What’s the etiquette of unsubscribing from a friend or colleague’s list?

I have a *lot* of email addresses, some of them belonging more to earlier stages of my business activities but no longer really fitting in with what I do now.

I’d like to close some of them off, especially the ones that have become spam-attractors.

You know, the ones you put as hot-linked addresses on a website before you realized that was a *really* good way to help the spammers? Or that address you *only* used for friends and close business associates but one day, or several times, a friend who did not know better sent one of those alerts for the virus that is about to devour all the hard discs on the planet, and the spammers happily harvested your address and several million others?

Trouble is, as I find each time I start this culling exercise, various addresses I no longer need are the ones which I used to sign up for various newsletters. Or they were on a business card and someone I met at a function assumed that, by giving them my business card, I was asking to be be sent, for the rest of my life, their newsletters that I did not in fact ask for and which I never read.

Now, if the newsletter senders had an up to date system for amending my address, as for example AWeber provides (screenshot above) I could put off the evil day of unsubscribing and maybe offending someone I don’t want to offend and just have a re-direct for those newsletters into a folder which I treat as a specialized junk folder and purge every now and again. I know, inefficient, morally pathetic, stuck at Wimp Junction: but hey, there are just so many decisions you want to make in a given day, aren’t there?

But what I find is that some of the people sending me their newsletter don’t have a way for me to change my address. What they do regularly have are really primitive “systems” for unsubscribing, as in, send us an email requesting that you be unsubscribed. Or just having a “sudden death” unsubscribe option.

Or, as with one just now, having a form for me to fill out with my first and last name and email address (now, which one was I unsubscribing from here?) and then having to click through to two more pages before the transaction was complete.

So what I do, faced with these dilemmas, is to start listing the people I need to contact to get them to change my address. Then, typically, I get bored with that process and tell myself it is not such a big deal to come by now and again and clean out the spam.

But although it’s no biggy, it is an irritant.

And it’s made me conscious of the need to have an easy, painless unsubscribe system for anything I send out. Even good friends and close business colleagues might simply not want to get a newsletter from me and that’s their choice. I don’t want people getting frustrated when they see an email from me. I want them to smile!

I think I would like it if someone could design an unsubscribe system which allowed the person bent upon unsubscribing to check a box for a message to the person who is about to lose a subscriber saying something like:

  • I hate to unsubscribe but I need to reorganize all my email and hope to be able to re-subscribe one day
  • Sorry I have to unsubscribe, but my doctor says if I want to live longer I have to stop reading all these newsletters and signing up for courses

Or a field where you could create your own excuse.

On second thoughts, just make it a simple, one or two click process to either change the address or unsubscribe. Just the email address. We don’t need first and last names for an email address to be removed and the unsubscribing user knows that. We don’t need to ask irritating questions before we accept the unsubscribe. Make it as painless and friction-free as possible: who knows, some may feel so good about that as to re-subscribe one day.

The AWeber unsubscribe system works well in terms of painlessness and there is some scope to customize the unsubscribe page. I’d like to be able to work out how to make it bit more user-friendly.

There is a page, after you hit the unsubscribe, that asks for comments as to how the list owner could provide better service, but it is not a required field: i.e. the unsubscription does not depend on its being completed.

What’s your tip for painless unsubscribing?  Or do you put it off too?

PS: this post has been submitted to Problogger’s Killer Titles – Group Writing Project [Win a Prize]; check it out

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