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Stupid Direct Marketing Tricks: You have (junk e-) mail!

February 26, 2001 

It took mankind multi-thousands of years to give birth to movable type, which revolutionized communications by taking the printed word to the masses. It took hundreds more years for broadcasting to come along and bring sound and then moving pictures to the people. Then it only took a few decades more for the Internet to be invented and for every Tom, Dick and Harriet with a computer to have access to that mother of all killer apps, e-mail. And, after its advent, it only took half a nanosecond for someone to find a way to become the scourge of all e-mail recipients: a spammer.

OK, spam's not as bad as junk faxes, because it doesn't eat up your expensive fax paper, wear out your machine's moving parts, or keep you from receiving an infinitely more important message. And it's not as bad as junk phone calls that tie up your phone line while, simultaneously, causing your hot dinner to go cold. But it's still annoying to be notified that you've received 14 e-mails only to discover that 13 of them are from companies that don't know you and your needs from

That said, you still have to admire some of them for their sheer nerve and their understanding that for every e-mail subscriber with half a brain, there are many more with less.

A piece of spam that caught my attention recently, because it involves part of my industry, was one for that perennial get-rich-at-home-without-breaking-a-sweat scheme: stuffing envelopes.

The copy stated I could work in the comfort of my own home, choose my hours and set my own pace. I wouldn't have to leave my present job and I could even get my family and friends to join in. Sounded pretty good to me.

Now, dear reader, you may be saying, watch out, Bob, this isn't a job for amateurs. Pas de problem; the e-mail specifically stated, "NO EXPERIENCE OR SPECIAL SKILLS REQUIRED. Our HOME MAILER'S PROGRAM is designed especially for people with little or no business experience." And, best of all, I can choose whether I wish to make $500 each week or $1,000 or more.

Copyright © 1986-2001 Brunico Communications, Inc. By Bob Knight

As if their economic helpfulness wasn't enough, they went on to assist me in other ways, such as informing me that "There are more fraudulent envelope addressing and chain letter schemes being sold today..." and "[we] recommend you avoid them."

I couldn't help but wonder about the first part of that quote, though, in that it used the word "more." Did they mean theirs is just less fraudulent than their competitors'?

But why get picky about semantics when "the next few minutes can literally change your life." Just think, in my case and those of others involved in direct mail, there's no longer the need to spend money having a mailhouse stuff, seal and sort mass mailings - now we can actually earn money doing it ourselves. Just send $19.95 to get the kit and you're in business.

Despite their oh-so-sincere exhortation, I did have one question, though: Why are companies going to pay amateur-me $2 for each envelope I stuff when they can have it done more quickly and professionally by machine for mere pennies?

Then the answer came to me - via another piece of spam: because I'll be able to promote myself better than competing technologies thanks to a "first class, custom Web site for only $349 complete (plus $19.95/month)." And these guys obviously understood me and how busy I planned to be stuffing and licking. They told me to "spend your time making money and let us built (sic) (your Web site) however you want it to look."

One thing I immediately decided - I didn't want my site to look anything like their garish blue and red e-mail, with multi-sized type and a multitude of typefaces. Neither did I want my Web site to feature the kind of typo and typesetting problems they had on theirs. To cite one of several examples: "PLEASE (inexplicable blank space) SELECTNew SiteSite Re-design." Say what??

While trying to decipher the message proffered by these spamming Web professionals, my mind began to wander past the practicalities of promoting my way to a small fortune in envelopes. It shifted instead onto those of protecting my loved ones from the possible loss of my sure-to-be-greatly-enhanced future income. I started worrying: What if my family no sooner gets used to caviar, yachts and polo matches made possible by my becoming a human lettershop than I succumb to a fatally gangrenous paper cut to the tongue?

I needn't have worried. An e-mailer named "" advised me, "Save up to 70% on your Life Insurance - FREE Quote." They invited me to check out their monthly rates, which I present here verbatim: "$250,000 $500,000 $1,000,000 Age Male Female Male Female Male Female 30$12$11 $19$15$31$... And on it went. Admittedly, I've never been great at understanding legalese on insurance forms, but this gobbledygook would have anyone baffled.

Then they asked me to fill out their form, which read exactly as follows: "*All Fields requiredFirst Name: Last Name: Address: City:State:Zip:Day Phone: (xxx-xxx-xxxx) Evening Phone: Fax: (xxx-xxx-xxxx)Email: Male or Female:Date of Birth: (mm/dd/yy)Type..." and continued on for another 23 lines.

Afterwards they informed me, in all-caps, that "THIS IS NOT AN OFFER OR CONTRACT TO BUY INSURANCE PRODUCTS." I should hope not. Soon-to-be-wealthy envelope stuffers prefer to deal with insurers who communicate a tad more clearly.

Or maybe I'd be able to comprehend it if only I had a "bachelors, masters, MBA or PhD diploma in the field of my choice" from one of several "prestigious non-accredited universities" where "no one is turned down."

Even though "no school is required" I may just learn enough to be able to understand the ramblings of insurer

But, on the other hand, if I spend my waking hours doing that, I might not have time to learn how to "Get Bills MARKED PAID for Pennies On The Dollar" or "set better goals - right down to the smallest details and action steps."

And I certainly would be too occupied to find out about "cataclysmic, world-shaking events [that] are coming." I barely had time to read the four-page e-mail I received about it.

And learn how to increase my sex drive, as promised by one spammer? Only if, as with the insurer, I spend incalculable hours learning to decipher the six pages of code that appeared on that e-mail in lieu of actual words.

You know, I've gone on so much about becoming a stuffer and licker of envelopes, you may think that's my only economic option besides running Knight & Associates. Far from it. One spammer has invited me to "come and get CASH" from the "highest payout on the net." Another has promised to relieve me of "a job with too little pay and too many hours with no personal reward and even less future."

Plus, I have a lucrative future ahead of me even if I decline to accept all of the previously mentioned methods of reaching riches. That's because I've also been informed through e-mail that I can "retire in the next 2-5 years with enough income to have REAL Financial Independence and Freedom." And I'll get busy on it or another road-to-riches scheme I've learned about through spam if I can ever finish reading all the unsolicited e-mail sitting in my in-box.

Bob Knight of Knight & Associates works in a variety of media, including e-mail. No, he's not a fan of spam, but he's not overly concerned about it and won't be...until the day spammers learn to spell and write proper code. Once they are able to communicate properly with the gullible, he asserts, there may be no stopping them. If you have a non-spam e-campaign coming up or any other type of direct marketing program you want help with, e-mail Bob at

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