The CXO Clusterbomb

Do you find, like I do, that however rigorous you try to be in checking every “do not email me…” option, you still end up receiving corporate spam, marketing emails from every company you’ve done business with? I think they just ignore those boxes, add you to the marketing list anyway, and hope a few of you won’t bother unsubscribing.

What’s even worse is when you find yourself unable to unsubscribe. This often happens, ironically, because you took the most data-cautious route of all, and refused to sign up for an account. They added your address to the mailing list anyway, and now you’ve got no account to log in to, to change your subscription settings.

The solution to this is either to create an account (and they’ve got you after all, the conniving bastards) or contact customer services. But the latter option is often made deliberately difficult. There’s no email address on the website, or if there is it doesn’t work. The final resort is haemorrhaging cash on a telephone call to Bangalore in which you have to navigate a problem resolution flow chart, which you’re not allowed to see, and which is only described to you indirectly via an intermediary, who speaks the same language as you, but not a mutually intelligible dialect of it.

At the end of the phone call, in which you’ve been told to “click the unsubscribe link” and then explained that you’ve already done this 14 times and you’re still receiving emails, you just know that when the operator has told you they’ve unsubscribed you from the list themselves and the problem is now resolved, all they’ve done is click the same link, and you’ll be receiving more spam from them in less than 24 hours.

I’ve developed a new strategy to fight unsubscribable corporate marketing emails, although it could be applied more widely to get resolution on any customer service issue. I call it the CXO Clusterbomb.

I will describe the exact procedure in a moment. But first, please note that this only works with legitimate companies, operating ostensibly within a legal framework. Your enemy needs to be a corporate marketing system, which is obliged to respect your decision to opt-out once they’ve received it, but which is deliberately making it as difficult as possible for you to communicate with them. This does not apply to the other kind of spam, the viagra adverts and fake banking links being blasted at inboxes around the world by anonymous criminals. The best advice with that sort of spammer is still to ignore them: any response proves your address is valid and ensures more spam.

So, here’s how to execute the CXO Clusterbomb:

1. Send test emails to as many likely email inboxes at the company’s domain as you can think of: customerservices@, customer.services@, support@, marketing@, payroll@, legal@, etc, etc. They don’t need to be related to your problem. Ideally, do this on a weekend.

2. Wait. Hopefully you will receive at least one ‘Out of Office’ reply from an actual employee email address. From this, you should be able to work out the email address schema the company uses, eg, ‘firstname.lastname@company.com‘.

3. Use Wikipedia, Linkedin, Bloomberg, etc, to find out the names of the company’s executive board.

4. Apply the email address schema to the executives’ names, and email your complaint to the entire board. Make sure you include a threat to take the issue to the relevant ombudsman, or whoever is responsible for enforcing compliance in your jurisdiction.

5. Sit back and let the shit roll downhill.

I recently used this to great effect, to remove myself from the corporate spam list of a particularly odious travel booking website.

Executives are busy people, who hate being bothered with this kind of stuff, which is why, when they forward it on down the chain, ripples of panic will spread throughout the middle managers scrambling to get it sorted.

But it has great potential, not just to resolve specific problems in individual cases. If more people were to do this, and CEOs were frequently receiving direct emails from customers who’d got nowhere with the recommended channels, companies might start abandoning their policies of using deliberately obfuscated customer service systems, and investing more resources in actually dealing with their customers’ problems.

2 thoughts on “The CXO Clusterbomb

  1. To save you some effort, the below script mails the common prefixes for you; so you don’t need to manually create lots of mails; you can just keep your list in a text file or maintained in the below code and use that each time.

    #powershell script:
    #learn it here: http://www.microsoftvirtualacademy.com/training-courses/getting-started-with-powershell-3-0-jump-start

    $domain = “jbmadeupdomain.what” #which site are you trying to CXO cluster bomb?
    $me = “me@me.me” #what’s your mail (so you’ll get delivery success notifications)
    $list = “sales,marketing,accountspayable,accounts.payable,accounts,alerts,monitoring,it,support,hr,info,unsubscribe” #comma separated list of common mail prefixes
    $msg = “Your unsubscribe mechanism is faulty; attempting alternative route.” #customise the message should you wish
    $smtpServer = “smtp.mycompany.com” #enter an SMTP server name here; you can also host your own: http://serverfault.com/questions/305539/setting-up-smtp-on-windows-7-iis-7-5
    $smtpPort = 25 #it’s almost always 25

    #actual code to send mails
    $list -split ‘,’ `
    | %{“{0}@{1}” -f ([string]$_).Trim(),([string]$domain).Trim()} `
    | %{
    write-debug (“Mailing {0}” -f $_)
    send-mailmessage -from $me -to $_ -subject (“Unsubscribe {0}” -f $me) -body $msg -priority High -dno onSuccess -smtpServer $smtpServer -port $smtpPort
    }

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