If you know me at all, you know how much I love new and novel ideas. I sign up for everything. The result is a lot of HAM. (Ham is like SPAM, but it’s solicited. Can’t really call it spam when I asked for it, right?). As a result, I get to test the unsubscribe functionality of a lot of websites. I’m pleased to say that in most cases, unsubscribing works flawlessly . . . of course there are exceptions.
The worst offender in recent memory is Groupon. Now, once upon a time, Groupon was a much simpler service. One offer at a time, one email a day. Then it exploded. They splintered their offers into all sorts of categories and without consulting me, “opted” me in to a host of daily and weekly email messages. I found this frustrating and in poor taste. Other than the offer that compelled me to sign up in the first place, I never bought anything from them so I didn’t think I’d miss much if I unsubscribed. Fortunately (or so I thought) they provided the tools to do just that. I used the handy “Unsubscribe” link in the email which brought me to a page listing the newsletters I was subscribed to along with the ability to unsubscribe from them individually. And then there was the holy grail of opting out: A one click Unsubscribe from all Groupon emails link. I went with that.
A day later my phone chirped, letting me know I had a new email. To my disappointment, it was from Groupon. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, I presumed perhaps that email was already queued for sending before I unsubscribed and couldn’t be recalled. Just the same, for good measure, I revisited that one click unsubscribe from all button.
The emails kept coming. To get the full effect, read the above paragraph several dozen times.
At this point, months later and having been certain for much of it I was not receiving pre-queued messages, I was at my wits end with Groupon. Granted, I could have reported them as spam and been done with it. I could have created a filter to automatically delete them. While these solutions would have been easier they would have been wrong. When I click unsubscribe, I expect to not be subscribed anymore. I sent an email to support detailing my experience with their
unsubscribe placebo button.
The support response took a couple days, quite slow considering it was only to tell me that my email address didn’t appear to be subscribed to their emails. Despite that, like clockwork, I received the daily deal the next day. I responded to my support ticket telling them as much, only to be once again assured that they’d checked again and I wasn’t subscribed.
They wouldn’t let me go. They’d let me pretend to unsubscribe on their website all day long. They’d tell me “You’re not subscribed to groupon” like it was the support mantra, all the while offering me a great deal on a [now much needed] massage. OK, maybe I’m being paranoid, but it really felt like they were holding my email address hostage. I persisted, unsubscribing and confirming with support that I was unsubscribed . . . and then I got this.
I’ve checked our records and it does not appear that this email address is subscribed to our daily deals anymore. Do you have a different email address you’d like me to check? It’s possible that a different email address is set up to forward these to you.
“Perhaps,” they said in my mind, “you are mistaken. We’re not holding THAT email hostage. We’re in possession of some other email address.” But I knew how to answer this one. I copied the original headers from my most recent Groupon assault, headers that very clearly in technically terms demonstrated that the email was sent to the address they claimed was not subscribed to their email blasts. I pasted those headers into an email and smirked “It sure as shit was sent to this address.”
Three days later, they responded:
I am very sorry for the confusion. You will no longer receive any promotional emails from Groupon.
Please let me know if you have any further questions. Sorry to see you go!
Confusion? There was no confusion. I’d pressed on through their smoke and mirrors to The Final Test, the Great Gateway out of Groupon and I had triumphed. Order was restored, I was again in a world where unsubscribe buttons worked and I’ve been Groupon free since. I still need that massage, but when it happens I’ll just pay full price.
There are two takeaways from this story. First, if you ever need them, virtually all email programs give you the ability to get to the headers.
Secondly, you don’t have to use your email address to sign up for stuff. Sign up for websites or newsletters using a unique leemail forwarding address. To stop receiving messages from that sender, all you have to do is login to your leemail account and turn off the forwarder for that sender. Leemail is in closed beta, but we can sneak you in using this link.
Need to provide an email address to get in to a website you never want to hear from again? Use a mailinator throwaway address.
Want your Inbox cleaned up and sorted without having to lift a finger? Try OtherInbox. It’ll pull all of your marketing email out of your inbox and sort it into folders. It can also also help keep track of shipment notifications, delete expired offers and get rid of stubborn subscriptions with placebo unsubscribe buttons.