SPAM: Specifically Peculiar Anonymous Messages? SPAM: Stupid Pathetic Attempt (at) Marketing? SPAM: Silly Promotions Always Mass-posted? You hear about it on marketing boards, you get it in your inbox, and you see it in your supermarket. But, besides a questionable luncheon meat, what is SPAM really?
You may be thinking to yourself, "This article is irrelevant! Why, I can recognize spam from across the bar, half-sloshed, while perfecting my dart game. It’s all that crap I get in my in-box that I don’t want." And, even in your drunken state, you’d be partially right. Most halfway-Net-educated people would give it roughly the same definition (for a more succinct general definition, see our News Munchie Spam, Spam, Spam, Egg and Spam!). However, they may continue defining spam by stating that it should be illegal on several levels and that all spammers should be hung -- ahem! -- racked, drawn, quartered, and not allowed the privilege of a last drink. Unfortunately there is no great acronym to explain spam. My preference is to think the term came from the mysterious canned meat product of the same name because of the similarities: an unholy mish-mash of unknown parts and pieces that you certainly didn’t order. I Found Your Address On The Ground. And His. And Hers. And Theirs. Prominent email marketing specialist Derek Scruggs says that email is spam if 1) the message is bulk and 2) you did not give the sender your address voluntarily. Notable is what’s NOT included here: Spam, in most cases, is not illegal. The Feds make it easy. As of today, there are no Federal laws concerning spam, although legislation is pending. There are some pretty strict state laws on the books, but they only apply to messages sent from a server within the state with the anti-spam law to recipients in that same state. This renders these laws useless to the citizens of the state, because it’s easy for a spammer to simply send a message from across the state line. Using this snippet of a piece of blatant spam I received in my inbox for some never-heard-of long-distance company, let’s take a look at some typical tactics of the wily spammer:
This email is not SPAM and is compliant with all Federal laws and regulations. We apologize if this message has reached you in error. Save the Planet, Save the Trees! Advertise via E-mail. No wasted paper! Delete with one simple keystroke! Immediate & Instant Removal Instructions From Any Future Mailings Are Included Below. We apologize if this message has reached you in error. This Message Is NOT Intended For Residents Of WA, CA or VA.
Gee, ya’ think the lady doth protest too much? Besides denying its spammishness way too fervently, this paragraph is windy, annoying, and unsavory in other ways…: Not Spam; Not breaking any Federal laws. This email is not spam only in the sender’s wet dream. It is obviously an unsolicited commercial email -- I certainly didn’t sign up to receive it! However, and it pains me to say it, they are correct in stating that it is compliant with all Federal laws and regulations because, as they fail to point out, there aren’t any! We apologize. Well, of course you do, Spam Boy (or Girl)! This pathetic tactic is most likely an attempt to reduce the chances that I’ll send a "flame" in response to getting this tripe. No, no, I’m not talking about an email message that likes show tunes and Barbra Streisand but, rather, an angry rant in email form … if I can even reach a real person by replying to this message. He could also attempting to stave off a lawsuit, assuming that I live in a state like Washington that has successfully awarded spam recipients damages for receiving unsolicited email messages just like this one! Save the Planet, Save the Trees! Sure, email messages use less paper than a direct mail campaign. In fact, unlike junk mail campaigns that get expensive rather quickly, direct email campaigns are so cheap that any response -- even one in a million -- is a win for Spam Boy. However, he fails to mention that, though he’s not cutting down trees to spread his worthless scam of a message, he is sucking down different resources faster than last night’s martini. His message robs recipients of their time and paid bandwidth. Furthermore, Mr. Spam’s message negatively impacts the credibility of all commercial email, including and especially those that are legitimate messages sent to recipients who granted their permission. Immediate and Instant Removal Instructions Below. Riiiiight, the Spam Monkey is going to remove my name from his list. Just like that hot guy at the end of the bar is winking at me because of my intelligence! I checked the removal instructions out and only an email option is available to send a removal request. I may be blonde, but I’m not a moron! This is the oldest trick in the spammer’s little black book. If I send a message to the email address provided, I’ve just confirmed that there’s one warm and extremely awesome body at this end of the Internet. Just another part of his diabolical scheme, the perv. Not Intended for You. Hmmmm … I wonder why this message is not intended for residents of WA, CA, or VA? Is it because the company doesn’t provide services in those states? Of course not! When I visited the Web site being promoted and entered fake information using addresses and phone numbers in those states, I didn’t have any problems signing up. So, why is Mr. Spam denying these "wonderful services" to WA, CA, or VA? Could it possibly be that, as far as state laws go, these three states have some of the longest-standing, toughest anti-spam laws on the books? Ok, now that I’ve thoroughly defined spam and all the sleezy tactics of a spammer, you’re ready for the next installment. Your own faithful barfly chugged a few brewskies and tallied up the email messages that piled up in her own personal in-box. You’ll be amazed at the results!