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How To Convince My Boss Not To Spam? 475

An anonymous reader writes "The small travel agent that I work for recently received an email from one of our competitors with several thousand of their potential customers in the 'To:' and 'Cc:' fields. My boss now wants to use these addresses to send unsolicited advertisements. I would like to convince him not to do this, as I believe that this practice is morally wrong and legally dubious. However, morals don't go very far in the business world, so I'm asking Slashdot: what business-oriented arguments can I use to dissuade my boss from spamming?"
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How To Convince My Boss Not To Spam?

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  • my $0.02 (Score:5, Informative)

    by tomalpha ( 746163 ) * on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @03:38AM (#23819905)

    I reckon you've got a few options:

    1. point him towards your country's relevant legislation: UK [opsi.gov.uk] (and in non-legalese [yourlistblueprint.com]) or US [ftc.gov]
    2. explain why spam is so annoying because it's intrusive and it makes it harder to read wanted messages [sciencedaily.com] in your inbox
    3. explain that spamming 1000 people may get him 1 extra sale, but it will piss off the other 999 to the extent that some of them will go out of their way to avoid trading with you

    Ok, so you're dealing with a sales-focussed person here, the only one likely to carry any weight is going to be last one and even then, you may be onto a losing streak. Assuming this person controls your pay packet, you're either going to have to put up a token resistance and then keep your mouth shut; or perhaps if you have the option, consider whether you want to be working for someone like that...

    • Re:my $0.02 (Score:5, Funny)

      by bhima ( 46039 ) * <Bhima.Pandava@NOsPaM.gmail.com> on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @03:41AM (#23819931) Journal
      I think you left out the most obvious. Post his private mail address here and the Slashdot mob will tell him.
    • Re:my $0.02 (Score:5, Funny)

      by shri ( 17709 ) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <cmarirhs>> on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @03:57AM (#23820059) Homepage
      Given the number of dumbarse "reply all" mails I get, I doubt there is any legislation which prevents you from doing a reply all. "Dear Competitor, Not sure why you sent us an email. We happen to be a similar business as you and offer far better services and cheaper rates than your business. Please unsubscribe us from your mailing list, as the specials that you've offered had us rolling in the aisles. Signed, Pointy Haired Boss"
      • by Doctor O ( 549663 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @04:52AM (#23820343) Homepage Journal
        ...but actually I think it's insightful. We keep getting such stupid mail, too, and I've done exactly what you suggest, with good results. ;)
      • Re:my $0.02 (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Chapter80 ( 926879 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @05:17AM (#23820465)
        As others have said, this technique works great. But the way it worked well for me was to reply as if you are doing a personal reply to the original sender, and accidentally pressed reply all. This is best done if it's immediate. Like:

        Bob- Thanks for the info.

        On another note, I wanted to let you know that we released Rev 2 of our software package for lawyers, and just finished three successful implementations. All three are thrilled with the productivity gains and want to act as reference accounts.

        If you know of anyone legal firms looking to improve their productivity, let me know. And we're still interested in the partnership idea that you guys mentioned. Let me know where that stands.

        For best results, change the address of the original sender (your competitor) slightly, so he doesn't even get it. But to all his customers, it looks like he did.

        This technique is proven!

        • Re:my $0.02 (Score:5, Interesting)

          by smilindog2000 ( 907665 ) <bill@billrocks.org> on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @07:17AM (#23821051) Homepage
          Back in the early '90s, I worked at QuickLogic when Lattice was trying to buy us. The deal went pretty far. We had a letter of intent, and had even shared our customer list with them. I like to believe that Lattice's CEO believed me when I told him most of us would rather fail completely than give up the dream of independent success, all the way to an IPO. The next day, the deal was scrapped.

          Lattice e-mailed our customer list to every one of their regional sales managers. Let's face it... business is war. It's not pretty out there.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by jollyreaper ( 513215 )

            Back in the early '90s, I worked at QuickLogic when Lattice was trying to buy us. The deal went pretty far. We had a letter of intent, and had even shared our customer list with them. I like to believe that Lattice's CEO believed me when I told him most of us would rather fail completely than give up the dream of independent success, all the way to an IPO. The next day, the deal was scrapped.

            Lattice e-mailed our customer list to every one of their regional sales managers. Let's face it... business is war. It's not pretty out there.

            Didn't you make them sign any sort of NDA to say they aren't allowed to spam your list if the deal falls through? Seems like the obvious sort of corporate fuck job to be wary of these days.

          • Re:my $0.02 (Score:5, Insightful)

            by sgtrock ( 191182 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @09:55AM (#23822593)
            Wait. You shared your /customer list/ with a competitor as part of due diligence? I've never heard of doing that. Due diligence requires that they look at your books in some detail, yes, but it doesn't mean that you have to show them everything.

            Nope, Lattice was angling for your customer list, pure and simple. My guess is that the offer on the table wasn't all that serious in the first place.
      • Re:my $0.02 (Score:5, Interesting)

        by rohan972 ( 880586 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @07:30AM (#23821157)
        I've found "reply all" to forwarded email hoaxes to have an effect in stopping people sending them. To me, anyway.
      • Re:my $0.02 (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mysticgoat ( 582871 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @10:05AM (#23822709) Homepage Journal

        Oh, definitely do something like the "accidental 'reply all'" strategy:

        Hi George! I see that you decided to go ahead with the spam advertising approach despite the risks. More power to you. We've definitely dropped that idea... it is too likely to piss off our core of loyal clients.

        We're still doing the 'traditional quality' thing: trying to arrange the best possible tour packages for each price point. It is not a 'get rich quick' approach, but we're all making a good living at doing what we like to do, and that counts for a lot.

        Our company has decided to back off on those talks about some kind of partnership with your company. We think that our corporate values are too different from yours for that to work out, at least for now.

