I met a spammer not that long ago. A middle-aged woman with a charming, if incredibly self-possessed, demeanor and more brazen than a stripper. While she described herself as an "internet marketer," it was clear from her description that what she disseminated was spam. She came into our store once and informed my husband that she wanted him to set up a meeting of his employees, so she could show them how much money they could make sending emails for her. She ended that arrogant request with an engaging smile, which seemed to suggest that people generally complied with her demands. I thought my husband's ears would blow off. Instead, showing remarkable restraint, he offered to throw her out the door in case she couldn't find it on her own.
But I'm betting she found takers elsewhere. So, when I say I met a spammer, I mean one I know for sure. How many others have we all met, who, either through shame or self-preservation, hide what they do? How many of our friends and neighbors lament on the general busyness of life to our faces, only to go home and pump out the crap we have to wade through to get to our email?
I can't help wondering who makes their efforts worthwhile. Does anyone really have such a desperate need for male enhancement products, investment schemes, bogus prescriptive drugs, and other products I can't discern since they're written in Asian characters and Cyrillic letters, that they fork over their hard-earned money for them?
The sad thing is that many of us have become spammers, too, albeit in a more limited way. I belong to the local chapter of a national organization of women business owners. At our meetings, we typically exchange business cards. While most of the women I meet don't regard that activity as any more than a quaint business practice, within days, if not hours, a few begin a relentless email campaign, while others subscribe me to newsletters against my will.
I wish I could say that we in the writing and publishing world behave any better. Too many authors believe that because they can send tedious notices singing the praises of their books to anyone whose email they can possibly harvest, that they should.
Someone who has sent me countless unsolicited notices regarding a book promotion service, ended with a fairly irate email, in which she insisted that after all the solicitations she'd sent me, I owed her the courtesy of a response. How does courtesy enter into this? When did it become incumbent on the recipient to respond to unwanted solicitations?
I think I've already written here about one writer who sent so many and such huge emails to our store email address, that it exceeded the size of our mailbox to such an extent, it reset the box, causing us to lose all the emails we'd saved, including those necessary for months of future author signings. I lost all my writing time that week, and my husband fell behind in his work, while we tried to rectify what one "I want you to stock my book!" author had done. And when I email this author back, to ask her to quit assaulting us with those solicitations, my request bounced back. I guess she didn't want any booksellers filling her mailbox with any of that nasty spam.
Recently, an ethnic-religious publisher sent us more than thirty emails about a single book that, given our demographics, we were unlikely to carry even before they entered the when-hell-freezes-over zone. 30+! Actually, they're still coming, though fortunately to an address we don't use much anymore, so it's anyone's guess what the final count will be. In their personal lives, do these people find that having a hammer applied repeatedly to the sides of their heads makes them more inclined to do something?
Remember when email was supposed to make our lives easier?