Unsubscribe Fail: How to Piss of Your Customers in One Simple Move


Okay, I’ll admit, bad unsubscribe options are a bit of a hangup for me. If I deign to let you put me on your newsletter list, I’m going to expect a reasonable unsubscribe process. Preferably one-click. If you make it too much trouble for me, I am going to be forced to filter your newsletter as spam, which is real bad for you if I’m using gmail or Yahoo! or something like that which takes each spam filter as a vote. I’m thinking of this today because I just gave up on trying to unsubscribe the “right” way from someone who has two common problems on the unsubscribe form:

  • You ask me to tell you the email address I want dropped from your list. Give me a break! I have had dozens of email addresses over the years and they get forwarded here and there, headers getting dropped and mangled. I’m not going to sit there entering them into a form until I figure out which one I gave you. You just sent me an email. You know where you sent it. Your unsubscribe link should include a token or the email address and take me to a form that knows what email address I’m subscribed with. All the good mail systems (Aweber, Mailchimp, Getresponse) do it this way. Use one of them.
  • Confusing instructions. I was given the choices of Yes and No to the question “Subscribe/Unsubscribe?”. Okay, let’s see… I came here to unsubscribe, so that’s a “yes” right? But wait, maybe that means “subscribe”. Meanwhile, there’s a box to fill out with my name and email address and a radio button to recieve HTML emails or not. But is that HTML emails versus no email at all or HTML email versus plain text email and I get email either way? Am I subscribing or unsubscribing? Oh never mind, I’ll just hit the spam button and filter them and all future messages from them. Ooops!
Merchant name obscured... because it's someone I know (click to enlarge)

Now, I like the merchant and don’t want to block all communication, I just don’t generally like to get newsletters unless there’s some real information in there other than new products and sales prices… especially after this month’s whopping credit card bill… I don’t need the temptation. So I hate to mark someone like that as spam really, but there’s often no other choice.

2 Responses to “Unsubscribe Fail: How to Piss of Your Customers in One Simple Move”

  1. Ha. Listen to this. I get these spam text messages, as probably a lot of people do as well. You know the ones, “reply back to learn how to get $1200 cash with 0% interest to help you between paychecks. reply STOP if you no longer want to receive these helpful messages”..

    Uh, yea. Like I am going to reply STOP and *confirm* that my cell number is active and exists… I email AT&T customer service to inform them that I want a refund on this wasted text message and to report the spam and do you know what they suggested? TO REPLY STOP SO THE SPAMMING STOPS!

    If that isnt a customer service FAIL then I dont know what is.

  2. That’s pretty bad. Translation: “Please call up these spammers and confirm that you exist and read your text messages.”

    Single worst thing you can do to stop spam is to ask the spammer to stop! That’s just telling them “I open my email and read it, so send me more.”

    That said, the merchant mentioned in the article is no way a spammer. I bought something from them and they have great stuff. They just have a bad unsubscribe from their newsletter, so I’m forced to mark it as spam instead of just unsubscribing.

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