Before I begin and for the record, I detest bulk spam!
Itís a sad Internet day when a non-spamming professional businessperson gets shut
down by a spammer! This is a story I donít mind sharing because Iím well acquainted
with the victim. It was me!
Hereís what happened. As a natural course of doing business on the Net, we place
FFA (Free-for-All) links on a regular basis. We use a well-known submission service
and send our link to 450+ FFA sites at a time. What happens next is an in-box
barrage of autoresponse hyper-email promoting the FFA services. I can live with the
delete button for that knee-jerk injection of mail however many of these companies
keep sending junk mail day after day.
So, as astute marketers, we always (used to) "Reply" to any spam mail with a positive
business message of our own. One particular hypocrite took exception to our
response to his spam and went to the pains of informing all the way upstream that we,
now get this, are "spamming him, forging headers and stealing SMPT resources".
Automated message? Doesnít matter.
Without the courtesy of notification we were shut down. Tried, convicted, executed
and cremated without benefit of a hearing, let alone a trial. Accused by a Ďcriminalí
and virtually put out of business. And for a full day, we didnít even know we had died
and gone to the real world.
Now I could expect some small ISP to react in this Hitler-ish way, but not the
international company we were paying for service.
What made matters worse, when we starting getting complaints that 404ís were
popping up we promptly wrote to the tech department. No reply from them until our
death sentence was proclaimed - " Your Account Was Terminated" Ė a full 24 hours
later! We wrote right back to the indicated reply address with an explanation of what
had happened. An eerie silence for 8 hours ensued.
This is now starting to curl my already curly hair. I wrote a politely direct letter to ALL
the posted email addresses at this company pleading for someone to deal with this
issue. Conveniently, no phone number was listed on their website and of course, no
listing in their city phonebook.
An entire day now passes. Now, Iím really mad!! My partner had heard rumblings
that another company recently purchased our beloved webhost so I write their
webmaster, forwarding the original letter and outlining the long stream of events. This
is no longer a babbling brook!
Finally, we get the following reply from the parent company: "We quite clearly retain
the right to remove any page, site, or member as we see fit - therefore if we have
gotten reports of illegal activity, or abusive activity, and we so choose to remove that
member so that the problem is solved, we will do so."
Is this not America? When did we start hanging citizens simply because theyíve been
accused by someone else and letís just forget for a minute that the accuser was the
spammer here? Has the entire issue of UCE gone so much the other way that innocent
and well-meaning netizens get the noose? Is this what the anti-spam movement
envisioned as the result of their powerful efforts?
Iím afraid folks that when things like this start happening, itís going to open a whole
other can of spam.
Iíve taken the liberty of creating an expletive for this unfortunate phenomenon -
Too Little Too Late: A full 5 days after this incident I received a very nice email from
the president of this worldwide webserver apologizing for the unpleasant situation and
offering his personal assistance to put us "back up" (this was a recent server addition
and we hadnít backed up our files yet). We had by then of course started the process
of moving our domain to another webhost. I did ask however, that they post our site
again so that we could retrieve our files and email. Another 5 days pass and yet
another sequence of unproductive communication and guess what - they canít find
them. Their policy was clearly to "delete" without hesitation! An offer to cheerfully
refund our paid-in-advance fees was offered though. No kidding!!
Lessons learned the hard way.
Lesson 1. Always back up your server files on your computer right away. A "mirror"
site is the ideal back-up if you can afford to maintain one.
Lesson 2. Before you sign up with a webhost (and even with your current one), if you
are dealing with large amounts of email, make sure their "spam policy" is not
totalitarian. In other words, find out their detailed procedure if a complaint is received
about you. Do they inform you of the complaint and allow you to tell your side of the
story before any action is taken? Or, when any wacko decides to send a total lie to
your "god of the Internet" do they cut you off, tell you later, lose your files and
apologize when itís too late?
Lesson 3. Speak personally with the webmaster (although there are no webmasters,
just webslaves Iím told) and inform him, her or it of the nature of your business and
your policies regarding newsletters, opt-in email, spam mail that you receive,
FFA/classified ad links/posts you receive (autoresponders messages) and any other
email applications you may use. Make it clear how you utilize email to communicate
and stress the point that you DO NOT SPAM!
Lesson 4. Be prepared that at least once in your Internet life, you too will be a victim
without recourse, a Web felon without benefit of trial, and an executed and buried
After all, this is America!
Copyright © 1998 Rick Beneteau, InterNiche.net. Reprinted with permission.