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Cautionary Tale about the Sending of Spam

The myth of "e-mail marketing" exposed

If you think a bulk e-mail marketing company will always improve your business by 400% and can get your company thousands of sales and millions of hits, here's an interesting cautionary tale which may help to show the reality of the situation. Paul Cato whose small enterprise Charity Slides took up an offer to send two and a half million commercial e-mails speaks to you from personal experience:


On 12/7/04 I received an interesting and highly professional looking Spam E-mail from a company in the States, they even had a telephone number for assistance. They promised to send out 2.5 million adverts for me for about $140.00 and I assumed that the recipients would be opt-in as the ad kept using the word verified, there was no mention of Spam or un-solicited e-mail.

From the 12th of July up to the 20th of July I was in regular e-mail and telephone contact with the company ensuring that my ad was as clear and perfect as possible as my service is not-for-profit, money is in short supply.

My mass message was sent to 2,500,000 by the company on 20th July and by 23rd July I had received about 20 grumpy e-mail messages from people who had been spammed by my message. I immediately e-mailed the company and was told that I had subscribed to a mass Spam Campaign. I was shocked and very annoyed by my own gullibility. I replied to all of the polite complaints and said sorry and ignored the extremely rude threatening complaints.

Around 28th July I received a phone call from
123-reg.co.uk informing me that they were deleting my IPS Tag due to there servers being on a Black list as a result of my mass Spam.

I told
123-reg that I was sorry and it would not happen again and that I had been tricked but they were not interested.

I immediately found another company called Switchmedia who for £20.00 said they would set up web forwarding to my website pages at 123-reg but within 24 hrs they had removed the new tags as they were blacklisted and again I was left without my site. Switchmedia then put me in touch with KT Hosting who for £25.00 are currently setting up web forwarding on their servers so fingers crossed that within the next few hours I might have my site back.

I feel very stupid, cheated and regretful that I made the mistake of using the American Spam Company, if I had realized it was pure spam I would not have gone through with it. I will not ever reply to
Spam again and not ever be fooled again in to sending Spam.

So far I have had around 50 complaints, 1 constructive and no orders at all from 2,500,000 e.mails.

The American Spam Company guarantees a 400% increase in sales or they will keep sending time and time again. NO THANKYOU, NEVER AGAIN.

Paul Christopher Cato

Charity Slides Photo Digital (Discount Club)
24, The Pastures, Littlemoor Lane
Sibsey, Boston, Lincolnshire.
PE22 0TU. England +44
Tel: 0845 4502 140 (Office Hours)
Tel: 01205 750009 (24hrs)
Fax: 0845 4502 141
Mob: 07899 917 667
www.charityslides.co.uk - gone?!

A further note about this which you might find interesting. Paul had 2,500,000 messages sent out, and a second batch to the same people the week after, and had no orders from it, and only 1000 hits. This means that in effect only one person in two and a half thousand even visited the site after having received the spam message. And it caused ALL THAT TROUBLE. It wasn't even a naff message. No misspellings of the word mortgage or mangled prescription drug names, in fact, a relatively innocuous message which you can see here...

From: gozer_the_gatekeeper
Date: 08/10/04 17:08:01
www.charityslides.co.uk - gone?!
Subject: Fw: something to think about...

Dig out those old, hidden away photographic slides. Bring your memories back to life with our unique stylish slide light, a permanent talking piece and thanks to its design slides can be changed easily to reflect any mood or special occasion. Don't have any slides, don't panic we can make them for you from your photos and digital images and best of all our prices are very low. Want to make your own slides then all you need is a camera that accepts traditional transparency film and then shoot away!. We have 23 years experience. Ideal gift for someone who seems to have everything, bet they won't guess what it is!. Our web address is
http://www.charityslides.co.uk - gone?! and the Slide Light can be found on the left menu bar. Best wishes, Paul Cato Owner

Ghostbuster purists will probably write in and tell us that Gozer the Gozarian had a gatekeeper called Zool, or maybe Zuul, and they might try to explain the somewhat involved Gozarian history and the significance of the McKendrick Supplicants and the configuration of a giant slaw, but let's not get spookified about any of this. Incidentally, we acknowledge that Gozer_the_Gatekeeper was almost certainly entirely innocent of sending the spam, and that the most likely explanation is that their address was spoofed. Anyway let's get on with getting this spam marketing problem put in a bag! The fact is, if you get a spam-sending company to pester huge numbers of people, it will generally end up being NOT GOOD, either for your customers or for you.

Also note that if an e-mail list is "verified" it does not mean the company has gone along to people and said politely "May we send you some e-mails?" and the people have said "Oh yes please!". Oh no. "Verified" means the company has gone along and poked people with a stick and made sure they're alive.

"Opt-in" is what a list should be. But this is a term so bandied-about that it is almost useless. Spam sending companies often tell lies, both to their customers who are paying them, and to their victims on the receiving and of all the rubbish they send out. See many examples of this: The OPT-IN LIE

Another thing to consider about this whole fiasco is that it's not a simple "us and them" problem. If you're receiving loads of spam, some of it will be from total scamsters, but some will be from quite reasonable companies who have been fooled into getting embroiled in a spam-sending racket. For example, Paul Cato of Charity Slides is not by his nature a spam-sender anymore than you, if you were on a rock-climbing expedition, are an actual mountain goat!

So, to sum it up, if you're thinking about "e-mail marketing", it's probably best to think about this again and to avoid getting in such a mess. There ARE good and honest ways of advertising using the Internet. Affiliate Marketing for example, works quite well, and if it's done properly it doesn't annoy people. There are also schemes which involve e-mail lists which really are opt-in, but don't be fooled so easily, as some of them are a total scam. One of the lesser of the evils is Links2u, where if you pay them you are allowed to send spam to the members. The Links2u company will claim it's not spam as the members have volunteered to join, even if they are mugs for doing so, but looking at the rubbish which is being sent, it is by any reasonable estimate, SPAM!

Another thing to keep in mind about schemes which offer a guarantee is that it does not imply the product is good. The spam sending company which Paul paid good money to and got nothing but grief, for example, had a guarantee that "If it doesn't increase you're business by 400% we'll send it again". Note: This does not mean it WILL increase it by 400%. It's like some of those cheap and nasty floppy discs where they give a lifetime guarantee. If you ever lose your data they'll give you a free disc. In some cases they were rotten discs, and the company survived because a data-bereaved customer isn't going to get much solace from a free replacement floppy disc. See data loss and data recovery for more about this.

Meanwhile, on the SPAM front, it looks like the campaign to boycott spam is doing quite well. Out of every two and a half thousand messages sent, only one person even looks at the site! Whereas, in contrast, people who look at this honest site buy all kinds of stuff all of the time. Some of the pages have as many sales as clickthroughs. See How You Can Help

There are much more condemnable things than spam-sending. For example, cybersquatting. Never mind the Can-Spam Act. It would be better if there were the "Hang those cybersquatters from a Gibbet" Act!

Material published with permission of Paul Cato of Charity Slides in the hopes of saving other people from making the same mistake.

Paul has moved on and can now be seen at Paul Cato Photography