Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sometimes, You Have to Go Right to the Top

RE: Ubsubscribe/Update Keep In Touch‏

Dear Superintendant [Redacted]:

I've tried a half dozen times to unsubscribe from a notification service about events at [Redacted Middle School], because my son is now a freshman at [Redacted High School].

Apparently, other parents of 9th graders have had the same problem. The "footer" at the bottom of all of the emails says that one can unsubscribe by calling a number, sending a letter or replying to the email.

In response to unsubscribe requests, a [Redacted Middle School] administrator sent out instructions for how to unsubscribe by logging into an [Redacted County Public Schools] account and changing ones preferences.

The email is "cut-and-pasted" below. I'll continue my narrative beneath it.

> From:
> To:
> Date: Tue, 20 Sep 2011 07:13:11 -0700
> Subject: Ubsubscribe/Update Keep In Touch
> Parents/Guardians:
> We have received a number of requests to remove parents from the Keep In Touch system. The basic Keep In Touch system updates students that are enrolled in a school each year. If your child no longer attends [Redacted], but you are still receiving emails, you may be enrolled in Keep In Touch Plus. Please use the link below to find information about how to update your account. If you are enrolled in Keep In Touch plus, only you can remove yourself from the distribution list.
> This page also includes a number that you may contact, if this removal process did not work for you.
> -----About this E-mail-----
> This e-mail has been sent to you by [REDACTED] MS. To maximize their communication with you, you may be receiving this e-mail in addition to a phone call with the same message. If you wish to discontinue this service, please inform [REDACTED] MS IN PERSON, by US MAIL, by TELEPHONE at (XXX) 867-5309 or REPLY TO THIS E-MAIL.
Instead of following the instructions to log in elsewhere, I again followed the instructions in the footer. That's how the federal law governing "spam" says I'm supposed to be able to unsubscribe. The whole point of the relevant part of the "CAN SPAM Act" is to make unsubscribing easier for the recipient. Its intent is reflected in the footer.

As a public school and public school system, [Redacted MS] and [Redacted County Public Schools] may be exempt from these requirements. I don't know. But if you are bound by them, ignoring them can be a costly business. You might want to consult an expert.

But even if you're exempt, sending out instructions that contradict themselves is a dumb thing to do. (So is failing to proofread the subject heading of a mass email, especially one that's bound to be unwelcome in the first place.)

My latest effort to unsubscribe --- the way the footer indicated that I could --- earned me a phone call from someone at [Redacted], to explain that the instructions in the body of the note were the only way to unsubscribe. I explained the things I've explained in the last three paragraphs.

My explanation was unwelcome. The caller reiterated that the instructions in the body of the text offered the only way to unsubscribe from the unwanted, and unwonted, emails. When pressed about the footer, the caller told me he could not control the footer and when I asked that he contact someone who could, he indicated that he couldn't get the footer changed. He insisted that the body of the text was the only salient information, and expressed some impatience with my unwillingness to accept this.

He also didn't take kindly to my suggestion about proofreading subject fields.

Perhaps if you "...please inform [REDACTED] MS IN PERSON, by US MAIL, by TELEPHONE at (703) 867-5309 or [by] E-MAIL" you will have more luck than I did in having me unsubscribed from the [Redacted] list.

Would you please try?

I'd prefer not to have to visit an [Redacted County Public Schools] website, retrieve a password I've long since forgotten, and unsubscribe in a manner that's

more inconvenient than replying to an email with an "unsubscribe" request,
unreasonable to request, and
quite possibly illegal for [Redacted MS] or [Redacted County Public Schools] to require.

In the meantime, if more continue to arrive, I won't respond with an "unsubscribe" request. Nor an "ubsubscribe" one.

I'll just mark it as junk.

If you choose to make the effort to change the practices I've complained of above, I wish you good luck.

If not, I wish you good luck anyway. You've got an awfully hard job. Although I imagine school personnel are less inclined to treat you as if you're an intransigent adolescent than they are to treat me as if I'm one.

Best regards,


David Itkin
Postscript: A very nice assistant superintendant called me a few hours later. I won't be getting any more emails from that [Redacted profane adjective], [Redacted gerund referring to reproduction] middle school any more.


sybil law said...

Gaaaah! How frustrating! Well done, though. :)

Also - WHERE have you been?!

David in DC said...


Joined FaceBook to pimp my blog. Got sucked in.