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Issue #829: June 11-17, 2023

Q: I subscribe to a paid newsletter from the Oldsmobile Club of America and they informed me that the company they use to broadcast the newsletter is required by law to eliminate my email address because the Oldsmobile Club of America got notified that I reported their emails as spam. Now I can’t get the newsletters and Yahoo and AT&T have not been able to “unspam code” their communications. How can I get back to receiving my newsletters? BTW, the newsletters do not show up in my spam folder; I just plain don’t get them.

 I suspect OCA uses something like Constant Contact and that’s where the spam blockage is happening. If OCA emails me directly, I can receive the emails and that’s how they notified me of the problem. My guess is I inadvertently coded one newsletter as spam, they then got reported, and now I can’t unspam them.

 – Ken K.
Wheaton, Illinois

A: Wow, Ken, there is a lot going on in your problem description, some of which just doesn’t ring true with me.  I’m not sure I have a solution for you, but let’s dig into this and perhaps we can find some suggested paths for you to try.

I don’t know if you’re dealing with a lazy or incompetent customer service representative at the club where you get that newsletter, but were I in your shoes, I would ask them to kindly cite the law that they claim to be obeying by removing your e-mail address from their service.  If they’re not delivering the newsletter you paid for, have they at least offered you a refund, or pro-rated refund for all the issues you’re not receiving?

Let’s walk through this process, while I explain some of this terminology to my other readers. So, you have paid someone to send you a periodic newsletter. Rather than send the newsletters out directly, the originator uses some sort of marketing, or re-sending service (you guessed it might be Constant Contact) to do all the work of maintaining the distribution list, handling sign-ups and cancellations, and actually sending the newsletter out to the subscribers.  This is actually a smart way of doing things, since it frees the originator to concentrate on producing the content, rather than having to learn the ins and outs of maintaining all the subscriber information.

So, I presume at some point the newsletter just stopped arriving.  You probably called the company to find out why, and they told you that your e-mail address reported the newsletter as SPAM.  For those who don’t know how to do this, many e-mail clients have an option built-in that allows you to “report” any e-mail as SPAM.  Exactly what happens when you do this is largely a mystery, and that’s intentional, as e-mail providers don’t really want spammers to know details, so they can’t take actions to skirt the response.  Leo Notenboom, noted author and fellow Geek, who has been writing his column since 2003, has an excellent article on this topic.  You can read it at TinyURL.com/IGTM-0829.

Now, with all of that in mind, it’s far too easy to accidentally click on something in your e-mail client that marks a message as SPAM, and there is no law that I know of that requires a company to take the knee-jerk reaction of blocking your e-mail address in perpetuity because of an accident.  And even if there was such a law, you are now purposefully calling and identifying yourself, and asking to be unblocked.  Surely this supposed law doesn’t forbid them from doing so. As I said, this all sounds mighty suspicious to me.  If this really was a law, imagine the disruption of services that could be instigated by someone spoofing the e-mail address of someone with whom they have a grudge and reporting a bunch of stuff as SPAM.  In theory, one could lock someone out of virtually every magazine, newsletter, e-zine, or blog that they like to read.  Hence, my doubts about this “law”.

I recommend that you try again with the OCA.  Perhaps someone was having a bad day, or is poorly trained in their job.  If the person who answers your call can’t or won’t help you, ask to talk to their supervisor.  Further, ask for the name and number of the re-sending service they’re using, and call them.  Keep following the path and climbing the hierarchy until you get results.  The important thing is to not take “No” for an answer.


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