Dispatches from a Reporter's Notebook

Opting Out

Posted October 6, 2009

It happens to all of us.  We sit down at our computer and log-on to our e-mail account and are bombarded with junk mail.  Not unlike going to the mailbox and retrieving a pile of colorful advertisements, it's annoying and time-consuming.

Employers try to derail this inefficient trend by blocking what they can with firewalls and spam software, but the reality is that the more you block, the more you risk missing a valid e-mail.

My new philosophy is to opt-out of all unwanted solicitations.  In the beginning this actually takes a great deal of time.  You have to scroll to the fine print at the very bottom of the e-mail and look for a link that says "unsubscribe" or "opt-out."  They don't make it easy in the hopes that you just won't bother.  The link then takes you to a Web site where you must enter your address and click on a series of prompts that ultimately take you off of their list.  This is supposed to be a permanent fix, but it doesn't always work that way.  I often find myself repeating the process a month later with the same company.

If the e-mail does not include the option to unsubscribe, I usually sent a return e-mail that says "Please take me off of you list.  Thank you."  The bottom line is that unlike direct mail, e-mail costs nothing for companies.  They can send out thousands with the hope that at least a handful of people will pay attention.  But the cost to our efficiency is great.  Americans now spend more time on the Internet than they do watching television.  Clearly, some of it is work, some of it is informative, some of it is entertainment, but a great deal of it is wasting time.

In my opinion, wasting precious time deleting e-mail whether it is on your BlackBerry or your computer is time that could be better spent doing something productive, like working or spending time with your family.   We don't have to accept it.  Just say no to junk e-mail.

Below is some good advice to consider from a WRAL. com visitor:

"The caution point is using the opt-out link at the bottom of the e-mail is the right thing to do if (and only if) the e-mail is from a reputable business, such as a company you have done business with on the internet or whose web site you visited to register for a contest, etc. Spammers, however, who are not legitimate, or are trying to entice you to visit a web site with malware or viruses, may just use the opt-out link as a way to validate that they sent their spam e-mail to a real e-mail address with a "live person" reading it. Many spammers send e-mails to millions of randomly generated e-mail addresses hoping to get some valid "hits" that they can then add to lists of valid e-mail addresses that they sell to other spammers.

So, the safest approach is that if you get spam e-mail from some source that is completely unfamiliar to you, it is a better idea to just delete it or report it to your internet service provider as spam (many e-mail services like Yahoo or Gmail have a link to easily report a spam e-mail)."

Mark Anderson, Cary

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About this Blog:

WRAL's Amanda Lamb offers a behind-the-scenes look at what TV news reporters do, the people they meet and how their jobs affect them.