        Looking forward to seeing you again at next year's trade show! If they have it in the same place, we could share lunch again at that italian restaurant with the excellent menu.

        [Sign with title, company name, etc]

        Also definitely move the mailing list into a database of some kind, so you can cross reference it with your client lists. If a significant portion of your clients are on their mailing list, then you might have a problem of some kind. You might also use this as one source for building targeted mailing lists, but it wouldn't be wise to use it directly. See next point.

        Tell your boss that the people on this list have already seen junk email from the competitor and are likely to regard anything you send out as just more junk email, so normal spamming would actually be counter productive. This is especially true since undoubtedly other businesses are harvesting these addresses, and will be pumping out spam to these people.

        • Re:my $0.02 (Score:4, Insightful)

          by machxor ( 1226486 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @11:50AM (#23824145)
          While the 'reply all' strategy is solid I don't agree with the suggested wording of the email. You start off chastising George for spamming when that is exactly what you are doing. If I received your email I'd believe you're a dishonest business person actively engaged in a lie. Which is made obvious by the fact that you received his email and were able to determine it was spammed to many people but somehow you're not bright enough to realize that the email you are sending is also going to the same list of people. To be dishonest and lie in a more convincing manner I think you need to avoid the mention of spam at all ;-)
    • Re:my $0.02 (Score:5, Interesting)

      by aproposofwhat ( 1019098 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @04:04AM (#23820097)
      My option?

      Email all the customers on the list, telling them that the competitor has exposed their email address by their actions, and proposing that you supply their travel needs while guaranteeing that every email communication will be sent individually.

      Ethical (you're exposing bad practice on the part of your competitor) and good business.

      • Re:my $0.02 (Score:4, Interesting)

        by thegrassyknowl ( 762218 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @06:33AM (#23820785)

        Email all the customers on the list, telling them that the competitor has exposed their email address
        In some places I'm sure that's even a violation of several privacy laws/regulations and could get the competition in trouble if you point it out to the relevant places.

        And back on topic: It's almost impossible to get the boss not to spam. I used to work for a sales-oriented person and he didn't give a shit. Spam pissed him off but he was first to spam a million people when they thought they'd get some money.

        If you run your own mail server just make sure you configure it to drop any emails destined to more than a few recipients and possibly also drop the recipient list into BCC if there are more than one listed. You won't stop him spamming if he wants to, but you might be able to limit the damage he can cause.
        • Re:my $0.02 (Score:5, Interesting)

          by gmack ( 197796 ) <gmackNO@SPAMinnerfire.net> on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @06:50AM (#23820899) Homepage Journal
          I had this problem as well. At a place I used to work the girl came into my office with a CD labeled "opt in email addresses" that she bought on ebay that looked like it had been harvested by a web scraper and then not even filtered for postmaster/root/abuse accounts. My objections were overruled even after I found my friend on the list and asked him if he had opted in to anything.

          Best I could do was send the email in smaller batches (10 000) that would limit the fallout and just pretend I'd sent the full 500 000 emails in the batch that would be just enough to piss the ISP off and get them to threaten to shut the connection and scare them into not doing it again but not enough to force an immediate termination.

          Bosses can be stupid.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            I was in an interesting quandry once myself.

            I worked for a realtor/real estate broker who would send emails to everyone listed in the Las Vegas Association of Realtors whenever he listed a home (this was back during the housing boom). Except he had me send the emails. When he first began sending the emails--before I worked there--he received hate messages and hate phone calls, so he removed those people from the list and added an opt-out link at the bottom of the email. Within a week or two the leadershi
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by j-cloth ( 862412 )
            I quit my last job over this. We collected email addresses for a completely legitimate opt-in weekly newsletter with a pretty tight privacy agreement. My less than ethical bosses saw the list, saw some other business processes and asked me to write a program to send the new stuff to the newsletter list (in clear violation of our own privacy policy). So I wrote the program along with a fantastic "fuck you I cannot work here" resignation letter.
    • Tell him tt's a trap (Score:5, Interesting)

      by DCFC ( 933633 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @04:07AM (#23820123)
      My company has a variety of contact lists, and if any of them were to "leak", by CC etc, I'd start getting emails on addresses that *look* like real people but are in fact aliases for me.

      If you boss spams like this, there exists the possibility that the other firm have taken this elementary precaution, which may be anything from seriously embarrassing to legally expensive.

      • by InfoHighwayRoadkill ( 454730 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @07:02AM (#23820957) Homepage
        Many companies who sell lists of addresses either postal or email add in seed addresses. In theory you only "rent" the list not own it. So if they see mail coming to their dummy addresses x years in the future they will know who kept the data after the rental limit.

        There are even dummy addresses in the white and yellow pages to prevent unscrupulous businesses sending the phone books to somewhere cheap to get them copy typed into a database. If you ring the number no one answers but your caller ID is recorded. If you send them mail thats checked too. How do I know this. A company I used to work for got caught doing just this.
    • Re:my $0.02 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Saint Fnordius ( 456567 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @04:07AM (#23820125) Homepage Journal
      I think the bottom line really is what has to be addressed as well, but explain it in other terms.
      1. The legal risk is nothing to sneeze at. Explain patiently that there are liability issues involved in sending unsolicited mail, that it is rapidly becoming illegal and that he ought to run it past his legal advisor first. (As a small travel agency, this will cost money as the lawyer/solicitor is not in-house).
      2. Many spam filters also subscribe to blacklists, and sending unsolicited mail will get him on one of these lists. This will make it harder to perform normal correspondence, as regular customers and business contacts will have problems receiving mail. It will cost time and money to undo that.
      3. If he doesn't have a mailing list set up yet with options to unsubscribe or other functions, it will take time (and money) to set it up.

