Not Just Dumb, But Hella Dumb

When reviewing the logs for my autoresponders I sometimes find people arguing with them, even though the messages they get clearly say that they are an automatic response to the email they sent. I thought you’d like to see an example.

“Ron” in Texas, who claims to be an attorney, started with sending the word “unsubscribe” to my address. That triggered an automated reply from my mailer that 1) gives instructions on how to unsubscribe; 2) notes that the directions for how to do unsubscribe are in the “Welcome” notice everyone gets when they subscribe, on my web site, and in every issue, and 3) that it’s impossible for me to personally handle the on/off/address change needs of over 200,000 readers of the more-than-half-dozen lists I own (and, of course, virtually no one says which list they want to be deleted from!)

I happened to find his responses in the autoresponder logs because I saw his name in there again and again and again, so I opened the messages to see what was up.

He had replied to that first automated message, which of course means he replied to the autoresponder, which of course immediately sent him a (yes!) auto-response. And he did it again and again and again.

Here’s the transcript:

Ron, Atty at LAW: “Nonsense. I want no problems.”

Ron, Atty at LAW: (31 seconds later) Blank message. Does that mean he’s starting to “get it”?

Ron, Atty at LAW: (21 seconds later) Another blank. Surely he’ll now get it!

Ron, Atty at LAW: (Nope!) “Alright I warned you. I advised you I was An Attorney. I m [sic] proceeding with a law suusuit [sic]. You can have your atty he can [sic] contact me at: [phone number].”

I figure if he can’t spell “lawsuit” he won’t be any too successful at filing one.

Icons8 Team via Unsplash

Ron, Atty at LAW: “I warned you!! I’m going to sue. I gave you my office number for your atty to contact me, so we can get on with it. Ther is nothing of interest to me from you so we will get a court order to instruct you to remove me from your list. THE FINAL WARNING> DO AS YOU WILL> Have your atty contact me at my law office. [Full Name], Atty at LAW”.

All of that is copied verbatim, of course.

And finally, for good measure, another blank.

Naturally, every one of those messages got him an instant response with a canned message that clearly said “This is an automated reply to your message” right at the top.

Clues for Sale

So what do you think he’d tell the judge if he did sue? I’d write it for television like this:

Ron, Atty at LAW: “Your honor, the defendant keeps sending me the emails I subscribed to.”

Judge: “You say you subscribed to his mailings?”

Ron, Atty at LAW: “Oh, yes. I thought I’d like them, so I sent in a subscribe request and responded affirmatively to the confirmation notice.”

Judge: “But this defendant provides no mechanism to stop those mailings once you’ve done that?”

Ron, Atty at LAW: “Well, sure he does. He puts clear instructions in every issue, and it’s actually easier to get off the list than get on since you have to confirm your intentions to subscribe, but you don’t have to confirm to unsubscribe.”

Judge: “But the instructions don’t work?”

Ron, Atty at LAW: “I have no idea. I’ve never tried them. You see, I figure that the implied contract — that subscribers have to take care of their own free subscriptions via the simple tools provided, as noted on the defendant’s ‘Privacy’ page — do not apply to me since I’m an atty at law!

Judge: “I can hardly believe my ears.”

Ron, Atty at LAW: “I know! And it gets worse: every time I send him a message of complaint, I immediately get a message back, no matter what time of day or night, saying ‘this is an automated reply to your message’ with, as far as I can tell with my quick glance, nothing but more information and instructions! And those automated messages don’t even acknowledge my illiterate, irrational, and poorly conceived threats!”

Judge, turning to me: “What do you have to say, sir?”

Randy Cassingham: “I move for sanctions against the plaintiff under Rule 11, your honor.

Judge: “So ordered: $100,000 is granted to Mr. Cassingham for this absurd action.”

