Sunday, May 25, 2008

Unsubscriber blues

Guest blog by LOUISE ARMSTRONG, executive vice president, Palette PR


When I turned 40, I decided to draft some resolutions for the second half of my life. Each goal is designed to simplify my life by eliminating time wasters – things that are a part of my day but which I neither need nor want.

I had no trouble finding my first victim – email newsletters. A weekly scan turned up 25 distinct titles, seven of which arrived on a daily basis. It wouldn’t be so bad if I had requested them but most were uninvited guests to my inbox.

I made it my mission to unsubscribe myself from the lot and set to work with a single-minded zeal. First, I divided them into three categories: those I voluntarily subscribed to and actually read (only one fell into this category); those I subscribed to and didn’t read (six here) and, the vast majority, those I had not subscribed to and didn’t want.

In some cases, I had been systematically placed on the email distribution list of professional groups I belonged to. Others were from stores I visited, hotels I stayed at and restaurants I frequented, all of which assumed that I would be fascinated by their every move. Finally, there were the ones whose source eluded me – monthly real estate reports and investment trends – authored by people who must have received my business card at a networking event.

Removing myself from these lists varied from remarkably simple to downright impossible. The ones I had voluntarily signed up for took the news fairly well, although many asked me to log in, forcing me to recollect ancient passwords. Others acquiesced after some prodding but said they would need up to three months for it to take effect. A few gave up the fight only when I threw myself on their mercy with a tale of how out of control my life had become.

The best response I received was from a community newspaper whose tech person responded that I was now 'blacklisted' from their email distribution list. Imagine that.

At this writing, several weeks after the start of my quest, I have reduced my daily newsletter total by about two thirds but I’m ticking it off my resolution list as a ‘complete’.

Next task: deal with snail mail as it comes in.

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