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The Poop Patrol

By Bob Osgoodby
Posted Monday, January 17, 2005

If you live in a closed community, such as a condo or residential community, you know what the term "Poop Patrol" means. These are your self appointed protectors, who are constantly on the alert for any infraction of the rules of their community. Hang a towel on your railing - bang - you're busted. If you own a pet, you can be sure that the "Poop Patrol" is watching you.

Well, the Internet has its' own version of the "Poop Patrol", and anyone who actively sends email over the Internet, has probably run into them at least once. This is a fact of life. I had my service canceled for an infraction I didn't even commit. Another Newsletter had published my "Internet Tip of the Week" column, and a "Patroller" sent a barrage of emails to every ISP he could find in the Newsletter - my email address was at the end of the article, and he sent numerous complaints to my ISP. I was cancelled, and although the account was ultimately reinstated, I learned a big lesson.

There are some people whose "holy grail" is reporting people as spammers, and I guess the only kick they get out of life, is to get the service of one of their "targets" discontinued. They seem to get pleasure out of hurting other people. I call these people the "Poop Patrol" of the Internet.

Face it - professional spammers do not use their local ISP. They rent a virtual server for about a hundred bucks a month, forge the return address, and spam to their hearts content. Only rank amateurs spam using their ISP. You know them - they are the ones who send you an email and show you the address of everyone they sent it to.

So how do you protect yourself if you do send out bulk email such as a Newsletter? While there is no magic formula, there are steps you can take to protect yourself.

First - never, ever (and that is a very long time) send out bulk email from your primary ISP, especially if you have web pages on their server. If they cancel your service, you will also lose all your web pages.

Second - provide a way to easily allow people to remove themselves from your mailing list. This is where a List Server comes in very handy. If you notify the people who are on your list how to unsubscribe, this more or less takes you off the hook.

My adds and drops go to a specific return address. If someone doesn't read the instructions to find out how to be removed from the list, and sends me a note, I will try to manually remove them. But, if the address they are writing from, is not the one they are subscribed with, and they don't tell you what the address is, it is impossible to remove them.

Don't figure that if they were smart enough to subscribe to your list, they are smart enough to remove themselves from it. You must understand that there are people who won't read the instructions, and will simply fire off a nasty note. If they are not immediately removed, they may also fire off complaints to your ISP. If there are remove instructions given, you will most likely be on safe ground if they didn't follow them.

I use several ISP's when sending out my Newsletters. I use one address to handle "bounces" (email addresses which are not valid) and remove requests, and a different one for email to me. This allows for an automatic processing of the "bounces" and remove requests, and if a person wishes to write me, they can. If someone writes me and asks to be removed, I will take the necessary steps to try to accommodate them, but it may not always be possible if they don't provide the proper address.

If you do get a notification from your ISP that a complaint was made, do not ignore it. Tell them how people can subscribe and unsubscribe from your list. Keep records of unsubscribe requests that were made that you could not remove. If it was someone that did ask to be removed with an address that was not subscribed, send your ISP a copy of the note you sent them. It is also a good idea to send your ISP a copy of the mailing they complained about.

As I said at the beginning of this article, "there is no magic formula", but if you exercise reasonable procedures, you should not run into too many problems from the "Poop Patrol".

About the Author
Bob publishes the free weekly "Your Business" Newsletter Visit his Web Site at (http://adv-marketing.com/business) to subscribe and place a Free Ad for your business.