Column: Thanks for Writing; Just Don't Come to New York, OK?

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The most gratifying part of this job is reader e-mail. Consider the following that arrived after a recent column attacking some radical anti-spammers for falsely feeding well-known spammer Alan Ralsky's name and address into direct marketers' lead generation programs in an effort to drown him in unwanted mail.


"As usual, Magill leaps into hyperbole over any action by anti-spammers. Never one to follow journalistic principles, Magill the Shill leaps into action whenever one of his marketing friends gets dinged.


"His latest whimpering whine blasts anti-spammers for their campaign against Ralsky, a convicted fraud artist. Interesting how so many of the spambags that Magill defends are ex-cons. ... Magill regularly makes false statements and false accusations against anti-spammers. But then, he is not a journalist but simply a paid for prostitute to the direct marketing industry."


The sender's name is Keith. Besides apparently being unaware that "paid-for prostitute" is redundant, he is also a regular in my inbox. In one e-mail, he called me the second-best name I've ever been called by a reader: "whining little toady." He also has called me the best name I've ever been called, but in the interest of readers' sensitivities, it would be best not to share it here.


Keith also is the main character in a recurring nightmare of mine. I'm walking out of my office one evening when a twitchy guy in a long coat approaches. He says, "Ken Magill?" Without thinking I say, "Yes?" BANG!


OK, I've never had that nightmare. My nightmares usually consist of being transported to some place where beer hasn't been invented.


The beauty of e-mail is that unlike postal mail, e-mail doesn't force a natural cooling-off period. No writing, printing, licking or stamping. So we often experience the sender's emotions unvarnished. Though something tells me Keith's anger would survive the process of writing and mailing a letter.


You don't travel much, right, Keith? ... Keith?


For the record, I look nothing like the photo that appears with this column in DM News' print edition. I am actually a petite Asian woman.


Meanwhile, I also recently received an e-mail from the King of Moronia, the magical land where businesses thrive without ever having to advertise, and marketers always know who wants to hear from them and exactly what they want to buy.


No cross- or upsells in Moronia. They've been outlawed by King Muddlehead IV. In fact, let's hear from His Majesty King Muddlehead, aka Doug, himself.


"Because you are (apparently) on the payroll of an association entirely dependent on advertising for its life force, it probably never crossed your mind that the overwhelming majority of folks HATE [Why do these people always have to yell?] advertising. We never read it, respond to it or even consider those possibilities. ALL direct mail advertising received by me goes directly from the mailbox to the trash can. ... Another viable conclusion here is the concept of direct advertising on its own merit. To be blunt, it has none. Any business that can only scare up customers by intruding in to their lives via US Mail, e-mail or telemarketing is a business that is most likely unethical, disreputable, marketing a dangerous or counterfeit product or simply engaged in fraud.


"In closing, you may have guessed by now that I am a militant anti-E-Commerce activist."


Actually, activist is quite low on the list of things we have guessed about you, Doug.


Certainly, these two are not representative of all those who would like to see some constraints placed on direct marketers' activities. But I receive enough e-mail from anti-marketing crackpots to safely say that Keith and Doug are far from alone.


Moreover, they make for entertaining reading.


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