Posted by Pat McCarthy
Spam is one of those annoying parts of using the Internet which I suppose we just have to accept, as most originate in Russia or Florida and there seems little we can do except continually improve our spam filtering.
However, when it originates locally I think we can rightfully feel indignant and maybe try to exert some influence on the perpetrators.
I keep getting messages from firstname.lastname@example.org about some massage place in Hebden Bridge.
I didn't ask to receive these emails. One message I could shrug off, but when they keep coming it makes me grumpy.
They've obviously harvested the emails from the Hebden Bridge website and think it is perfectly OK to junk us all.
Well, I hope no-one responds to these messages, which must come from a company with a very dubious morality and doubtful business sense.
I think the best way to "exert some influence on the perpetrators" may be to point out that under recent legislation this practice is in fact illegal. Perhaps a friendly reply containing the paragraph below would be enough to stop any future emails.
However, if these are emails are making you grumpy and stressed then maybe you should take advantage of a nice relaxing massage!
"UK regulations mean online marketers can send e-mail pitches and SMS messages only to consumers who have agreed beforehand to receive them, except where users are existing customers of a particular company.
Corporations can still be approached 'cold' with email pitches but in these instances emails must have an opt-out clause.
The Office of the Information Commissioner enforces the regulations. Any breaches of enforcement orders issued by the Information Commissioner is an offence liable to a fine of up to £5,000 in a magistrate's court, or an unlimited fine if the trial is before a jury."
From Gerry Pyves
We are a bona fide company with a bona fide address and office seeking to reach people who could benefit from our services. This is not my understanding of spam.
All the info you need is on the Information Commissioners website http://www.ico.gov.uk/
...and in simple terms, spam is a marketing email that you don’t want and more importantly, didn’t ask for, although different people have different ideas about what the term means.
The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations lay down rules for organisations sending unsolicited marketing by electronic means. The regulations say that organisations must have prior consent to send unsolicited marketing material by electronic mail to individual subscribers, unless they have obtained the details during the course of a sale, or negotiations towards one, and they give you the opportunity to object in every message.
Guilty as charged?
We could probably debate whether it is illegal or not. Most of us would agree it is unpleasant however, and resent having to take the time to be removed from a list that we did not ask to go on in the first place. I would also never use a product that was advertised in this way.
You could argue that its nice to get Spam on a subject other than the fullness of my willy, an opportunity to buy cheap software, or rude pictures. That this is local spam for local people, and as such inherently good. But its still Spam I'm afraid.
My advice would be to post a "sorry we got it wrong and won't do it again" message which would show us all that you are nice cuddly people.
From Larry Kin
While there could be a debate about whether it is legal or not those who argued that it was legal would be wrong. The legislation is unambiguous. While Gerry claims to not be aware he has broken the law it is still the case that he has broken the law, and there is probably some aphorism about ignorance be no excuse and so on.
Of course arguing that we should all be grateful because you could have stuffed paper through our letter boxes instead is rather like punching someone in the face and asking what they are whining about since you could have stamped on their head instead and that would have been much worse. Many people who do not want spam will similarly not want bits of paper stuffed through their letter boxes. There is however a third way, no junk mail either electronic or paper.
We cannot complain though since it is us who has put our email addresses on a publicly accessible site. By parity of reasoning if we leave our door unlocked we have no complaint if someone burgles our house, it is our fault and ours alone, it is nothing to do with the burglar and similarly that we have received these emails is nothing to do with Gerry.
A compromise that might have been received better than offering an 'unsubscribe' option is to email people (having harvested addresses in the way Gerry describes) saying 'if you'd like to subscribe click here. If you don't subscribe we promise not to send you any further emails.'
Posted by Pat McCarthy
Larry writes, "We cannot complain though since it is us who has put our email addresses on a publicly accessible site."
No, no, no! We absolutely need to be able to post our email addresses on the web without fear of being spammed or otherwise abused. Otherwise, the web will end up being just one way; those that publish websites and pages, and the rest of us.
