Barry Don't Play That

Riffing on two recent themes here at Spam Resource, on the topic of ISP abuse desk/ email staff (now universally called Barry), and how some people mistakenly expect unblock magic to happen even though their mail streams suck, an employee of an ISP's abuse desk wrote in, offering up the following points of wisdom, thoughts on what annoys an ISP representative. Take it away, Another Barry!

As a Barry, there are things I really don't like to see come across my desk. A partial list, in no particular order:
  • Marketers who contact me directly for help, but fail to include even the most basic of data for me to look at, like IPs and error messages. This is especially annoying when accompanied by a rant about my system's incompetence. 
  • Marketers that lie about the kind of mail they will be sending in order to game the system, or that abuse the trusted status of a transactional-only IP by sending marketing mail over it after some time has passed...thinking we won't notice.
  • Marketers that fluff their lists with a jillion "test" accounts...thinking we won't notice...and then ask me why their delivery and IP reputation are bad.
  • Marketers that use obfuscation services on their whois, have false-front websites or just an unsubscribe link for a site, have IPs scattered all over creation, and claim their mail stream is pure as the driven snow.
  • Marketers that send spam to my work email and then tell me their lists are legitimate.
  • Marketers that get my name from someone else who got it from someone else and contact me directly about netblocks that have a horrible IP reputation, whose mail is a voluminous stream of stuff that our stats clearly indicate that the recipients don't care about...and on the basis of this tenuous relationship demand that I whitelist them so they don't get blocked anymore.
  • Marketers that get blocked repeatedly and never change their mailing practices...and contact me directly asking me to intervene for them because they're special and our data are clearly wrong.
  • Marketers that don't understand what a deliverability emergency actually is, and escalate to me during non-business hours by way of media I cannot ignore. A hint: very few situations meet the criteria for "deliverability emergency."
  • Marketers who believe they have a deliverability emergency, and contact 6 different people at my company, without telling those 6 people that they have also contacted others. The resulting fire-drill does not generate warm fuzzy feelings.
  • Marketers new to the game who jump in feet first without doing any research, have no idea what they're doing or how to send marketing mail correctly, how to manage their mailing lists, etc...who then get legitimately blocked as a result and escalate to senior management. They get told the same thing by everyone from the bottom of the chain to the top, but continue to threaten legal action or to hold their breath until they turn blue...but don't actually take any of the advice they're given on how to solve their problems.
These are only some of my pet peeves.

I do this job for many reasons. One of them is that I actually really like helping people. I suspect this holds true for most Barrys. If you do any of these things I just listed, either you have created your own problem and we have no way to fix it for you, or you have annoyed us to the point where we have no desire to help you. Please, help us help you by not not doing these things.

Laura Atkins wrote an excellent post about the care and feeding of relationships of ISP reps, which should be required reading for anyone that thinks contacting an ISP is the necessary next step in solving their problems. Sometimes contact is the correct next step...but there are ways to go about it that will get better results than others.


  1. Good ones that Barry missed:

    1. You start off your contact with me by threatening to sue me personally or the corporation I work for. Some people think this works - it doesn't.
    2. You tell me to call you because you want to use the sheer force of your personality to browbeat me into doing your bidding. I'll call you if this requires a call, otherwise, I'll continue to multitask multiple issues. This isn't paid tech support.
    3. You cannot just escalate until you hear what you want to hear, and, yes, I can tell you there's no escalation path.
    4. Telling your customers that they should get off our service because you sent spammy mail and got blocked? That's another good way to make me less happy to help you. Try to come to us first BEFORE accusing us of being the devil.


  2. 1. You claim to be certified by some company like it's supposed to be a magic 'get out of jail free' card that instantly makes everyone more interested in your mail.

    2. You claim to be CAN-SPAM compliant as if we're law enforcement.

    3. You claim that a consultant told you to do something that is obviously a bad practice to avoid responsibility for doing it.

    Barry's other brother Barry


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