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.
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 those spellings are 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.
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.
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….
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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.