As a follow up to our April 28 post, I Received Someone’s Business Card. Should I add them to My mailing list? – The Netiquette of Email Marketing. several of you  bought up an interesting point and raised the question “What should you do if you can’t unsubscribe?”.  Companies that send solicitation e-mails are required to abide by the same rules as most telemarketers. This means that if you don’t want them, you should tell them. They are therefore required to stop sending you unwanted mail. Usually unsubscribe disclaimers are located on the very bottom of the e-mail, where most people never look. It is very rare that you’ll get an e-mail without the option to unsubscribe attached to the bottom.

Below are some basic instructions, along with a suggestion on how to handle the “missing” unsubscribe option. There are three ways that most company’s will ask you to unsubscribe:

  1. The Auto-Unsubscribe – Click on the link included in the email, and a window pops up saying you’ve been unsubscribed, and please allow a pre-designated number of hours to be removed (usually 24-48). This is my absolute favorite type of unsubscribe option, because it is the most seamless and requires no input on my part. 🙂
  2. The E-Mail Removal Form – Click on the provided unsubscribe link in the junk e-mail, and a small page will pop up asking for your e-mail address. Simply type your e-mail into the field and click “submit”, “unsubscribe me” or whatever the button says. These forms should never ask for your name or any other personal information. If they do, leave it blank. Do no input any information, close the window and mark the email as spam.
  3. The “Reply” Removal – Some e-mails do not have a link to unsubscribe, and instead ask you to unsubscribe by replying to the e-mail with a word like “unsubscribe” in the subject line. Simply follow the instructions they provide. I’ve heard people say that replying to these requests confirms that your address is valid (potentially opening the gate for more spam), however, I have never received a follow-up e-mail or any other correspondence from any company who I have unsubscribed from this way.

Keep in mind that most requests to remove yourself from a mailing list take 24-48 hours to process. Some are immediate, whereas some may take longer. I would suggest waiting 3-5 days, and during that time simply delete any additional incoming junk mail.

If  you continue to receive junk mail even after you have attempted to unsubscribe from the service, you can take additional steps like reporting the mail as “spam” to your e-mail service provider, or adding the sender or domain of the sender to your “blocked” list. For those that are most persistent and get past your spam filters, you can resort to your last option of reporting the company to the Federal Trade Commission. They are the primary agency vested with enforcement of the Federal CAN-SPAM anti-spam law. Forward your spam to at ftc. gov when all else fails.