If you have tried to reach this blog or the Advice Sisters Web Site in the past 24 hours and found you couldn’t get into it, here’s why:
I write an ezine on beauty/fashion/travel/relationship/and general issues on a bi-monthly basis. I send it free of charge to about 1,000 subscribers. If you want to get it too, you can, but you must request it: http://www.advicesisters.net/thankyou.html
This week, I also decided to use the latest version of the zine as a “writing sample, ” since I am a freelance writer as well as a life & career expert, and I am always looking for online and print writing and editing jobs. I also sent it to a few fashion designers and their publicists since I am registered as press for Olympus Fashion Week but some may not know me, and the writing samples shows them the type of coverage they can expect.
In the 13+ years I’ve been working online, I have occasionally sent writing samples of various types to people who might possibly be interested in my work, always with a personally-generated note attached and assuring them that they were not on any lists unless they wanted to be. Until yesterday, I didn’t believe that this would be considered as “spam.”
Apparently, I was wrong.
After I sent a note an this ezine writing sample to someone as an introduction, apparently that person was either having a bad day or decided to make sure I had one. They had enough extra time on their hands to report me to my service provider (Godaddy) as a spammer.
Goddady immediately sent me a threatening email demanding “proof” that I wasn’t a spammer. I told them the situation, gave them the information they demanded, and I thought that would be the end of it.
Over the course of the day, after receiving three increasingly threatening emails (with no name or contact information on them) demanding this thing or that thing (which I dutifully provided, immediately), I assumed they would realize that I didn’t spam anyone and that would be the end of it.
I awakened on Thursday morning early to find a curt email informing me that Godaddy had considered the matter and that (according to them) I was definitely a spammer. Futhermore, they had swiftly already pulled my web site, my domain, my blog, my forums, my email and everything else that I do electronically for the Advice Sisters. However, despite their supposed tough stance of spammer, for an “abuse fee” of $199 they would re-instate everything. Apprently, money washes a spammers “sins” (large or small) and you can use a credit card.
I spent nearly two hours (long distance, at my expense) on the phone with both the abuse manager and his supervisor (and I’d give you their names but who knows if I would be violating some other abuse policy– I still can’t find it on their web site). During two of the most frustrating conversations I have ever had with strangers, I tried to convince them that I wasn’t a spammer and asked specifically how my email was a “violation” worthy of the expense and choas they had caused me.
Here is what I did wrong:
According to Godaddy.com (my service provider), the fact that I sent even ONE EMAIL to ONE PERSON that was unsolicited, makes me a spammer. When I suggested that people send letters all the time to strangers for this thing or that, they said that the only “safe” way to send email is to ask for permission first, to actaully send an email!!! When I countered that on a daily basis this was impractical, that anyone could still claim I had spammed them just to hurt me or because they were having a bad day, and that under their guidelines even the permission email could also be considered as spam and reported as such (for which I would be “punished” again), they simply said I should get an opt-in program and use it for every single contact I ever get from now on, and that I could either pay $199 immediately on my credit card, or move my site elsewhere. No amount of logic could get them to change their mind. I was charged guilty with no chance of proving myself innocent. These guys were just out to get my $199 and “teach me a lesson.”
Well, I had just re-done major parts of my website, my blog, the forums, I published an Ezine, and of course, I’m waiting for invites for Fashion Week through my email, so I had no choice but to pay.
But—that’s not the end of the story.
After I DID pay, the site wasn’t immediately re-instated and countless people now assume the advicesisters doesn’t work and that my email address is incorrect. I spent another 1 1/2 hours long distance on the phone (at my expense and until my my phone ran out of batteries and cut me off) trying to figure out why the site wasn’t back up (which it wasn’t, until Friday morning).
This has cost me a great deal in money, time and anxiety. I dislike spam as much as the next person, and I appreciate the fact that some service providers are “tough” on spam, but Godaddy has been just ridiculous! There is a difference between someone who sends millions of emails to lists of people they do not know, or obscene mail, and someone like me, who innocently sent a personal note with an ezine to someone I thought might want to see it and apparently, didn’t. I am amazed that Godaddy.com wouldn’t allow for the difference. I told them that I was going to let everyone know of my experience and the manager’s response was “GREAT! tell them so they know we are tough on crime.”
Me, a criminal? I have never even gotten a ticket!
Had I not just signed up with them for another couple of years of domain registration and if they weren’t tied into everything I do online, I’d ditch them in a second. For now, all I can do is to tell my tale to all of you and urge you to check your service provider’s spam policy–if you write anything, legit or not, the same thing could happen to you.