Spammers are attacking the whole interactive dimension of the web, and making it more and more difficult to sustain online communities like the one we have here.
I want the option to be able to contact other people and discuss the issues which are important to me, on a one to one basis. I have had some good dialogues this way which I don't think would have been the same if they had been more public.
Spammers make people understandably reluctant to give their emails and should realise what a destructive force they are on the very thing they are trying to exploit.
Posted by Johnny Marascalco
This example only barely qualifies as spam, and unlike the majority of spam, these emails are targetted on a small group.
Getting one or two emails from a local company advertising their own services hardly compares to the deluge of real spam email, and their tactics fade into insignificance when compared with serious email marketing campaigns. My only objection to the tactics of this company would be if requests to be removed from the mailing list were ignored.
I believe this company has become the target for the frustrations many have with real spam, and suggest that people try to get some sense of perspective about this.
Aside from this, I agree with Larry, publishing your email address in the public domain is a clear indication that you are prepared to accept unsolicited contact via email.
Gerry can suite happily send whatever she wants to me.
I have also added Gerry to my spam filter, to my MSN (Which I believe MSN build their main spam filters with- little bits from us) and also to my Domain, which I will not disclose, but the last thing I need, is staff getting junk e-mail to read - they e-mail enough!! Haha, (But I'm as Bad!!!)
But if not illegal, its morally wrong, you don't have the permission to e-mail random locals, and no doubt don't have a data protection policy/training plan.
I partially agree with Johnny, there does need to be a sense of perspective. I have many larger irritations in life than receiving a spam email from a local businessman.
However, what if every business in Hebden decided to undertake the same marketing plan? What if every business in Calderdale decided to do the same? or West Yorkshire? How much local spam, for local people can we tolerate.
We should also remember that breaking the law is breaking the law. There’s no grey area on this one. So with Johnny’s logic is it ok to say 'well I only I did a bit of shoplifting, I didn’t ram raid the whole store'.
I do disagree with the point of 'publishing your email address in the public domain is a clear indication that you are prepared to accept unsolicited contact via email.' This is the same mentality as saying 'well if you were walking though town at midnight a bit drunk then you deserve to be mugged'.
I do think that Mr Pvyes has it in his power to stop this debate and recover his reputation. He should hold up his hands (no pun intended) and say 'Sorry, messed up' – just as long as he doesn’t send us all an individual email!
From Andrew Hall
I'm intrigued by Johnny's idea of things 'barely' qualifying as spam. If I receive unsolicited emails, they're normally undesirable. I get upwards of 80 a day, and quite honestly, I don't give a toss if I'm the only recipient, or whether they may have been 'targetted' to two, twenty, a thousand or a million other people. I don't care if they're local - the fact is that, be they ads for Viagra substitutes, promises of vast riches for helping the widows of deposed African government officials, stock market tips, notification of lottery wins, etc etc, I treat them all with the same disdain.
But in a way, spam is becoming an academic subject. 3-C.coop has a quite efficient spam filter, and coupled with Zone Alarm, very few actually reach my inbox.
Mr Pyves' effort, however, escaped my filters. I read it, and have discussed it in numerous watering holes in Hebden. The resulting conversations have been quite amusing. No hands massage? The mind boggles at what parts of the masseur's anatomy our innocent bodies may be subjected to. Most comments I've heard are unprintable, and probably libellous - so we won't go there. (I am intrigued though! Is it feet? Or perhaps a non-tactile approach - massage by the power of the mind? Perhaps they use animals - is it something large like sheep or something more modest, like a gerbil? The website gives us no clues!)
Mr Pyves' spam may have backfired. 'No hands massage' has given a lot of people a lot of less-than-innocent amusement. None I know would touch it with a bargepole (no inference intended). And I guess I can cope with the occasional oddball email!
Posted by Johnny Marascalco
Oscar, your analogy is incomplete and completely ridiculous. The question people who published their email address have to ask themselves is why did they do so in the first place? The answer, to allow themselves to be contacted by people who do not already know their email address, emails which are therefore unsolicited. For your analogy to be complete, a person would have to go through town a bit drunk at midnight with a sign on heir back saying "I've got thousands of pounds of cash in my back pocket". The equivalent message in this case being "Here is my contact email address for all to see" That person does not "deserve" to be mugged, but common sense would suggest they were pretty stupid to assume that they wouldn't be.
