The View from Landmark

Trends and issues in personal computing from Bud Stolker, a long-time PC consultant. The View from Landmark features tips and techniques to make time spent with your computer more productive and rewarding, commentary on new personal computer policies and trends, plain-English explanations of new hardware, software, and network designs and their relevance to you, and answers to common questions. There may be personal material interspersed if Bud believes it is of general interest.

Thursday, March 30, 2006 in 21st Century cyberspace: clueless

I get a lot of misaddressed mail. I own the domain, and any mail addressed to comes to me.

It's a particular problem since there are three schools for kids with language-based learning disabilities, dyslexia, or attention-deficit disorder that use variations of the Landmark name: Landmark College in Putney, Vermont, Landmark School in Prides Crossing, Massachusetts, and Landmark East School in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.

When I get misaddressed messages I write back, often pointing the sender to my page with other Landmark email addresses.

Occasionally I find myself added to corporate mailing lists, and when that happens I unsubscribe.

But sometimes there's a situation where I cannot just unsubscribe, because the email address is in a password-protected account.

There's no excuse for a corporation to add an email address to an account without validating it. Even large companies do it, and then prove surprisingly clueless when it comes to removing that address.

Case in point:

My email to Borders:


I just spoke with a customer service rep at your organization and am
not convinced she handled my issue. She sounded annoyed, and then
almost instantly said she had fulfilled my request. When I asked to be
bumped up to a supervisor she agreed -- reluctantly, I thought -- and
then I was cut off.

So here's my issue:

Someone signed up for the Borders Reward Card program using the email
address That's an incorrect email
address. I own the domain, and mail addressed
to ANY name comes to me. It happens a lot,
and I spend a lot of time chasing these things down so I don't get
everyone's email! (I even have a Web page devoted to address
corrections: .)

The email message that I received directed me to a Web page to
unsubscribe, but it turns out I cannot unsubscribe or change the email
address without punching in a Borders Reward Card number.

How rude! So now I can expect to get mail in perpetuity from Borders
-- with no way to get off that list but to call your company and/or
write an email.

Two requests:

1. Please confirm that was removed
from your mailing list this morning.

2. Please come into the 21st Century and start using a "double-opt-in"
procedure for adding names to your mailing list:

a. Customer signs up.
b. Customer receives an email thanking them and asking them to confirm their email address.
c. Customer is added to the mailing list only if they confirm the address.

It's common sense, and most large organizations are already using that
procedure or are considering adopting it. It ensures that emails like
this don't have to be written, and that bad feelings are not generated.

Thanks for listening. I await your response.

Borders' response:

. . . Unfortunately, I was not able to locate the email address in our Borders Rewards database. Possibly the Customer Service Representative was able to remove the email form our database. I apologize if you were accidentally disconnected during your call to our Customer Contact Center. If you like you can call back our Borders Rewards Customer Care line toll free at 800.443.7359 for confirmation. I apologize for the frustration this has caused.

We appreciate your feedback and your patience with the process and look forward to resolving this issue as soon as possible.

Borders Rewards Customer Care

It would be nice if that were the end of it, but the next day another misaddressed email arrived from Borders.

I wrote again:

Hello, Scott, and thanks for your response.

Despite your assurances that is off your mailing list, I received another message sent by Borders to that email address this morning, entitled "the Shortlist: Of Codes, Kong & Coupons".

I don't know exactly how Borders handles its mailing lists, but it seems to me in this regard it has done a poor job.

First, Borders allowed an inappropriate email address to be added to its mailing list without requiring any kind of confirmation.
Second, Borders, by requiring me to furnish a Borders Reward Card program which I do not have (since I am not kwilson), caused me to call, then to write a personal note to try to get the address removed from the mailing list. Time-consuming and annoying.
Third, although Borders tells me it cannot find on its mailing list, the mailings continue.
And fourth, although you included my original complaint at the bottom of your response, it's reproduced with html formatting tags in the text, making it very hard for anyone to figure out what I said in the first place.

Nice work, guys! I'm forwarding copies of this message to the President of Borders and to your Webmaster in the hope that somebody somewhere will nudge Borders into the 21st Century, requiring a simple "double opt-in" procedure for adding customers to your mailing lists (Double opt-in is described in my original message).

I am also copying this correspondence to my blog for clients at as an example of how clueless a large corporation can be.

Please take off all of your mailing lists and confirm that you have done so.

How hard can that be?

(End note: The followup from Borders was utterly ineffectual and indicated that they have written off this issue. I'll pick it up next time I get another misaddressed email from them.)