      I would argue that for his business, the effort and risk involved makes sending unsolicited mail a losing proposition, that the hidden costs of setting up and maintaining the mailing list makes it non-profitable. Sending unwanted mails is not like distributing flyers, not even like unsolicited telephone calls, as there is less chance of getting past filters.

      If you're the computer guy, I would tell him that it's an idea that the agency should only explore after Projects X, Y, and Z are done, as they have a better chance of generating new business at less cost. Then let it die from neglect.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by jambox ( 1015589 )
        Point 2 is the killer here. A friend of mine works for a firm that got blacklisted in error once. The security company that maintained the blacklist (forget which one) tried to charge them thousands of dollars to be removed!
      • Re:my $0.02 (Score:4, Informative)

        by simontek2 ( 523795 ) <SimonTek.gmail@com> on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @06:11AM (#23820659) Homepage Journal
        I work in a datacenter, its amazing how difficult it is to get off those lists. Love the people that call and say they want to send millions of emails and go "No we are not spammers, we are email marketing", and then want their IP's to change frequently. umm no.
    • by cliffski ( 65094 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @04:56AM (#23820371) Homepage
      point him at this:

      http://www.sethgodin.com/permission/ [sethgodin.com]

      Seth Godin is the marketing guru who advised google on how to succeed in business. he knows his stuff, and he is MASSIVELY anti spam.
      Tell your boss he needs to read the guys book before he does something that could wreck his business.
      • by tambo ( 310170 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @06:31AM (#23820767)
        Tell your boss he needs to read the guys book before he does something that could wreck his business.

        Dude, PHBs don't read anything that isn't in cartoon form. I think that's even a prerequisite qualification of applying for a management job. The application forms are usually submitted in crayon, too.

        - David Stein

        / reads too much dilbert
        // among other things that aren't actually comics
        /// like, well, fark.com
        //// (obviously)
    • Re:my $0.02 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mapkinase ( 958129 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @05:24AM (#23820493) Homepage Journal
      It will all work dandy unless the boss is from Russia and by that I do not mean people who were brought here as babies (ex. one of the Google's founders). Russians are reckless about laws. That is the impact of Brezhnevism era. I spent quite some time in US before shedding this heritage completely.

      I have a feeling that pretty much all of the rest of the world (may be w. some exceptions in Europe) has more lax moral principles in business.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Yeah, no kidding. I am continually surprised and shocked by the casual abuse of laws here in China. Like you said, it comes from living under an oppressive government that has a law for EVERYTHING (hurrah for the radical left). A couple of Chinese businessmen who went to America spent more time trying to figure out how to break the laws and not get caught, when it was just easier to comply with them and file their paperwork on time.

        After living here for a while, you get the idea that you're *not suppos

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rodney dill ( 631059 )
      While the practice would meet the definition [spamhaus.org] of SPAM, he is probably not going to piss anyone off too much. If these are 'customers' of a competitor, they are people probably interested in travel deals. I'm not trying to justify your bosses actions, but taking the scope of the big bulk spammers into account this is a nit.

      Now if I were going to do this I would mention that 'so-and-so' (the competitors name) gave me your contact information as someone possibly interested in travel deals. Someone getting ma
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @03:38AM (#23819907)
    sad, but true.

    • by drmerope ( 771119 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @04:03AM (#23820087)
      And is the right choice, if done smoothly. Don't mass email. Investigate each contact send a personalized note targeted at them and their business.

      Use the information, just don't abuse it. Spam is quick and dirty, but a poor substitute for the elbow grease of real salesmanship.
      • by mlush ( 620447 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @04:47AM (#23820323)

        And is the right choice, if done smoothly. Don't mass email. Investigate each contact send a personalized note targeted at them and their business. Use the information, just don't abuse it. Spam is quick and dirty, but a poor substitute for the elbow grease of real salesmanship.

        The things you see when you don't have any mod points :-(

        Anyway Absolutely spot on, a competitors mailing list is marketing golddust, you could probably get a lot of sales data without too much hassle, emails going to the same company would be a good target indicator. Google API searching with the email domain could winnow out the people with websites (

      • by pentalive ( 449155 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @11:34AM (#23823853) Journal
        Even if a message arrives in my mailbox, addressed to me, mentions my wife by name, and complements me on the the good behavior of my dog, If they are trying to sell me something or introduce me to something IT IS SPAM.

        Your kind of spam is just harder to make, but it is still spam.
    • by nahdude812 ( 88157 ) * on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @07:10AM (#23821007) Homepage
      Man, this is so sadly true. I worked for a company for about 6 months before leaving for greener pastures. They sent mass marketing emails multiple times per month, with as many as 10,000 recipients. They were cautious to not send messages to any one recipient too often so they didn't piss off that person.

      The fact is that given the quality of their messages - they weren't V1gara Ci1ais, they weren't scam attempts, and in fact they were pretty carefully targeted based on what industry vertical you were in - they actually had a pretty high response rate. For most campaigns they saw 10-15% response, and they had sales reps personally contact each of those responders (now known as leads).

      The calculated lead-to-sale value for email campaigns based a floating 6-month average was around $1,600 (the software cost anywhere from $10,000 to $150,000 depending on which modules you purchased with it, and including 1 year of support maintenance - many customers actually signed on for many years, but it's not considered part of the initial sale). I don't know what the percentage was for lead-to-sale, they didn't track it that way.

      So for every person who filled out a contact form from following the link in an email, they made an average of $1,600. When you're sending 10,000 emails for a single campaign, and you have a 10% response rate, each of which is worth $1,600, that campaign profited $16,000. It's hard to argue against this.

      In addition, many of those contacts turn into sales later and aren't tracked as a email-to-sale because the email only enabled the relationship with the sales rep to open up, and the sales rep was able to make an independent sale months or possibly years later which wouldn't have been possible without the email sparking an interest.

