Those email-unsubscribe reasons


You know when sites ask you why you’re unsubscribing from their marketing mailing lists we didn’t register for? I think they’re designed to lend legitimacy, because otherwise we all know the reason.

Here’s a list from one such recent marketing list:

  1. The information is no longer relevant to me
  2. The content is not what I expected when I subscribed
  3. You are emailing me too frequently
  4. I don’t remember ever signing up for this in the first place!
  5. Something else

Note the subtle gaslighting in point four. It’s the closest option to “I didn’t sign up for this”, but places the blame on you for not remembering, instead of the sender for spamming you withour your consent. Detroit isn’t the only place where this is a bit dodge.

Which leads me to this article by Jilt, where the site lays out a similar list as above. This is what they write under “I didn’t realise I’d subscribed”, with numbers added:

It’s happened to all of us: Suddenly some company starts sending you emails that you never asked for. Maybe they ① automatically subscribed you when you bought something, ② maybe they got your email by buying a list, or ③ maybe your friends thought it’d be funny to sign you up to 17 different florists’ email lists [..]

Point ① is deceptive by relying on fine print, and violates the trust customers place in suppliers to protect their email addresses. Point ② is abuse. Point ③ doesn’t happen, or is only included to deflect responsibility.

The site suggests the following ways to resolve the issue. See if you can catch their slight of hand:

That’s why, for the long-term health of your email list, it’s a good idea to do a double opt-in. That means a person doesn’t just have to enter their email on your site to subscribe, they also have to click a button in the subsequent confirmation email they receive to complete the subscription process.

Hold on, they’re suggesting we made a concious decision to sign-up, so having a “double” sign-up confirmation is the right thing to do. Except, by the author’s own admission in points ① and ②, these were “emails that you never asked for”. So how can this be double consent?

The fact they’re advocating for confirmation at all is a good thing, don’t get me wrong. I wish more sites did this, instead of assuming my email address belongs to them to spam. I don’t even eat pork. But let’s be clear, the author and I are talking about email that we never asked for in the first place.

All of this comes down to one word omitted from the article: respect. You respect your customers, prospective and current, by not signing them up to things they didn’t ask for. You respect them by giving them an explicit, clear understanding of what they’re signing up for. You respect them by making it easy to unsubscribe. You do not respect them by coaching these concerns as merely a side effect of improving the “long-term health of your email list”.

Lack of respect for users is at the core of almost all the problems the Internet faces right now.

Author bio and support


Ruben Schade is a technical writer and infrastructure architect in Sydney, Australia who refers to himself in the third person. Hi!

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