial epoch.
Barely veiled threats to firstname.lastname@example.org.