      The company wasn't interested in the moral implications. They weren't interested in the legality of it so long as they adhered to the bare minimum that was required to be legal. They were interested in this thing which provided 100-fold plus return on investment so long as they didn't try to wring to much out of it or otherwise abuse it.

      Of course they had to honor opt-out requests, and they did. But they received fewer opt-outs for each campaign than they received leads; and often times the leads they received weren't from the person who received the email, but were actually a colleague who forwarded the message to their coworker or friend; they might actually have added more new recipients each campaign than opted out.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Bleh, should have proof-read that, $1,600,000 profit (though sometimes minus a few thousand or tens of thousands for a purchased or rented recipient list).
  • Spamhaus (Score:5, Informative)

    by j_sp_r ( 656354 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @03:42AM (#23819933) Homepage
    Explain that sending spam might put your email server on the Spamhaus blacklist, OR pissing of your provider, so you cannot send email again to existing clients.
  • Spam is filtered (Score:5, Insightful)

    by apetrelli ( 1308945 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @03:42AM (#23819941)
    Simply tell him that, usually, spam is filtered and deleted automatically. Once he sent a sufficiently large amount of spam, the filter will filter away the legitimate e-mails too.
  • Teach him (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Hal_Porter ( 817932 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @03:42AM (#23819947)
    Get his home email address

    Enter it here (don't visit from work, do it from a web cafe and behind 7 proxies)

    http://www.spamyourenemies.com/ [spamyourenemies.com]

    After a while he'll go off the idea. You might want to recommend Thunderbird to him.
    • by erikina ( 1112587 ) <eri.kina@gmail.com> on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @04:12AM (#23820161) Homepage
      Hey, cool site. I added a few addresses. Then after some consideration, I added my email address (to see how much spam, and how good my filtering is), and got this message:

      That email address has already been submitted!

      I guess I'm not too popular.. (Luckily I use gmail for my domain, and out of ~2000 monthly spam, only 2 hit my inbox. And only 1 false positive to date)
  • by syousef ( 465911 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @03:44AM (#23819949) Journal
    ...then it's up to your boss. If he won't listen and you REALLY don't like it, start looking for another job. However make sure it's important enough to give your job up over. If morals are important to you I think you'll find that no matter what job you do there are going to be aspects of it you aren't comfortable with. At the end of the day you have to be sure you can live with yourself.
  • by Yetihehe ( 971185 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @03:44AM (#23819951)
    Subscribe him to some spamming sites. And shut down his spam filter. Spammers typically have small dicks, so maybe he could use some "medicine"
  • by julesh ( 229690 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @03:44AM (#23819963)
    Here's some of the stuff that's likely to happen to your company if it sends those messages:

    * Your mail server will be added to blacklists. Legitimate messages you send later may disappear with no indication that they have done so, causing endless frustration and possibly lost money.
    * Complaints may reach your web site's hosting provider, who may take it offline. Seriously: this happened to one of my clients once. This does happen.
    * Some recipients are likely to be annoyed and may decide to never do business with your company. The long-term costs of this could be significant.
    * Depending on where you're based, this could be illegal under either protection of privacy laws (e.g. the UK's Data Protection Act) or anti-spam laws (e.g. several state laws in the U.S.). Your company may receive a hefty fine because of it.
    • by hankwang ( 413283 ) * on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @04:14AM (#23820173) Homepage

      Your mail server will be added to blacklists.

      I doubt it. If the competitor is able to send mailings without being blacklisted , then there are no honeypot addresses in there. It is not likely that enough recipients will take the effort to report the mail to spamcop.net (are there any other blacklists based on manual reporting? Is the spamcop blacklist widely used anyway?) to get the sender blacklisted. At most, some individual Bayesian filters may become more sensitive to the name of the company and travel-related spam, although I'm not sure how hotmail/gmail/yahoo exactly deal with user-reported spam.

      Some recipients are likely to be annoyed and may decide to never do business with your company.

      The submitter works for a travel agency. Plenty of competition; the chance that the potential customer comes to them is small anyway.

      I'm afraid that, however unethical this spamming would be, the risk of getting in trouble is rather small.

    • by Gordonjcp ( 186804 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @06:08AM (#23820643) Homepage
      Let him send the spam, and then:

      * Your mail server will be added to blacklists.

      Make sure this happens

      * Complaints may reach your web site's hosting provider, who may take it offline.

      Make sure this happens

      * Some recipients are likely to be annoyed and may decide to never do business with your company.

      Make sure he receives some email telling him why customers are upset

      * Depending on where you're based, this could be illegal under either protection of privacy laws (e.g. the UK's Data Protection Act) or anti-spam laws (e.g. several state laws in the U.S.). Your company may receive a hefty fine because of it.

      Make sure someone grasses him up to the appropriate authorities.

      Oh, and make sure your CV is up to date.
  • by topham ( 32406 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @03:46AM (#23819973) Homepage

    Send a notice to all the email addresses with a notice informing them that your competitor has been disclosing their email address in all the emails they send out.

    A small signature indicating who you are, and a link to your website would be enough to bring some of them to you.

    This could be considered a public-service to those people.

    It also could be a trap and some of those email address could be honey pots with the hope that you send email to them and get yourself put on the spam lists.

  • by assemblerex ( 1275164 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @03:46AM (#23819975)
    Stealing your competitor's customers is what capitalism is.

    You need to separate your hate of spam from the realities of business:

    Ethical, kind people go bankrupt.

    I have my own company, and if this happened to me I would be working this gift from God HARD.
    • I find your argument interesting, and I'd like to subscribe to your newsletter. Care to tell us your email address? :)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cp.tar ( 871488 )

      And if I had any business with your company, that would be the end of it.

      You would get reported for spamming; if it continued, you would get sued, and my business would go elsewhere.