It's very obvious really, and anyone who uses the internet knows that if you hate getting unsolicited emails and don't want any, don't publish your email address on website, or at least have the sense to obfuscate it.
By suggesting that this is barely spam, I mean that comparing this person to the organisations which clutter the internet by broadcasting millions of unwanted emails to millions of people about products or services that they are very far from interested in, is quite simply laughable.
As Andrew says, unsolicited emails are "normally undesirable" and this is a genuine attempt by a local company to market their services to the local community. Clearly it is something which has backfired on them big time, but this is far from a big deal. Get a life. No, really!
I have probably received this email as well as my email address is on the Hebweb. But I don't remember because it was either filtered as spam or I saw it wasn't from anyone I know and deleted it without reading it. But I've also received emails from a couple of local groups supporting important world issues who must have got my name from this website. Are we saying that this is OK if it's something we are genuinely interested in, or maybe if they are not selling something? I put my email address on this site in the hope that potential clients would contact me about my business. But I accept that it allows others to contact me about theirs. At least with spam you can see if it's from anyone you know before you open it - unlike junk mail through the post that often comes in important looking envelopes, and is a waste of paper. I suppose I'm saying it's something we have to live with if we want the advantages of promoting ourselves on a local website.
Posted by John Morrison
'No-hands massage': now this is more like it.
I pop into the HebWeb now and again, to see what’s getting local folk hot under the collar these days. Coloured cobbles, pedestrian precincts, street furniture: it all sounds depressingly suburban. Not even posts from an obviously fictitious character like the Rev Tony Buglass (yeah, right...) can raise the level of debate.
But 'no-hands massage' sounds like a welcome return to the good old days, when Hebden Bridge was exempt from the tyranny of common sense. Can we hear from some satisfied customers of this arcane craft, who reckon they’ve had their money’s worth? Or is ‘no-hands massage’ strictly a ‘no-money transaction’?
Posted by Antony
I can't see how people can keep coming on here and defending this practice.
Johnny, I don't know what your problem is but if people want to vent their frustrations at or about a company who are illegally targetting them with e-mails then I fail to see a problem. The reason that they are being targetted is because of addresses obtained from this site so where better to vent??
Some posters may not be just as savvy in internet usage as you so obviously are and as such I find it comes accross as pretty arrogant the assumptions that you make about internet users. I would suggest that it is not them who need to get a life.
Posted by Johnny Marascalco
I don't have a problem other than my differing point of view, which I have as much right to express in this debate as you or anyone else.
You can't see how people how people are defending this illegal practice? Well, neither can I, because nobody is. I'm not saying this company were right to do what they did, nor have I never said so. I just don't much believe in absolutes with regard to such matters. They may not have been right, but they are far from the evil and immoral scourge they have been portrated as.
Arrogant?? Sticks and stones etc... Savvy? I'm not quoting the law or talking about the technology I use, or passing moral judgement on others. Exactly where morality comes into this debate I will never understand. Everything I have said is based upon good old-fashioned common sense.
Illegal? Perhaps in the letter of the law, but certainly not the spirit. The law is not designed for these kind of things, but a line had to be drawn somewhere in order to discourage the real spammers. No CPS in the country would dare press charges based upon the evidence described here.
All anyone had to do is simply reply asking that the company do not send any more emails. Isn't that the sensible thing to do, rather than just expect that by some miracle you will be removed from the mailing list because you got grumpy about it? Instead, more energy has been wasted whinging about it, and banging on about how illegal it is.
I'm no Mother Theresa, but clearly all the other strictly law abiding and god fearing denizens of Hebden Bridge would never dare break even the least observed law. Perhaps we should change the town slogan to "Hebden Bridge - Not A Sinner In Sight"!!