Sure enough, Ron, in defending himself, had a fool for a client, and no lawsuit (or even a “law suusuit”) was filed. Ron disappeared from distribution: he apparently figured out how to click the unsubscribe link — probably by having a 4-year-old kid show him how to do it.

But Wait, There’s More

There was another one on Sunday! Same setup, except “Sk8Er” asked to unsubscribe and “stop sending me this crap ok?”

Gee: how could anyone resist such a polite request?

Of course, the computer sent him back the autoresponse, to which he wrote, “no you stop sending me this crap ok now!!” Sixteen seconds later he was back with “yall are hella dumb” (snicker!) and 24 seconds after that he was back with “shut up!!”

Hella dumb indeed, y’all!

The weird part: both Ron and “Sk8Er” were sending from their Compuserve address — owned by AOL….

Note: I later gave up on the autoresponders altogether — not just because some readers were too stupid to understand the concept, but because they just became a magnet for spammers.

12 August 2019 Update

I had already decided to “plug” this page in this week’s newsletters when there was another one — a reader unsubscribing for dumb reasons, or maybe a dumb reader unsubscribing for no good reason. Jeff in Minnesota subscribed in 2012 with this comment: “subscribed for a number of years, then just got dropped and didn’t notice until the [True Stella Awards] email” — which perhaps was a clue of things to come.

Today he wrote to lecture me about “grammar” — over a phrase that was clearly meant to be that way. I replied with a link to the dictionary: colloquialism. He took great exception to my “sarcasm” because he was “only trying to help” by …well… trying to show he was somehow superior, yet can’t understand something clever. As he unsubscribed, he wrote in the comments area “Randy knows why. He just doesn’t care.” Indeed, I am unlikely to care about inane comments from readers who do nothing to support the publication for over a decade, and still don’t quite grasp what it’s about!

22 Comments on “Not Just Dumb, But Hella Dumb

  1. >>>Alright I warned you. I advised you I was An Attorney.
    While his stupidity is remarkable, I also find it amazing that he appears to believe people should be intimidated by the fact that he is a lawyer. Could this be because he thinks he has the power to make us do his bidding, or because he knows he has the ability to drag us through a long and costly legal battle?

    My guess: more of the former than the latter, with “he thinks” being the key…. -rc

  2. I have seen worse. I see “Unsubscribe” me to usenet news groups and such “Stop sending me this stuff”.

    Of course with Usenet your client has to go fetch, nothing is actually SENT to you ever.

    Yep: the idiots continue to provide entertainment! -rc

  3. and, you’re surprised at these bozos becaaaaause????….
    i’m a headhunter. you ought to see the resumes i receive from supposedly educated upper echelon managers who are running divisions or entire companies! guess that silly book larnin’ stuff just doesn’t apply.

  4. I am not at all surprised by the attorney’s repeated attempts at intimidating your autoresponse program. In my job, I’ve spoken to many attorneys who are indignant that I’m asking them to comply with a legally-binding contract which they have signed with my company. They are often frustrating, but always entertaining.

  5. Aww, I really was hoping you’d keep up the autoresponders just for the pure entertainment value of Ron and Sk8Er!

    So, if there’s no autoresponders any more, then what would have happened if Ron and Sk8Er had sent their original messages as-is nowadays? Just an automatic removal from all lists they are on? Not fun enough, IMHO. (And I was really hoping Ron would pursue legal action!)

  6. “3) that it’s impossible for me to personally handle the on/off/address change needs of over 200,000 readers of the more-than-half-dozen lists I own (and, of course, virtually no one says which list they want to be deleted from!)”

    This bothers me because you are making a very broad assumption that everyone SHOULD know that you have all these other lists and the work involved for YOU should be considered when unsubscribing. You imply that anyone who doesn’t know this is an idiot. Why would anyone know this information if they simply subscribed to a newsletter?