      Then again, I wouldn't do business with the original moron sending all the contacts in the CC: field either.

      Ethical or at least semi-ethical behaviour can give you an advantage here.
      Someone suggested, for instance, replying to everyone (for good measure, put them in the BCC: field) and making a relatively subtle ad out of it

    • That's incorrect (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @05:16AM (#23820461) Journal
      That is partially incorrect, or at least not as black and white as you make it sound.

      The short version is: Lack of ethics alone is no guarantee of success, by itself. There is more than one kind of sociopath, and more than one outcome. The smart ones do end up CEOs and on the cover of magazines. The stupid ones end up bankrupt and/or in jail.

      So while stealing your competitor's customers _is_ good, the real issue is how you do it.

      A. Spam is a rather low probability of success business. The majority of people don't answer to it, and in fact far more just become annoyed at you and/or blacklist you. It works for spamming normal people, because, well, if 0.1% of the recipients buy something, and you spammed ten million, well, you do the maths. The same maths can work against you when you're dealing with a small number of corporate customers. If you spam 20 corporations you got from one CC, chances are you'll gain nothing, and get only the bad parts.

      B. Spam works mostly on, well, dumb people. Companies have too many layers of people whose job is to prevent doing something stupid. Your spam would have to go through everyone from the mail admin whose job is to block spam (if nothing else, because the CEO wouldn't get any job done at all if he was buried alive in a billion spam messages), to procurement and controlling, to the secretary of the boss you're trying to spam. Even that boss probably isn't as dumb as you assume, if he got to be successful in business, but even he is not the only one you must get past.

      But even if they were no better than the average population, that chance goes down spectacularly by sheer number of people involved. Even if you managed to craft your spam as to get a whole 1% response rate from normal people, if there are as little as 3 different people who have to approve that purchase, the chance becomes one in a million.

      Companies also move slowly and don't change suppliers or providers overnight. It's not like spamming Joe Sixpack who might be drunk enough to go, "ya know, I always wanted herbal pills." A company of any size above mom-and-pop shops will even deal with you at all, doesn't do things on a drunk impulse. There'll be lots of meetings and memos shoved around before you even get a chance to make your offer. Trying to bypass that process might work, if you're some manager's cousin or drinking buddy, but don't think that just one email is anywhere near enough. An offer out of nowhere that didn't go through that approval process, will most likely be ignored completely.

      C. While it may be good for business to be a sociopath, it's very bad for business to get the reputation as one. The successful sociopath is the one who always has a convincing excuse or pretext, not the one advertises, basically, "I have my own company and I'm a bigger arsehole than goatse.cx." Businesses try hard to whitewash their reputation and pose as honest, upstanding pillars of the community. Because it's good for business. PR backlashes can do a hell of a lot of harm. Daikatana for example is the most visible example of a game that was merely mediocre, but got thoroughly sunk by a hell of bad PR backlash. It works in other domains too.

      Becoming known as a spammer works when you have nothing to lose. If you're a two bit crook selling pressed parsley pills as ancient herbal medicines out of your basement, well, you don't really have much to lose. It's not like you have steady long-term customers or a business depending on your image in any community, so you can't lose them. If you are a more traditional business, though, you may not want that kind of reputation. And even the two bit crooks eventually have to change names, make more fly-by-night companies, etc, to keep peddling their goods.

      D. Spam gets blacklisted fast. There's a reason spammers use faked senders, backscatter, etc. Because otherwise they get blocked fast, their ISP pulls the plug, etc.

      And again, companies have people whose _job_ is to make sure spam doesn't get through. They _will_
  • So, at the risk of blowing my karma for the next 200 years:

    Either do the job or quit.

    Seriously. You got hired to do his bidding, if he wants to spam let him reap the consequences, make careful note of your objections. Then also admit you're a tool.

    And if you can't live with that then grow some backbone and quit. There has to be other employment for someone with your skills.

    • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @04:05AM (#23820109)
      I'd quit if I notice my boss doesn't want my input but only my work force. The latter will sooner or later be replaced by some kind of script.

      I usually get hired to do exactly what the OP wants to do: Tell my boss why some of his ideas ain't so bright. A boss who wants his employees to "do his biddings", without objection or at least suggestion, hopefully has some large corporation around him to fend off his bloopers or he'll face bankrupcy soon (another reason to go look for a new job if he does). Managers rarely care or even know about the subtle social problems technical solutions create, and the smart ones are quite thankful when you keep them from putting their foot into it. Most do care about their "face" with their peers, or do you think he wants to hear "oh, so that was the tard that flooded our mailserver" next time his superior grants him the favor of inviting him to a golf game with his buddies?
    • I'd never hire anyone who exhibited your attitudes. I don't hire people to "do my bidding". I hire people to do a job, and that job includes providing advice on areas where they know better (or thing they do ;) ), and being able to argue for why they think I'm wrong when they disagree with me.

      Someone who doesn't stand up for their principles and raise their objections and put up a fight when it's something they really care about isn't a worthwhile employee. And someone who runs off like a little hurt puppy and quits without trying to change my mind first when I want to do something they think is wrong definitively isn't a worthwhile employee.

      If I wanted "yes men", then the job ads would say so.

      And so far that's an attitude I've shared with every manager I've had.

      I've had heated arguments with every single one of them over things I thought were idiotic ideas. None of them have had a problem with that, because I've always kept it strictly about the issues at hand. If any of them HAD given me a hard time about standing up to them, then I probably would have left, as it would be a sure sign they're idiots.

      If you seriously feel you were "hired to do his bidding", then I'm certainly glad you're not working for me; I don't want minions, I want professionals.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Von Helmet ( 727753 )

      You got hired to do his bidding

      Nuremberg defence [wikipedia.org], anyone?