Posted by Dave H
Gerry Pyves, the originator of this unsolicited spam writes "...The reason for doing this form of advertising is to avoid the ecological cost of direct mailing – something which I believe a place like Hebden fully supports!".
Once again, a company trying to leverage un-reasonable behaviour on Hebden Bridge under the pretence that it is saving the environment ' and should therefore be more palletable for you lot of greenies..'?
Gerry suggests there are only two options - spam everyone or junk mail. Can I point out the obvious - why not pay to advertise on local websites such as this, like most other local business do?
Anthony, I don't think there's a need to have a go at Jonny. As we've seen from the recent Big Brother show those who don't have the skills to argue a point rationally often revert to insulting behaviour. This says more about the individual rather than the issue.
In my working life I often come across people who think the law is only for other people. Their defence is their interpretation, after all they were only applying 'common sense.'
Laws not only exist to punish but also to deter and ultimately prevent. I'm sure had Mr Pyves known his actions were illegal, he wouldn't have undertaken this marketing activity. By outlining the basics of the applicable law on issues such as this, the public becomes more aware of legislation and are therefore more able to avoid potential expensive 'mistakes'.
Since this labour government came into power they have created 3,023 new criminal offences, many of which are not known by the general public.
As well as the 'spam' regulations is now illegal to sell grey squirrels, import polish potatoes, enter the hull of the titanic or fail to nominate a key-holder should you be away when your house alarm goes off!
With so many unknown pitfalls should we really be surprised that our jails are full? Especially, if like Mr Marascalco, the only defence is 'common sense' or the 'spirit of the law'…
From Rev Tony Buglass
Thanks to John Morrison - he's just cleared up a mystery for me. I wondered why I hadn't received this awful email, and it's suddenly become clear: I don't really exist, so he couldn't send it to me! I'm fictitious! Now, if only I could persuade the other spam merchants that I don't exist. And the tax man.
There should be advantages to being a fictitious character. I should be able to recast myself - perhaps a bit taller, a couple of stones lighter, a couple of decades younger. What about being played by Daniel Craig, or George Clooney?
Of course, the downside is that it implies certain things about my children's legitimacy. And my wife's imagination. And the mental health of the folk of Hebden Bridge who think they see this guy in a beard and a dog-collar.
Who said reality is an illusion brought on by a deficiency of alcohol...?
From Burty Glavnesso
I'm with you Rev, being fictional does have many advantages. Although sadly in my case it didn't extend to not receiving spam.
I got this e-mail several times. It was becoming an irritant. I replied asking to be unsubscribed and received a reply saying we had been removed from the list. Most of the spam I receive I would never reply to which says it all really. I knew they were local, knew they would respond - and they did.
Posted by John Morrison
My apologies to the Rev Tony for sugggesting he’s a fictional character. But if he’s not the hero of a series of books (sort of ‘Father Brown’ meets ‘Heartbeat’), then he really ought to be.
From Rev Tony Buglass
Cracking idea, Gromit!!
From Gerry Pyves
I have just only just popped into the Hebden Bridge Web site and read the debate with interest and surprise.
It is quite clear that I was missing something and that I made a mistake in using the Internet to contact local people and for this I apologise. Members of the forum can rest assured that I will not do this again!
Easter is coming soon so perhaps I should carry the cross up the hill and receive the flagellation I deserve! Righteous anti-spammers could line the road with their whips knotted with frustration at all the spam they ever received...
I also would like to make it prefectly clear that I own no shares in any Viagra or puddendi enlargment companies! Nor do I go round duffing up drunks or robbing people's houses...
More seriously, I want to reassure forum members that like many other Hebden Bridge businesses, we are a genuine company employing local people using local resources and doing our little bit to try and make the world a better place. I certainly did not intend to irritate the good folk of Hebden Bridge so I clearly made a mistake there!
In my book an apology is meaningless unless backed by an action and so I would like to offer anyone on the web forum who feels aggrieved at the emails you received, a free clothed massage.
I appreciate that feelings do run high regarding privacy and for my breach of that I genuinely apologise.