imho \im-hö\ abbr In My Humble Opinion

Time Inc., Closet Spammer

I recently renewed my subscription to Fortune magazine by mail. Via email, I received the following:

Thank you for continuing your subscription to FORTUNE magazine. You can look forward to continuing to enjoy FORTUNE's interesting and insightful coverage of business and investing news.

If you do not wish to be contacted in the future with offers for Time Inc. products and services, please reply to Please write "Do Not Contact" in the subject line, and make sure to include your name and mailing address as it appears on your magazine label in the text of the email.

First, the email address given is not a Reply To address (i.e., it is not the address from which the email came), so if you're tempted to hit the Reply button you'll fail and be spammed (the wording of their email does say "reply"). Second, if you don't put "Do Not Contact" in the subject line you have no idea where your email will end up, so you may fail and be spammed. And I don't know about you, but I aggressively recycle my magazines and newspapers, so I also don't happen to have an issue of Fortune to get my mailing address "as it appears on [my] magazine label." So I could fail at that, too, and get spammed.

This is a perfect example of treating your customers poorly and having them do work you should do. Essentially, Fortune seems to have said: "Unless you comply exactly we're going to send you spam." That's more like AOL behavior than Time. Oh, wait, they're the same now.

Have things in the magazine business really gotten so bad that spamming the subscribers is now the normal way to increase sales? I certainly hope not. But as it stands right now, Time Inc spam is actually more difficult to stop than most porn spam. Off the top of my head I can think of a half-dozen customer-friendly ways to set up a spam removal system. The only reasons I can think of that Time Inc and Fortune haven't implemented one of them are these:

"But couldn't this just be a way to protect you from getting accidentally unsubscribed from the spam list," you ask? After all, viruses have learned how to spoof email addresses, so an automated system might receive a spoofed message pretending to be from you. Folks, that's a virus I'd almost like to see created. What's the downside to me to have me accidentally unsubscribed from a spammer? The good lists I want to be on have password protection, anyway.

The simple truth is this: it benefits Time Inc if it's difficult to get off their spam list, not me. The fact that they've made it less than a buttonclick to accomplish indicates exactly how much they value me as a customer (zero for those that are keeping a ledger).

So I decided to send an email to Fortune's Customer Service department pointing out their poor treatment of customers. Of course what I received from my email response to Fortune was, yes, an autoresponse. But someone is asleep at the switch. First, there's the "Please note your incident number also appears in the subject field of this email." It doesn't. Second, it's been two business days now since the autoresponse, with no further response from Fortune. Not exactly good turnaround for customer service, is it? Third, the autoresponse states the following (does this mean that if you emailed them with a customer service question you get added to the Spam list?):

If you do not wish to be contacted in the future with offers for Time Inc. products and services, please visit our Customer Service site at, and send us an email. Please be sure to include your name and mailing address as it appears on your magazine subscription.

Now tell me this: why do I have to go to the Web site to send an email? Why not just give me the email address in the autoresponse? After all, that's what I got the first time. Responder A is not talking to Responder B, methinks.

So, the next time you read about corporations that "don't get it" in Fortune, just remember, do as they say, not as they do...