Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Spammed!

Published on 13-Feb-2001, at "TheMarker.com" (a business and technology Israeli site). Translated from Hebrew by "TheMarker.com".



A year ago, I signed up with "Internet Gold" to get Internet service.

One day daily emails began to arrive, containing advertisements, special deals, discounts and sundry annoyances, sponsored by my Internet service provider. The email did not explain how to make itself disappear.

I called customer service and asked them to make it go away. They informed me that I could not be removed from their list of addressees, it’s part of the subscription. Technically impossible.

Lacking the willpower to argue, I canceled my account with Internet Gold and moved to Surfree, which I learned its theme should be "come for the price, flee from the service". That didn’t last long.

Finally I found myself back with my first original ISP, good ol’ NetVision. I defrosted a frozen subscription and settled down to surf.



Deja vu
One day, emails began to arrive. Every day. From a sender called Adca.net, a play on the Hebrew words for "update" and "Net".
I didn’t remember asking for daily missives from Adca.net. The daily email contained a few lines, not including a way to unsubscribe, and an HTML file. The first thing that sprung to mind was that it was a virus, but tests showed that not to be the case.

I opened the file and discovered that it collated content from the Internet, including ads. Nor did this file explain how to get rid of it.
Reading the content showed it to be a collection of news and gossip, new and used. Nothing that hadn’t been done before. I decided to ignore the whole thing and ran a filter to automatically delete the daily email.

But it didn’t stop and it got on my nerves. I decided to track down the source and strangle it.

The HTML file contained a link to Adca.net. You want it? Here. Turned out that the
site belonged to People and Computers, a group with vast experience in being a pain. Their site didn’t offer a way to stop the emails. It offered only a telephone number to subscribe. (What kind of moron would want to terminate a service as wonderful and indispensable as that anyway.)

I called and asked them to stop sending me emails. I gave them my email address, only to learn that I was not registered with them. Then the germ of an idea arose over there. "Could you be getting it through NetVision?" the customer servicer asked. I mumbled something. "They’ve got this special service package. Ask their customer service department," Adca.net advised.


Some things you can count on

On Thursday, February 1, 2001, going by the Gregorian calendar, I somehow got my shaking hands and blood pressure under control and dialed good ol’ NetVision.

"@&*(#&*!!!" I asked.

"All new customers automatically receive this service," drawled the customer serviceperson. "You shoulda read the contract."

"But I’m not a new customer, I’m an old defrosted one," I protested with all the calmness of Krakatoa before the eruption.

"That’s really interesting. This is how it works. The system may think you’re a new subscriber so it’s mailing you. You know that only the first month is free, then it costs you?" advised the customer serviceperson.

Sure. "Got it. I want you to delete me immediately from the distribution list." The tectonic plates began to crawl over the compressed, boiling lava.

"No problemo," reassured the customer serviceperson. I gave over my details and sat back to simmer down.

A week passed, throughout which the email bearing my favorite news&gossip arrived day in and day out like Swiss clockwork. I waited for Adca.net and NetVision to move their creaking cogs in their massive computers. A week later I called NetVision’s customer service department again and acidly but courteously demanded instant removal from their distribution list.

Some sweet thing at the NetVision CR department apologized and said it wasn’t only up to NetVision. They had to transfer the request to Adca.net.
Read: NetVision is handing over the names and details of its subscribers to a third party, probably for money. Interesting, isn’t it?


Just try to get netiquette services
I waited another day. The flood did not abate. I called again and asked to speak with a company spokesperson. But I was told that I could only speak with customer service, or with customer relations (the last bastion before the subscriber abandons ship). I demanded the manager, who called me back very late indeed.

Sarit the manager apologized, repeated what her underling had said, and promised to handle my problem personally.

I asked Sarit why NetVision, an ISP, forces its clients to receive spam as an integral part of its service, specified in its contract (does anybody gets the contract papers? How many incur charges after the first month without realizing a thing?) Clearly the service is not an essential component of Internet connection.

"Customers demand this service and the company has to meet customer and market demands," Sarit answered without a second’s hesitation.

I was speechless. Clearly I had never grasped the existential narrative of an "Internet service provider".

"You ever heard of netiquette?" I asked, when I had recovered my breath.

"Sorry," said Sarit, "I never heard of that service."

Curtains. Applause! The crowd goes insane! Encore! Encore!


Can’t just say No
TheMarker.com demanded that I obtain a response from NetVision’s spokeswoman. She said that all salespersons were directed to advise potential clients that Adca.net is part of the registration process, and that my case was an unusual one because I had been removed from the freezer, not joined as a new subscriber. They’d look into it.

I don’t like to be an unusual case. I called the sales department. A kind lady named Yael answered. I asked about a 24-hour type connection. She said that within hours of paying by credit card, I could hook up and use email, and that I’d get the documents pertaining to my connection through good ol’ snail mail. I didn’t have to sign a thing. "That’s it?" I asked. Yes, she said.

To remove any shadow of doubt, to turn over every stone, that night I called again and a nice guy named Tal picked up. He repeated Yael’s lines word for word, but our relations intensified to the point of his taking down my credit details. Adca.net was not mentioned. We parted friends.

I could only conclude that NetVision’s salespeople are either totally undisciplined, or that NetVision doesn’t like giving its customers a chance to say No.


Back at the scene of the crime
I went back to the scene of the crime, Adca.net’s site. Turns out they’re offering the same “special deal” with Internet Gold. Surprise!

As there’s clearly no cybergod anyway, it isn’t surprising that Adca.net has the chutzpah to use the extension "net" as though it were an ISP itself.

When a real ISP sells its subscribers to an aggressive publisher for a few bucks, there’s no difference between the two. Using the extension "net" merely indicates Adca.net’s contempt for customers.

ISPs have long since stopped confining themselves to providing connection to the Internet.
Providing connections has merely become a way to build up a database of users, which they then sell.
So it goes, they have to make a living too.

Connection prices are diving and new rivals pop up like mushrooms.
Under such pressurized conditions, it isn’t surprising that the customer becomes perceived as mooing cash cows.
The only product they can’t sell is ,evidently, netiquette.


1 Comments:

At 1:24 AM, Blogger Corinna Hasofferett said...

Mazal Tov!

 

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