Thursday, February 10, 2011

To: FESPA [and the rest of the legitimate business world],
Subject: Mailing List Etiquette

If you run a promotional email list, and you don't include a straightforward way to unsubscribe, there's a good chance you're just going to piss us off.


Your Target Audience

I'm on a quest lately to cut down on the amount of not-quite-junk email I receive -- i.e., lists I've signed up for that I no longer read, notifications from various social media sites that I'd rather not get any more, etc.

No idea how I got on this FESPA list (I had to look it up -- "FESPA is a federation of global screen and digital printing trade associations and organises the world's leading screen printing and digital imaging events.") Yes, I do graphics, but I'm not a printer, nor do I even buy much print. There's a slim chance I signed up for it at some point. Or someone sold them my name.

So whatever, I'm on their list. Who knows how I got there. Big deal, just unsubscribe.

The first email I got back in mid-January had an unsubscribe link at the bottom. But clicking on it returned a PHP database error (now it's just a 404). So I replied to the email to inform them of the database error and asked to please be removed.

The next email had no unsubscribe link at all. (The links in the footer take you, somewhat unhelpfully, to the main page of the email list service they use -- i.e., it's just an ad -- and to their web design company.) So I replied and ask again to be unsubscribed.

Got another one today, and at this point, I'm just annoyed by the whole thing. Sure, I could just delete them – they're only sending one every two weeks or so. Sure, I could add them to my spam filter. Sure, I could email their web design company for help (especially since, chances are they designed the HTML email in the first place). Or I could email the general contact email address I found by poking around on their website. But none of these things should be necessary.

Allowing mailing list recipients to unsubscribe (whether we signed up for the list in the first place or not) is to me what separates legitimate business promotion from spam. If are unable or choose not to include an unsubscribe link, you'd damn well better be checking the replies so you can deal with unsubscribe requests that way.

So, here you go. If I can't get off the list, then I'll let my blog readers (yes, all 3 of you) know how un-savvy FESPA's email marketing is. And how lame by association their sponsors now seem.

The below is just a screen shot of today's mailing (the actual HTML email was too wide and broke the blog layout). The footer links are live. For what it's worth, I dig the design.

From: FESPA []
Date: Thu, Feb 10, 2011 at 7:48 AM
Subject: FESPA Americas – the Boost Your Company Needs for 2011

Fespa Americas email

powered by phplist v 2.10.10, © tincan ltd


  1. And... got another one today. It's my "last chance to register!" Yeah, that's going to happen.

  2. And today another. Going to email their web design company...

  3. Actually, got TWO today.

    Got a very nice reply from Tincan, who I supposed was their web design company, but who actually is the developer for PHPlist, and thus can't help me.

  4. Success!!!

    Sent an annoyed email to the general email address I found on their website. A week later, got this reply:

    FESPA Newsletter
    to kim

    show details 6:38 AM (5 hours ago)

    Goodbye from our Newsletter, sorry to see you go.

    You have been unsubscribed from our newsletters.

    This is the last email you will receive from us. We have added you to our
    "blacklist", which means that our newsletter system will refuse to send
    you any other email, without manual intervention by our administrator.

    If there is an error in this information, you can re-subscribe:
    please go to and follow the

    Thank you


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