  • Depends. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sporkme ( 983186 ) * on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @03:48AM (#23820001) Homepage
    Does your company sell v1agra or c1alis? Or the organic forms of these, or the "legit" ones from Canada? Then its green light. Otherwise, your company will be equated with these companies.

    The dreaded I for one will not do business with Amazon, Buy.com and several minor companies specifically because I have received unsolicited (aka "partner") spam from them. I disapprove of the practice and will pay a couple of dollars to avoid companies who engage in it.

    I would say the best argument against spamming is that it damages the brand. Sales reps can proudly claim that they are above their competitors in that "we do not spam."

    It might be a better angle to subtly reveal that your competitor has leaked private information and that your company chose to take the high road by discarding it.

    Also, don't die on this cross. Companies spam, as a rule.
  • Simple.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ArIck ( 203 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @03:49AM (#23820005)
    Tell them it would give your travel agency a bad rep. No one reads spam these days and would most likely piss them off. Which does not go good for business.

    You could also say that this could be a setup on part of your competitor to see how you would act in such a morally damning area. Maybe they would base their own future actions based on this. Think about it: Who gives To and CC fields and email's a copy to their competitors. ITS A TRAP (you may not believe it but to convince your boss you may have to do that)
  • consequences..... (Score:4, Informative)

    by tloh ( 451585 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @03:50AM (#23820009)
    I've not participated in business operations involving high volume email. But even as a private individual, I've gotten in hot water before when I've sent out messages to large a number of recipients. Some of my intended (consenting) targets have reported my stuff ending up in their Spam folder. As such, you may convince your boss that it would hurt his business goals in the long run as he risk getting "black listed". Maybe even to the point that legitimate communication gets denied by filtering software that has been trained through exposure to the business's email address.
  • wtf? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by audiocure ( 1302029 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @03:55AM (#23820037)
    I'm not an expert when it comes to email marketing, but I have had some experience with it before... To my knowledge, any credible mass-mail service will send the emails so that it's addressed to a single person (per email). If they are dumb enough to expose all of their clients in the TO and CC fields, it seems like they're asking for trouble. Of course, this may not solve for the moral dilemma, but it's not like your boss is going out of his way and buying a list of email leads (which is ridiculous); they're all right there for the picking! They only argument I can think of is telling him to research the target prospects and send mail based upon that.. then it's not really unsolicited - more like cold calling. A lot of people don't take into consideration that some email *is* targeted, and it really is no different than picking up the phone and calling the customer directly, or sending them something by mail... While cold calling is becoming more and more obsolete in today's business environment, doing some research and choosing some leads isn't really all that bad - especially when your competitor is kind enough to do some of the leg work for you.
  • Obvious really (Score:5, Insightful)

    by optilude ( 233718 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @03:56AM (#23820041) Homepage
    1. It's an abuse of personal data, since the owner of that data (the individual) did not opt in. In many countries (particularly the UK) this is illegal and can land you in a lot of trouble.

    2. If you're a small company, your reputation is going to be worth a lot more than one or two customers who may answer your email. Doing something that's at worst illegal and and at best irritating is hardly going to help your reputation.

    3. Business ethos and ethics matter. As a consumer, I often know that dealing with a small company could cost slightly more than buying from a large one with economies of scale. However, I may feel it is worth it if the service is better or if I identify positively with the company. I have broken off relations in the past with companies that marketed too aggressively. This is entirely rational behaviour and not something limited to techies who "get" spam and are over-protective of their inboxes.

  • by jsse ( 254124 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @03:56AM (#23820043) Homepage Journal
    Hire spamming agency to spam your potential customers on behalf of your competitors. Compare your sales figures with your competitors at the end of a quarter. There you've solid proof to convince your boss.
  • by blanks ( 108019 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @04:01AM (#23820079) Homepage Journal
    There is very little you can do other then point out how it's illegal (if it is in your country) and or how it is morally wrong; which as it sounds isn't a problem with your employer. Since he was all ready signed up for their mailing list specifically to undermine any sales/services etc they might have to offer this is just another way for them to try taking business away from them.

    Contact your ISP and ask them what their policy about sending spam which will most likely be that they do not allow it, and tell the boss that the ISP will cut service if you try it. As long as he will lose money it might keep him from going though with it.
  • by Foo2rama ( 755806 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @04:16AM (#23820183) Homepage Journal
    Spam them all and let god sort them out!

    If you cannot beat them then join them!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @04:17AM (#23820189)
    Reformulate the problem into the sexual / romantic arena. Imagine a guy who asks every single woman he meets "hey baby, nice ass, want to go back to my place?" That sort of thing reeks of desperation as well as lack of confidence, and even if used on hundreds or thousands of women the result is usually 100% failure. In the rare event of success the result is more likely to be ... a less than satisfactory arrangement (e.g. ugly woman, one night stand, STDs, etc.) Additionally, it insults and turns off a huge number of potentially otherwise interested women.

    Whereas being more selective in potential romantic partners, using a more measured and sophisticated approach to communication (flirting, chatting, slowly moving to the right level of familiarity at the right time, being willing to back off when necessary, etc.), and presenting a better and more confident image tends to result in higher success rates with more desirable partners, even though it takes more effort.

    The same is the case for business. With spam, at best you get some tiny percentage of customers with 0 loyalty whatsoever while building up a huge mountain of ill-will with an enormous number of potential customers. Whereas more socially sophisticated methods of communicating and treating potential customers has a higher chance of success, has a higher chance of creating more profitable and worthwhile customers, has a higher chance of creating customers who have such a positive view of your company and your services that they will tell their friends (doing your advertising and sales work for you), and even in the event of a "missed sale" will still leave the customer with a positive image of your company and product and will leave open the opportunity for that person to become a future customer if they change their mind or develop new needs.

