Wednesday 14 December 2016

Junk Mail

As many people do, we have a sign on our front door that specifies no circulars, or no junk mail. I can't remember what is says actually as I never read it. It seems nobody else does either, as we continue to get mountains of rubbish posted through the letter box on a daily basis. From there it makes a conveniently short hop to the recycling box located just adjacent to the front door. No great inconvenience, but very wasteful. The Christmas season is of course worse, all sorts of colourful flyers designed with one goal in mind - to take money out of my pocket and put it in somebody else's. No thank you. 

Luckily I am more or less immune to advertising, a skill gained from a lifetime of ignoring television and most other forms of media. But I do use computers a lot, both for work and also for typing out forlorn blog posts in the post-blogging age. This means I use email, and as I suggested in my last post, doing anything online inevitably means that in addition to having to create passwords you also have to dole out your email address so that they have someway of getting in contact with you when you, er, forget your password. And once they have your email account good luck with getting them to give it up.

Here are some statistics compiled from the 13th of December - yesterday. I received 44 emails, from 29 different senders. Broadly they reflect a cross-section of my interests - for instance 8 concerned birding, 4 concerned gardening and plants, 4 were about travel, and 2 were about wine. Fair enough, however of those 18 emails I only wanted to read 7, and of those, only 5 would I classify as useful. A full 13 (nearly 75%!) I had no interest in whatsoever, and in theory this is what I want to be getting.

What about what I don't want to be getting? Ah. Here is where the parallels with actual junk mail are most closely drawn. 20 of the 44 emails, so roughly half, were from online retailers, and all wanted me to part with my hard-earned cash. Things were on sale they said, cheap they said, the lowest price to be found they said. As I've said before, 30% off is still 70% on. A further 4 on top of that also wanted my money, including two that were tantamount to begging. Of the retailers, well I suppose that I must have bought something from each of them at some point in the past, but they continue to send me email after email. Some of them send me something every single day, and many of them are at least once a week. Most of them I cannot ever recall having used nor when. Take for example a company called Newfrog. What would I have bought from them? Do they sell frogs? And anyway what is wrong with used frogs exactly?  Another is from L'Occitane, a company specialising in soap - this I do actually know as I do use soap now and again. But I have no recollection of ever having bought any from them, which means it must be a very long time ago yet checking my "Deleted" folder I found 18 emails from them since the beginning of October. Why don't they give up, surely the message is clear? I am all good for soap. If organisations had to pay to send an email things would surely be different. 

And "deleted" is what happens to all of them. But not yesterday. Yesterday I did something about it as I'm fed up of going through my inbox once a week and block-zapping them. At the bottom of each one of the emails, hidden away miles down, sometimes in small fonts and in colours very difficult to read, is a small line. It reads "unsubscribe". It is probably a legal requirement, the equivalent of ex-directory. If you click on it it frequently takes you the retailer's website to tell you they've done it, which no doubt is merely one last gasp attempt to get you to crack. I went through 18 such emails on my phone whilst multitasking on the toilet, and did the same on each one. Every single one promised to take me off their mailing lists immediately. One even sent me an email to tell me this.....

So that covers about 33 of the 44 emails (some were about things that interested me but still fundamentally just wanted me to buy something - a flight to somewhere for instance). That leaves 11 that fit into neither category, and 10 of these were from various Social Media platforms.Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. The fact I've logged into Facebook twice since my children started school is seemingly not relevant. I do use Twitter of course, and I may find some use for LinkedIn over the coming months, but nonetheless every single email was junked - the digital equivalent of moving from the doormat to the recycling bin. Every single one was basically exorting me to do more Social Media, there was almost an air of desparation. Read this! Follow this person! Here are some suggestions for things you might like! Here's another suggestion, stop sending me crap.

But what about the final email? #44? Well this is the most telling statistic of them all. #44 is from an actual person and they have written an actual email. It isn't a "fwd" or a circular, it's an honest to God missive from one human being to another. Clearly they have no idea what the internet is for.


  1. It's not Jonathan M Lethbridge by any chance? :-) I have a special email account that I use only for actual people, where an inbox arrival is generally a welcome event. The other account is almost entirely managed by the occasional very large, block deletion.

  2. Errr.....are you sure that unsubscribing was the best thing to do? I think that once a company knows your not interested in their particular crappy product they sell your email address to another 10 online crappy product retailers. Just a theory from my experiences so now I just mark them as junk. Good luck with your personal endeavor.

  3. There is a small robot on the other end endlessly repeating "ignore unsubscribing". It has worked - sometimes.