In a post at Deliverability.com, Dennis Dayman tells the story of receiving a spam message that pitched—ironically enough—anti-spam products. He decided to investigate, and discovered it had come from a familiar email service provider. “I contacted a friend there and asked them to look into how this company [the author of the email] got my email address since it was not an opt-in email or a company I’d ever done business with,” he recounts.
The answer: At an anti-spam conference in 2008, Dayman had entered a contest by putting his business card in a fishbowl. “Yes,” he notes, “it took them three years to send me the first email.” Even without that strange delay, however, he would have taken issue with being added to the list, he says.
“Not once did I hear: ‘By registering for this free item you will get an email from us,'” he explains. “What I heard was: ‘Drop your business card in here to win an iPod.'”
His wife offered an alternative perspective: “You didn’t think they would ever spam you when you tried to win the Apple product by dropping your business card into the fishbowl?” she asked.
This goes to the heart of the opt-in debate. If you add people to your list without their explicit permission, some—like Dayman’s wife—will see it as a natural outcome and opt out if they don’t want your messages. But others won’t be so generous, and they’re rarely shy about hitting the spam button.
Assume permission with care and caution. “[U]nderstand that when I give you my business card, I am giving it to you so you can individually contact me, not so you can spam me,” Dayman advises.