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You can't, not really, but you can try

| Everyone's email inbox fills up daily with junk email. What's a body to do?

I subdivide junk email into two classes: misguided and malicious. 

Malicious junk email is the kind that wants to entrap you in a phishing scheme or that wants you to click on a link to a website that will install software on your computer, unbeknownst to you, that will henceforth track your every keystroke or hijack your email program to send more malicious junk email to everyone you know. The people who propagate malicious junk email should be tracked to the ends of the earth and then sent to hell.

In the context of our discussion, however, there is absolutely nothing that you can do about these. Replying or clicking the unsubscribe link that some put at the bottom of the email simply confirms to them that the email address they used to reach you is legit. That makes it all the more valuable to them.

Misguided junk email is the kind you get from a more-or-less legitimate company tempting you to buy stuff. These you have a chance to stop, if you will just take the time. 

Today's example is a company called SimplyInk, and they sell — wait for it — ink cartridges for printers. Everyone with a printer is a potential customer for them. And we all know that the reason printers are so cheap is that the companies make their profits on the ink. The profit margins on the ink are frequently so high that it is worth it to almost give away the printer to get you locked in to buying ink (because you know that no two printers take the same ink cartridges).

Now, what prompts me to tackle SimplyInk is that they don't use any common sense. I get at least two — and sometimes more than two —  emails from them every single day.  If I don't want ink from them at 7am, what makes them think I'll want ink from them at 11am? Or again at 2pm? In short, they just make a nuisance of themselves. So, today I hit the "unsubscribe" link.

I was required to enter into a form on a webpage the email address that I wanted to unsubscribe. That is strike one against them: if they were really concerned about customer relationships they would have coded that link so that the email address used to send the junk email in the first place was also encoded in the unsubscribe link. After I had clicked the link I would only have to be shown a simple, "We're sorry you're leaving" message instead of doing more data-entry.

Here's strike two: the response message made the preposterous claim that it would take 10 days to delete my email address:

sorry to see you go

There is simply no way that it takes 10 days to process my request to be removed from their email list. It takes about 1/10th of a second for the email address to be stuffed into a database query —  "Find this email address and delete it" — and for the query to be completed.

If this were the olden days when some poorly-paid clerk had to sit there and open an envelope and stack up the request for some database administrator to do the actual delete, 10 days might be understandable and even necessary. But not when unsubscribe is an automated function on the website.

We'll see if and when emails from SimplyInk simply stop.

What's a body to do?

I set my email client , which happens to be Outlook but almost every decent client can do the same, to allow into my inbox only messages from people who are in my address book. That means that all the rest of the messages go into the Junk folder.  I also have rules set up that allow the messages of certain specified senders into the inbox as well.

The second part of my strategy is to look at the Junk folder at least once a day to pick out the occasional messages that I do want to read and move them back into the inbox. After all, I do occasionally get messages from people not in my address book, and I would be sorely disappointed if some of them escaped my attention.

Last updated on Apr 13, 2018

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