spam

Talking trash with my email

October 10, 2012: 5:00 AM ET

Even the companies I love get on my electronic nerves.

FORTUNE -- I was sleeping the other night, which I do when all my electronics go mute for a few hours between the last text message and the first e-mail. Suddenly, I awoke. I felt as if there were somebody in the room with me. But no, I was alone, as alone as a person can be who sleeps with a BlackBerry, laptop, and iPad strewn across the bed. Then I heard a voice close by, almost too faint to hear. "Help!" it said. "Please open me! I have an important marketing message targeted to your individual needs!"

I sat up and turned on the light. I thought I must be going crazy. "Come on!" pleaded the voice, which seemed to be coming from my laptop. "I came in last Thursday and now I'm in your Deleted Files box! Let me out of here!" A whole bunch of similar, tiny entreaties erupted from the machine. "And me, Boss!" "How 'bout me?"

I flipped open the laptop, and there they all were, the little pests -- all the rejects that automatically got sent to electronic purgatory by the Update button that says, "Add Sender to Blocked Senders List."

"Okay, you guys. Settle down," I said. "I'll take you one by one. If you have anything to offer me, I'll reinstate you."

They lined up in polite single file for scrutiny.

First and most recent came an unsolicited e-mail with the subject line "Meeting on the 18th, 19th, or 20th?" This is a new gambit by sales guys, brokers, and other petitioners. They suggest a date for a get-together, out of the blue. This one was from the vice president of a firm that "provides corporations with solutions to share highly sensitive documents with internal and external parties." I have no interest in this subject. But that wasn't its major problem. The salutation read: "Dear %%First Name%%."

"Get out of here," I said to the e-mail from morons who can't format a mass e-mail. It slunk back into deletion.

Next there was a missive from "Training: New OMB/NARA Records Mgmt Memo," followed by the bracketed address of the associated website. The subject line read, "Training on the 27th: New Managing Records Directive from OMB/NARA."

"Go away," I said. "You are too boring to live."

"How 'bout us, Boss?" said informational bulletins from Nikon, Adobe, Ritz-Carlton, Hilton Hotels, Amazon, and, of course, iTunes. "You love each and every one of us! What are we doing here with all this leftover spam?"

"You know you guys are my favorites," I said kindly. "But it's too much! It's all ... too much. You come around every day, every couple of days, sometimes several days in a row. I can't commit to that kind of relationship. I already have more than 20,000 pieces of mail in my in-box, and that's after massive pruning."

This was getting silly, and I was tired. "Be gone, all of you!" I shouted. "I'm going back to sleep."

The next thing I knew, birds were chirping. I rolled over and did what I do every day, first thing. I took a peek at my in-box. How do you like that? I thought. There they were, hiding behind the legitimate morning stuff from friends, enemies, and the research department. JetBlue. Brooks Brothers. Some guys promising a "Breakthrough PR Influencer Identification Solution." Feh!

I can't explain what happened next. I started to send all these guys to join their unwanted brothers, but then I froze. What was the mystery offer from JetBlue? Perhaps it was a free trip to Paris! The full weight of what I might be missing smote me like a mackerel. I unblocked them all. I'm opening my arms to the digital universe.

By the way, did you know that the L.A. Times' deal of the day is a free key chain from Greenstein & Milbauer LLP? All you have to do is fill out the contact questionnaire!

This story is from the October 8, 2012 issue of Fortune.

Follow Stanley Bing at stanleybing.com and on Twitter at @thebingblog.

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