Unsubscribing

I don’t know if others have a “spam” email address. I have one that I give out anytime I have to supply one to sign up to access some site that I really shouldn’t have to. Or when ordering from somewhere online. Or when I don’t get annoyed at being asked for one when I’m signing up for something in person. I still access the account and will check it as needed for instance if I’m wondering about something I’ve ordered. But it’s not something I care that much about or check very often. It’s a long enough and bizarre enough address that it annoys people when I tell them. But it’s easy enough for me to remember that I have no problem.

Last month I checked it for my normal round of deleting all the mailings from companies that have my address. I finally decided I’d start unsubscribing from these lists that I never opted in on. I got tired of it after a while but went through it tonight and think I hit the rest of those I don’t want to hear from anymore. Through this I’ve gathered some observations about the unsubscribing process.

Pretty much universally, the unsubscribe process is buried at the bottom of the email and in small enough print that you really have to look for it. I think some law may have been passed where these companies have to give some sort of unsubscribe option. If not, it’s amazing that they supply such an option.

The unsubscribe process can be broken down into a couple different operations.

  1. Reply to the email and put “unsubscribe” in the subject. This is by far the laziest way provided and the most work for you. Most provide this option along with another.  A somewhat annoying variation of this is when they make you copy a different address to email to.
  2. Press a link and be automatically unsubscribed or have to confirm by hitting a button on the page that you want to unsubscribe. A GUID is most likely used in the link so the site knows who you are. If your working on a mechanism for your company to handle the unsubscribe process, please use this option. I just want to be done with you and not have to jump through hoops.

Now most of the time, I’m greeted with a nice message indicating that I am now unsubscribed and if I wish to subscribe at another point in time go do this. I’m sure you all jot down those resubscribe instructions. But sometimes I get another message. A message that irritates the hell out of me. A message that just makes me curse all that is corporate in this world.

It’s when the message says something about it possibly taking up to so many (10 normally) business days for the unsubscribe to take affect.  Come on!  I think most of us, whether you’re a programmer or not, understand the way things like this work.  If not, let me elaborate.

Somewhere in this company exists a database.  A database is just a way of storing information.  This database contains everything this company knows about you.  Your favorite color.  Your shoe size.  The name of your pet gerbil.  The last time you engaged in …  Well, that sort of thing depends on what companies you’re dealing with and sites you’re visiting.  🙂

A database is where they get the information from when they show you any profile info you have set up.  Front end websites are connected to these databases and can retrieve and update information on a whim.  It doesn’t take them 10 business days to display info to you, and it doesn’t take that long to update that you no longer want to receive their spam.

On the technical side, the site is either executing some SQL to update the database directly or setting the field that indicates whether they should spam you and then updating through an ORM setup.  It’s not like there needs to be people who’s job it is to see that you’ve hit an unsubscribe button and put in a work request for somebody to update the database when they get around to it.  I suppose that possibility could exist, but I doubt they’d even have a web site or mailing list of any size if that were the case.

The latest company to do this to me was Disney.  I don’t even know how I ever got on their list.  And we just watched the Little Mermaid prequel last weekend.  It was surprisingly decent.  Not their normal direct to DVD chaff to milk more money out their franchises.

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