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One Way Spammers Ruin Things For Everyone

I have to admit that is difficult for me to come up with a sufficient number of nasty things to say about spammers. They are very near the bottom of the heap of those that lurk on the Internet in my opinion.

It’s bad enough that these low-life clog up millions of in-boxes with useless crap that must be waded through and deleted. What’s worse is the effect that they have on others that are using e-mail for legitimate purposes.

I’d be the last guy on Earth to criticize someone for using some kind of spam filter on their e-mail. Heck, I use them on some of my e-mail addresses as well. Although any spam filter (other than a ‘white list’) is unlikely to stop all spam from arriving, some filters do a marvelous job of reducing it quite dramatically.

The problem with these filters however, is that they inevitably end up stopping some legitimate e-mail messages as well. This is not meant as a criticism of the folks who write the filters, since it has to be an enormously difficult task trying to separate out the good stuff from the crap, and lord knows, the spammers are highly motivated ($) in their attempts to stay one step ahead of the latest filters.

I ran into this problem head-on recently, and had to simply chalk it up as just another of the seemingly endless circumstances in life where something good (the Internet and e-mail) is ruined by a small minority of idiots (spammers) and everyone else ends up paying the price.

I run another site that sells informational products (original products, not some regurgitated Internet marketing crap concocted by some ‘Internet marketing guru’) and some of them are offered in downloadable form. The customer visits the site, selects the products they want, pays via credit card and is then given access to the download files on our web site. Usually, things work very well and there are no problems.

One day however, a gentlemen purchased one of our products, and for one reason or another (I strongly suspect it was a poor Internet connection on his end), was not able to download a usable copy of the product he wanted. He contacted me via e-mail and informed me about the problem.

As always, I replied to him in a very timely fashion to let him know I would set the files up for him to download on another one of our servers to see if that would help. I did not hear anything back from him again that day, which is not unusual since I often don’t hear back from customers once I provide them with a solution to their problem. So, I assumed he was all set unless I heard otherwise from him.

The next day I received another e-mail from him and this time he is starting to sound a bit agitated, and is threatening to contact the credit card company to dispute the payment since he has not heard anything back from us. It was at this point that I began to understand what was going on.

I suspected that the e-mail message that I sent him was being blocked by an aggressive spam filter. We usually don’t have problems like that, and I don’t know why any spam filter would block one of my messages since we do NOT spam anyone, ever (could you have guessed?) and should not be on anyone’s spam ‘black list.’

The next e-mail message I sent to him was from my personal e-mail account, which is hosted on another domain. I explained to him what I thought was happening and that I had indeed responded to his first message.

As it turned out, that was indeed the problem. The e-mail I sent from my personal account was the first message he had received from me. To his credit, he was very polite and understanding about the whole issue, and actually turned out to be a very pleasant and reasonable person to deal with as we worked through his problems and eventually provided him with a solution he was happy with.

Thanks to spammers, one of our customers had to endure needless problems and frustration, and we wasted time and effort working around a communication problem that should have never happened in the first place.

If you think spam is harmless, minor aggravation, maybe this story will help you understand that it is actually more than just that. Beyond the traffic congestion caused by millions upon millions of spam messages traversing the Internet and the inconvenience of having your in-box clogged with their garbage, spammers can also take credit for actually preventing Internet communication from working the way it was intended.

Take a bow, spammers, you should be very proud of yourselves.

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