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September 14, 2023

I miss you, buddy. Sorry for all the unsubscribes.


Like virtually everyone I rely in part on a “free” email account from one of the big providers – Gmail, Yahoo!, Hotmail, etc. – for a personal email address.

I recall the first such address I ever had: it was my last name at Yes, that dates me. Netscape, for those who don’t know, was the dominant web browser for years. It was originally released in 1994, when the “internet” and “worldwide web” were much talked about but mysterious entities. And while the Netscape browser persisted until 2008, in fact it had fallen out of widespread use by 2000 – nearly 25 years ago now, and more than a lifetime in our industry.

Netscape and I separated when Netscape was taken over by AOL and I was forced to surrender my email address. That’s right. Netscape demanded that I give up my personal email address to someone else – presumably an AOL user – who had previously registered an address with my last name. No longer “,” I had to become a new persona.

It was quite funny at first, because I appreciate the absurdities of everyday life and there was a stretch of time during which I and the “interloper” (as I called her) could receive each other’s emails. I still couldn't accept the reality of giving up my personal email address, so I would periodically email the other party reminding her that – thanks to our browser provider – her emails were open to me. She became quite irritable when I did that. Ultimately, despite my pleas to Netscape support and after a transition period that must have lasted 90 days, I was shut off.

I began casting around for alternatives. There were plenty and my next provider of choice became Yahoo!. Then, sometime around 2003, I began to experience technical glitches from that platform. My email wouldn’t appear, email I would send seemed not to arrive. And few things in life can be as annoying as that – especially when you’re not even paying for the service.

When Yahoo! technical support ignored my pleas for help, frustrated and more than a little furious, I transferred again – this time to Gmail, back then still an up and comer.

It’s been 20 years now and I’m happy to say Gmail has worked flawlessly. I still have my old Yahoo! address, however, and I still keep an eye on it through my email client’s unified inbox. And that’s where I met Brandon.

Brandon is a mortgage advisor for a finance company that specializes in residential property loans. And Brandon, who lives in my geographic area, began sending emails out of the blue to my Yahoo! address sometime shortly after I began using that account, back in 2003, give or take a year.

I don’t know how he got my address. I’m reasonably sure I never gave it to him. But email addresses are acquired through all sorts of methods, and some of them are more or less legitimate. So, I like to give Brandon the benefit of the doubt.

Brandon began emailing me when I was at the beginning of deactivating my Yahoo! account for the transition to Gmail. So, as a cleanup action, I sent him an unsubscribe. And again, and again. Brandon took no notice. Instead, he doggedly continued sending me messages such as:

  • Notification of changes in mortgage rates, be it up or down
  • Holiday greetings throughout the year for New Year’s Day, Easter, July 4th, you name it
  • Promotional announcements for special offers from his mortgage firm
  • Twice annual reminders to change the time on my clocks for the beginning or ending of Daylight Savings Time

For decades, Brandon did a great job keeping me informed, but frankly he was miserable at email compliance. I should note that the CAN SPAM act was passed into U.S. law in 2003 and, among other things, it required:

  • A visible and operable unsubscribe mechanism is present in all emails.
  • Consumer opt-out requests are honored within 10 business days.
  • Opt-out lists, also known as suppression lists, are used only for compliance purposes.

Sorry, Brandon the Rebel, but you’ve always been out of compliance.

It wasn’t until last year that I finally noticed Brandon had stopped sending me emails. It was a difficult year. I forgot any number of national holidays and failed to change the time for Daylight Savings Time.

Granted, at no point during our 20-year relationship did I ever engage in a transition with Brandon or his firm. But I had begun looking forward to those emails.

Most of all, I’m troubled over why he stopped sending them.

Brandon is still in business, according to his website. He looks much grayer now than the photos I remember from the early 2000’s. Is he retiring soon and tidying up his email affairs? Did he lose his email list in a tragic, unrecoverable server crash? Perhaps he implemented a marketing automation platform with email compliance built into it. Did he finally read that book about Permission Marketing?

I hope Brandon’s well, whatever happened, and I hope his career has prospered (if so, I claim no credit for it).

But I wonder: how many unsolicited emails do I now receive every day in my inbox? Dozens of them by actual count. It is perhaps a sign of the times that I count an unsolicited sender as tenacious after they've sent me four messages.

Brandon and I spit on your tenacity.

But don't get me started on CompuServe.

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