    Ask him how he deals with other people in person and make him see that the same reasons he doesn't use lame mass-spam techniques in real life are applicable online, even with strangers.
  • by 91degrees ( 207121 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @04:45AM (#23820317) Journal
    The response rate to this sort of advertising is extremely low. He'll be lucky to get a single response, thus making it not worth the time to compose an email.

    Most people react badly to unsolicited emailed advertisements. It is likely that some of these people are already customers or potential customers. This will dissuade them from choosing your company in the future.

    If any customers are in the EU, you may have a data protection liability. Even if you don't, at least some people will respond requesting to be removed from the mailing list, which is something that will have to be dealt with.

    It's very likely to be against the terms and conditions of your ISP.

    It is possible that you will be blacklisted by the recipients ISPs (unlikely if he does this once)

    There may be some legal ramifications for taking advantage of an obvious mistake by the other company. Even just a baseless legal threat would take time and money to deal with.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mike2R ( 721965 )

      The response rate to this sort of advertising is extremely low. He'll be lucky to get a single response, thus making it not worth the time to compose an email.

      But this is hardly an untargeted list - I would expect the response rate to be significant.

      Most people react badly to unsolicited emailed advertisements. It is likely that some of these people are already customers or potential customers. This will dissuade them from choosing your company in the future.

      Bottom line is that this is a non-issue for a

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @04:59AM (#23820387)
    You should tell him to GO FOR GOLD!

    Spam is proven to:

      * Enlarge your penis!
      * Earn you money WHILE you browse the web!
      * Get YOU laid NOW!

    visit http://cashforbigdickaction.biz/ [cashforbigdickaction.biz] for more info!
    (the 1000th visitor wins a free Rolex!)
  • Murder (Score:3, Insightful)

    by slashmojo ( 818930 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @05:10AM (#23820435)
    what business-oriented arguments can I use to dissuade my boss from spamming?

    Spammers run the risk of being brutally murdered [slashdot.org] which I think is also somewhat bad for business.. ;)
  • Spam makes MONEY (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lena_10326 ( 1100441 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @06:30AM (#23820759) Homepage
    Despite what slashdotters say. They just don't like having to come to grips with that.

    Anyway. The reason your boss should not do it is not because it's immoral, but because your IT staff and company does not have the technical experience to do it right.

    Doing it right means: avoiding blowing complaint thresholds with receiving ISPs, setting up a complaint loop and unsubscribing quickly, not burning out your IPs, having multiple clean IPs to send from, having someone to manage relations with ISPs and spam organizations, understanding the relationship between # of complaints and sending volumne, and understanding the effect of attrition on list size and the need to resupply it with new leads.

    Realize this is only the scratch of the surface. Successfully sending email at high volume is complicated. You're risking losing your ISP contract, getting all your IPs listed as spam sources, and destroying your reputation in your industry. These are difficult things to achieve for those who have experience with sending commercial bulk email. I will tell you right now, you do not have the knowledge to it right.

    Instead, you will probably pimp out your email list to a corporation that specializes in sending email. It will simply things greatly, sure, and they will assume the delivery risks and you will cut them a hefty profit share, but understand many of those providers use employ very sleazy techniques. They often skirt legality by playing semantic games with CANSPAM and other laws. Also, sometimes they rely on extremely large numbers of hosts (such as Datran) and actively pursue methods to break through spam filters using various forms of text and markup for the email content. Other times, they contract out the dirty work to illegal bot networks which perform the actual delivery. Some may even pay ISPs to get Inbox delivery, cutting back on net profit.

    Using the wrong sending provider could also mean losing editorial control of what gets sent to your list. They may slam it with general offers, totally unrelated to your product. They may exert extreme pressure on you to do so, which could unnecessarily piss off your client base. They won't be satisfied with hitting up your users once a week, they will SLAM them 3-5 times a day. They don't care about pissing your clients off. They can always burn out your list and move on to the next list, leaving you to deal with the aftermath.

    Are there ways to send SPAM, or rather commercial bulk email, to your list and stay clean? Yes, there is. Believe it or not, some people WANT your email. If your boss still wants to continue with it, fight very hard for the following:
    • Start small. Send at low volumes. Avoid any sudden changes in the rate of sending.
    • Provide an 800 number for complaints, unsubs, and ISPs inquiries.
    • Actually answer that number with a human operator. Don't let complaints go to voicemail. Your goal is to diffuse complainers quickly by giving them immediate satisfaction. Not doing that can cause you a huge amount of grief with organizations like Spamhaus and Brightmail.
    • Provide current business contact info on email footers.
    • Provide a clear--working--unsubscribe link at the bottom of your emails. Make your unsubscribe link reliable so that it'll work when your database is offline. Unsubscribe users as fast as you possibly can. Within 24 hours is good, 8 hours is better, 1 hour is even better.
    • Keep your volume low. If you're talking about sending 1 email per week for a list of 100,000 emails, you will stay under the radar. If you're talking about 3 emails per day for 3 million, you will not. Your traffic will be noticed.
    • Avoid sending blanket untargeted emails to everyone. Try to target specific offers to users likely to respond. Minimizing volume while increasing effectiveness is good.
    • Avoid single opt-in emails. Strive for double opt-in. This means user signs up, you send them an activation link to the specified email, they
    • Re:Spam makes MONEY (Score:4, Informative)

      by lena_10326 ( 1100441 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @09:01AM (#23821953) Homepage

      email from one of our competitors with several thousand of their potential customers in the 'To:' and 'Cc:' fields.
      Disregard my previous post. I misread and assumed high volume email. The contributor mentioned several thousand email leads. If the leads were opt-in, they would be worth a shot; however, they're not because it would be illegal to market those ill-gotten emails with spam. They did not opt-in and you have no records proving opt-in. You'd be opening yourself up legally for violating current spamming laws. You also have no existing business relationship with these emails so another strike against you.

