Really Bad Email (RBE)

The blog that documents really bad emails. These are commercial emails from "real companies" that qualify for being truly "the worst" across a spectrum. Badly made, in bad taste, exploitative, or just awful emails all can qualify. Usually, the author of these emails is trying to be serious about their product, but ... it just doesn't work!

Monday, December 15, 2008

BJ's: Final flurry - hurry for holiday delivery

Emailing Company:BJ's Wholesale Club
Subject:Final flurry -- hurry for holiday delivery
Date Sent:December 15, 2008

BIG Problem #1: All Images. Like a lot of commercial emails, BJ's has gone overboard on the "image block". In most versions of Microsoft Outlook, this message's images are "blocked" and come out with the dreaded RED X instead. What you see is a blizzard of missing images and an incomprehensible message.

BIG Problem #2: Construction and Technical. Besides the major problem with images, the message is way too long. If the reader's don't just ignore it, they will quickly unsubcribe or mark as spam.

Summary: Keep it simple, and start with some text at the top. Invite the reader into the message without forcing a click to "accept images". To force me to take action just to see your message is an example of a Really Bad Email.

Image of Email:

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Zinio: Winter Sale! Warm up Now with Playboy's Hot Special Editions at up to 50% Off.

Emailing Company:Zinio
Subject:Winter Sale! Warm up Now with Playboy's Hot Special Editions at up to 50% Off.
Date Sent:December 13, 2008

Problem #1: Topic and Audience. This company seems to think I want soft-core porn sent to me. I subscribed to one of their magazines (Esquire?) -- it was free I believe -- and I think I gave up on their "Reader" program after a few times... too slow, and did weird things to my machine. I would still like to read a digital magazine, but probably from somewhere else.

Now that they have used my personal information for a "real" magazine, they are pushing this garbage to me. It's embarrassing to have this stuff pop up on your screen at work! They abused their "opt in" rights by sending this!

Problem #2: Construction and Technical. The mail was missing their company logo and a number of other key images. I confirmed that the image links were not working by checking the image locations. Luckily (or not!) all the nice little magazine covers showed up. If I really wanted these magazines, however, there are way too many images and the message really goes on for too long IMO.

Summary: They risk losing people quickly. After I hit "unsubscribe" I will ask to be removed forever. If they had asked what I might want to receive (in other words, content I might like???) the idea of sending some magazine offers might be OK. But to be spammed with near-porn is an example of a Really Bad Email.

Image of Email:

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Resource for the "Best Email Programs:"

While I am amused by the Really Bad Email out there, it's nice to have resources for the "Good Emails".

A blog that is helpful, and has excellent resource links, is one sponsored by Exact Target, and is located at

The article on "A Message to Retailers: How to Make Money on Email Marketing this Fall" explains a number of the problems emailers have, including the "all image" email problem.

(NOTE: Exact Target's blurb is: "Email marketing software that makes it easy to create, track and send professional HTML email campaigns, newsletters, surveys and one-to-one marketing". I am not affiliated with them in any way.)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 ... Keeping clean for business mails

I get quite of bit of email from folks who have "harvested" my name in a personal way (not mass harvesting). They know at least who I am enough to target their message. We're talking "company" messages here (not spammers). The companies range from telephone companies, technology companies, office suppliers ... the usual bunch. Many are from an individual within the company who is "cold calling" via email rather than phone. The mails are not exciting enough to reprint here, but anyone in a company probably gets these.

The major problem with these messages is that most don't fully conform to the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 (Good round up at Wikipedia -

For example, they usually don't provide an opt-out. Now, even without an explicit opt-out button, putting full contact information (including postal address), can cover the bases, but many forget to do this. The best approach: put a soft opt-out message (i.e., "just reply back and say remove if you don't want to hear from me again") to at least acknowledge the reader... and stay legal!