COI Can't Protect Against Stupid

Here's a tale from Matt Blumberg, CEO of ReturnPath, on how confirmed opt-in, aka double opt-in, isn't necessarily enough to 100% prevent spam complaints. Why? Because there's no fool proof guard against stupid. The stupid, in this case, comes from the recipient. The recipient who signed up, CONFIRMED, then went on a rampage of idiocy hassling Matt's wife and making threats. Over mail he signed up for, with confirmed opt-in.

Matt kindly decides against outing the waste of space responsible. Which is a shame, as they deserve to be outed.

Oddly enough, this reminds me of my days back at the Artists' Quarter in St. Paul, MN. Occasionally we'd have a patron who would go off the rails. Decide they don't like the music, or the guy next to them, or the phase of the moon. They'd start inappropriately shouting, yelling, poking at people around them, the bartnder, waitresses, door man. On the few occasions that I observed this, my solution was to physically eject that patron from the club, at whatever level of effort it took. In my estimation, this was the right solution. If you're an idiot, you forfeit your right to hang with us, and it's not inappropriate for me to push you out of the circle.

Sadly, it's probably not possible for ReturnPath to force this guy off of the internet. But if I were Matt, I'd probably be sure this guy never received a piece of ReturnPath-related email ever again, no matter how he signs up or verifies consent.


  1. In the late 90s I ran a bunch of e-newsletters (sign-up was also COI) for a business publisher. One week we got a lovely email from a subscriber saying how much he valued the content and thanking us all.

    The next week, the exact same subscriber sent one of THOSE unsubscribe requests, full of crass language, threats, accusations etc.

    Go figure.

    (P.S. I managed to contact him to find out what was going on. He apologized and said he'd reached a personal tipping point in terms of email overload and just snapped. We happened to be first in line.)

    We also has an ad running on a business website. So, bizarrely, we used to get sent manual unsubscribe requests for that site's emails. Some were so nasty, I actually had to have all contact email routed to me first because some of the other staff couldn't face the language used.

  2. The tipping point Mark described seems extremely common -- and sometimes, simply being able to be contacted means you'll get all the vitriol someone's been storing up because they can't yell at the really bad guys directly.

    Seth Godin touched on this last May, in a post called "angry people are different":

    I think we can & should have compassion for these poor, bewildered, frustrated users -- but only up to a point. Beyond that point, just break all contact, because there's no way to win when somebody's that angry.


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