Not a joke: A car dealer, Chevrolet, and Sprint walk into my inbox ...

Here we are, decades into the Internet revolution, and businesses large and small are still "alternately clued" about email, opt-in, and online sales funnels

car dealership
Credit: John Lloyd / Flickr

Give us a try--we'd love to earn your business!

Thanks for your time and we are looking forward to earning your business.

Your Friends in the Automotive Industry,

OBX Chevrolet-Buick Sales Staff 

Yesterday I received the above in a message from, according to the email header, someone named “Cory Piddington” but the message was signed in the body by “Your friend in the automotive industry, Tabatha Huacuz, Internet Care Specialist”.

Along with thanking me for time I hadn’t given, the message thanked me for an inquiry I hadn’t made, so I simply deleted it and went on with my life. But would OBX Chevrolet, which is located in Kitty Hawk, NC, about 2,793 miles away from me by road, leave it at that? As you might guess, the answer was “no.”

Some 24 hours later Cory Piddington, now masquerading as Marc Hellman, General Manager, emails me again thanking me for my non-existent Internet inquiry and offers to assist me assuring “We are only interested in your complete satisfaction.”

Twenty minutes later I get a third message from Cory now masquerading as Lisa Hall who is, so the sig claims, not just an “Internet Care Specialist” but instead an “Internet Customer Care Specialist”. This time I click on the unsubscribe link, go through the motions to stop the messages, and minutes later get another message from Cory/Lisa that reads:

The purpose of my first email to to [stet] get acquainted with you and see how I might assists [stet] you. Are you looking for anything in particular?

I respond with, shall we say, a terse and to the point reply. Minutes later a reply message arrives without body content and with the terse subject “Removed” … which was fine though, Lisa (or Cory) was, in common with many similarly "alternately clued" organizations, obviously annoyed that I should be annoyed.

Now, when I’ve had the misfortune to actually speak or exchange email with the people behind these kinds of sales funnels they almost always adopt an attitude that says, “Come on, how hard is it to unsubscribe?” The answer, if I bothered to engage with them, would be “It’s not hard but it is a huge and unecessary waste of my time and if you were to find yourself unsubscribing from lists two, three, or four times a day, every day, you’d get pretty tired of it too, not to mention pretty pissed off.”

In the case OBX Chevrolet I suspect they have some kind of ad hoc sales funnel in place and its lack of discipline is what made the mess o’ messages happen.

I suspect that this was all started by yet another problem, not verifying email addresses. In this case of OBX Chevrolet the address used by whoever sent them the original request (probably via an online form) was one I’ve used, literally,for decades, and it's one that every now and then someone seems to think is theirs.

The same problem applies to my Gmail address which, currently, a poor, deluded soul in Indianapolis with the same name as me is convinced is really his email address. I actually called him on the phone when I started getting email from Sprint intended for him (it was from a new line order that I got Mr. Gibbs’ home telephone and street address … it’s amazing how much information Sprint supplies without verifying the recipient) and no matter what I said I couldn’t convince him that the email address wasn’t his. Sprint has since continued sending messages about his billing every month and there’s no way to tell them they’re wrong.

And he’s still at it! Just this morning Mr. Gibbs used my email address to, weirdly, sign up for some newsletter from Chevrolet and request information on the Camaro (a terrible choice of car, Mark, unless you‘re a boy racer). You might think that an organization as large and established as Chevrolet would have heard of double opt-in but you’d be wrong … or they just don’t care because it’s easier not to mess around with those mere details.

The low-level noise generated by unwanted subscriptions, lack of address validation, and sheer sloppiness in online business processes needs to be addressed somehow because as even more people start using the Internet and mobile business continues to explode the noise can only get worse and it just makes everything on-line just that much harder, that much messier, and that much more error-prone. And that much more annoying.

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