    Don’t get me wrong, these people are pretty stupid but you are a little arrogant in thinking that everyone should obviously know about all of the issues YOU have to deal with when they unsubscribe. Most people, couldn’t care less what your issues are in maintaining your lists. This is YOUR job, not theirs. Do you always consider the impact you have on a company when you contact them and every move THEY must make to satisfy you? I sincerely doubt it.

    I never said they should know anything about my operations here. I’m simply showing why it’s so difficult for me to handle what they agreed to do by getting their subscription. Why, exactly, are you so defensive about this? -rc

  7. Gee Randy, thanks for the free entertainment, especially today’s comments from BB.
    I find myself wondering if he’s Sk8Er/Ron the law suusuit atty? Perhaps you should have checked his ISP, just in case!

    This long after the events, anything is possible. But then, isn’t it more likely both of them are dead by now, in spectacular Darwin Awards fashion? -rc

  8. For Colin: It is times like these that I wish I had sufficient spare clock cycles to get HumourNet cranked up again. Unfortunately, I am left dangling helplessly from Real Life™’s deathly grip. Some day, though, HumourNet will ride again. In the meantime, I am collecting quite a lot of HumourNet-grade material….

  9. Here I was, planning an epic conversation with your autoresponders, and then I got to the part where you said you discontinued them 🙁 I’d threaten to unsubscribe, but I don’t think I could handle the irony of threatening to unsubscribe because I want instructions on how to unsubscribe so I could NOT unsubscribe while playing with said instructions.

    I appreciate your not forcing me to figure out what the next step beyond “hella dumb” might be. -rc

  10. So, does this mean that a lot of your readers are stupid? Send them a “get out of email” card.

    p.s. We need more of your insight on the upcoming Gun Control Laws….

    I wouldn’t say “a lot” of them are stupid, but I’ve seen it here and there. All in all, they’re pretty with it. -rc

    • How about this interpretation: The readers who stay subscribed are smart. The readers who unsubscribe are either not so bright, or just thin-skinned. Those readers who want to subscribe but are unable to follow the instructions on how to do so are, in fact, stupid.

  11. And some people wonder why when I do firearms training I 1) wear armor 2) only give the student a single round and 3) have zero tolerance for idiots — and lawyers are the worst.

    Yikes! -rc

  12. I lived through the Bedlam DL3 mail storm of “unsubscribe me” shutting down the email of the entire worldwide company back in 1997 and even had the t-shirt. The storms don’t happen any more with better software design but sadly the “unsubscribe me” still does.

  13. Rule 11 should be posted on the door of every courtroom in the nation.

    Or every lawyer’s office to head off the suits before they happen. Sadly, though, it’s not very often enforced, though I’ve seen a few cases lately. -rc

  14. Randy, no comment to Jim about your dislike of “Zero Tolerance” policies?

    ZT is appropriate for some situations if applied intelligently. His application seems awfully intelligent to me. -rc

  15. Tom, No wiggle room with me when talking firearms. I’ll take that as a compliment rc.

    Just my observation. You know as well as I do that even top notch shooting instructors are shot now and then by someone who didn’t listen carefully enough to be safe! So yeah: smart indeed. -rc

  16. Autoresponder: yes, yes; no, no. Does not matter. What is more repulsive is when you follow the unsubscribe link, do what is required to unsubscribe to any number of different publications, blogs, etc, and the crap continues to come to your inbox even after many weeks, this is very maddening. Such is the case with the International Man and other such, upfront seemingly viable, reputable sources but in the end, are only phishers.

    While that’s certainly a maddening problem when such companies don’t follow federal law, it wasn’t the case back then, and still is not the case for subscriptions to This is True: unsubscribe works, instantly, with a couple of clicks (and no requirement that you enter the exact address you’re subscribing from, as some sites do to try to screw you out of the unsubscription). -rc

  17. I love the 18 year-long comment thread! Posted May 2001 and even now the unsubscribers complain about having to click a link or type an email?? First World problems.

    Pay attention? Think? Read that agreement? Nope. I like reading the stories of silly people.


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