      Spamming these specific email addresses is a bad move. Very bad.

  • by unity100 ( 970058 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @06:32AM (#23820773) Homepage Journal
    tell him that spam never works for legitimate companies that dont infect people's pcs and spam out of the zombies made because :

    1 - get past some number of Cc:s and your mail instantly drops to spam, or even dropped to blackhole. it may be 10 in some services, 20 in others.

    2 - gmail has a very efficient spam filtering. your spam will probably get detected in the 50th or 100th email arriving in gmail and will fall to spam. at hotmail 101th email will go to blackhole.

    3 - probably around 500th email you are going to get listed in spamcop.net and hundreds of thousands of private, small web host firm servers that use whm/cpanel will automatically start filtering your emails because they use blacklists. (new auto feature in whm, turns on with a single click and save).

    4 - very soon youll isp will be informed of your doing, and contact you to inquire. if you are not able to put a valid excuse, well, youre in trouble.

    tell that to your idiot boss. tourism industry people generally think spam works. i have seen it before.
  • by paj1234 ( 234750 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @08:36AM (#23821685)
    What a wonderful opportunity to advance yourself at your bosses' expense.

    1. Tell everybody that it will be bad for the business. Except him.

    2. Go ahead and do as you're told.

    3. Wait with barely surpressed excitement for the backlash. After it arrives, sneak back in the night and shovel some dog poo through the letterbox. In the morning, smoothly explain it must have been the angry customers. You'll look brilliant for sagely predicting disaster from the sidelines. When your boss inevitably fails, you might be able to take his job.
  • Just quit (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wackysootroom ( 243310 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @08:52AM (#23821845) Homepage
    My former employer decided to start spamming even after meetings where I explained the dangers of spam, how it's unethical , etc, etc. They really wanted to do it, because they decided to listen to one person who had dollar signs in his eyes.

    Long story short, I quit the job, but I had to deal with spam for about a month while I was looking for a different employer. Somehow it was my fault that we were blacklisted by most of the major ISPs and mail services. The IT director was too shortsighted to farm out the spamming to someone else.

    Everything worked out great in the end, because I'm at a place now that would never spam and I'm working with bright people on some very cool projects.

    So yeah, my advice is quit and tell him why you're quitting if he won't listen to your advice.
  • by flyingfsck ( 986395 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @09:46AM (#23822493)
    Easy - just turn his spam filter off for a day, then ask him whether he read any of it.
  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @09:46AM (#23822499) Homepage Journal
    is not to.

    Let me tell you how this goes. Somebody gets an idea that seems really neat. They see all kinds of benefits to this idea. Now you come in and decide to convince them it's really a bad idea. You each without thinking take up your debate club roles, him arguing the affirmative, you arguing the negative. Only in this debate, the opposing team is the judge.

    It gets worse. This kind of thing gets emotional, because once somebody is enchanted with an idea, all those good things he imagines as a result seem to be within his grasp. You'll the one who is bent on taking all that away. It's an amazingly stupid attitude, if you think about it, but we all have it, hardwired in.

    So, trust me, you you don't want to try to convince your boss not to do this. What you want to do is inform him. This means you must be totally fair, objective, balanced, and in no way an advocate of anything other than two things: having a complete plan for dealing with the results of the course of action, and knowing what the alternative courses of action entail.

    The boss might even be right. If you aren't prepared for that possibility, you can't do this.

    One thing is certain: if you plant the seeds of doubt in his mind, he'll look at those doubts as weeds. If he owns those doubts, he's more likely to let them bear fruit.
  • by Fantastic Lad ( 198284 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @11:08AM (#23823515)
    Fax spam was just being invented. --Our office was hit with a big unsolicited ad which promised "Thousands of watches for sale! Hundreds of different styles, all cheap, cheap, cheap!" --And it gave an address for the sale, which happened to be the concourse of the building we were in, (which housed the offices of a hundred other businesses).

    My first reaction was, "Ugh! How annoying! Who are these jerks blowing our fax paper on a stupid ad for a useless product?" --And this was before Spam existed under that name as a real feature of our reality, which to me indicates that I just have a very low tolerance for any kind of social manipulation. But here's the thing. . .

    All the women in our office got into this fluster of consumerist excitement. "Hundreds of different watch styles for cheap!" The building concourse was flooded with people looking for watches, like a flea market hopped up on caffeine, and when the day was over the girls were showing off two and three watches each, swapping them like trading cards and generally having a grand old time. Even some of the guys got sucked in. And I felt like an old sourpuss sticking to principal and wondering if it was the Human Race which was stupid, or if it was me. (That office job did that to me a great deal.)

    But anyway. . , the point is that with the right level of care and planning, SPAM not only works, but it works really well.

    Heck, I know a couple of people who forwarded that "Bill Gates is giving a hundred bucks to everybody who forwards this email" email. It made their day! Some people actually enjoy being pandered to like consumerist bovines. They are locked into the system and being advertised at is a major feature of that system which is not only expected by desired.

    So yeah. The point is that ignorant apes are sometimes happy being ignorant apes. But I still wouldn't send out 1000 emails to potential travel clients, because in the massive noise filling the channel most will ignore the spam and people like me will blacklist his company.

    Oh, and in case you're wondering, I decided that neither me nor the Human Race were wrong. There's just different types of people and different levels of awareness/expectation, and that's okay! People can self-annihilate themselves through ignorance if that's their predisposition. But for some reason office buildings seem to attract that brand of human, and I will die before I allow myself to work in cubicle land ever again. My own level of ignorance needs to be worked on in a different environment, or I'll simply interrupt the process by murdering a bunch of apes with too many cheap watches.


COMPASS [for the CDC-6000 series] is the sort of assembler one expects from a corporation whose president codes in octal. -- J.N. Gray