Earlier this year, I decided to do a little test to see if companies were actually complying with the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, and honoring requests to opt-out of their mailing lists. I selected six companies that were sending e-mails I no longer wanted, and followed their procedures to unsubscribe. Following, are the results.
The six companies were (in no particular order), Monster, L.L.Bean, Groupon, American Airlines, Bank of America, Best Buy, and Capital One. In all cases, I was, or had been a customer, so none of them were e‑mailing me for no reason. Except for the two that I will point out below, the opt-out process was quick and painless, and took only a few seconds.
For each company, I will list the frequency at which I was receiving messages, and what happened after I attempted to opt-out. It has been four months since I went through the process. That should be enough time to know if it worked or not.
Frequency: About 2 times per month.
Result: Since opting out, I have not received another message from Monster.
Grade: A — Monster’s sending frequency was reasonable, and their opt‑out process was fast and effective.
Frequency: About 7 times per month!
Result: Minutes after unsubscribing, I received another message from L.L.Bean, but from a different e-mail address than they had been using. The e-mail claimed, “We’ve changed our email address.” I don’t know if that was a coincidence, but the result is that I have not received any more e-mail from them.
Grade: C — Seven L.L.Bean e-mails a month is just way too much to deal with. I only need so many rubber boots and flannel shirts. The opt‑out process worked fine, but their last‑gasp e-mail kind of left a sour taste in my mouth.
Frequency: Multiple per day!!
Result: Since opting out, I have not received another message from Groupon.
Grade: B — I suppose dedicated Grouponers might want to know about every deal as soon as it appears, but it was just too much for me. Opting out worked fine, so they get high marks for that.
Frequency: About 1 per month.
Result: I received one additional message three days after opting out, but have not received one since. (Sometimes it takes a few days for these lists to get updated.)
Grade: A- — The minus is for the one additional e-mail that I received after I opted out.
Bank of America
Frequency: About 2 per month.
Result: Since opting out, I have not received another message from BoA.
Grade: A — As much as I would love to ding BoA on this, they were actually right on the ball. Opting out was easy and effective.
Frequency: About 1 per week.
Result: I attempted to opt-out on June 28th. I received the following error message: “The email address entered is not valid. Please enter a valid email address.” My address was displayed on the screen, but there was no box to enter an e-mail address. I continue to receive messages from Best Buy.
Grade: B- — As I was writing this post, I decided to go back and try canceling my subscription again. This time, it worked. I’m guessing I just ran into a glitch the first time.
Frequency: About 2 per month
Result: No opt-out method was provided in their message.
Grade: F — Having no method to opt-out seems like a violation of the law, but I’m sure their lawyers can explain how this law somehow doesn’t apply to them. Oddly enough, I no longer receive promotional mail from Capital One, but it’s not because of anything I did.
In most cases, the opt-out procedure was fast and painless. All but one of the senders provided an unsubscribe link in the footer of their message. Other than the temporary glitch on the Best Buy site, all of the opt-out procedures actually worked. I no longer receive e-mails I don’t want, and these companies now know that their information was not valuable to me.
I’ve heard the argument that you shouldn’t click unsubscribe because then the companies will know they have a valid e-mail address and just send you more mail. It doesn’t work that way with legitimate e‑mail marketers. They will honor your request.