Email unsubscribes: My top nine tactics

Email unsubscribes: My top nine tactics

It recently occurred to me how much time I waste each day clearing spam out of my junk mail folder.

I’m not talking about the true spam, the emails for Viagra, or donkey porn that I didn’t sign up for (honestly).

I’m talking about what we in the email marketing trade call Bacon.

Bacon lies somewhere between emails you really want to get and emails you hate.

It’s generally stuff you signed up for long ago because:

  • You were buying something and genuinely thought you’d like to hear more from the brand
  • You were buying something and forgot to uncheck the newsletter box
  • You donated to a charity and felt you ought to check the newsletter box
  • You joined something and now they’re sending you updates

And of course the main reason: you have no idea why you’re getting emails from this brand, but now they just annoy the crap out of you.

I’ve been receiving some of these emails for years and dutifully not reading them and laboriously deleting them.

But I’ve never taken the time to get rid of them.

Something has to change.

So I’ve decided to clear out my eClutter.

I’m unsubscribing from every email that hits my junk folder this week. So far I’m up to 49 emails and counting.

And, through this process, I’ve seen so many unsubscribe methods that I now feel rather an expert.

So, here are my top nine unsubscribe methods in ascending order of irritation:

9. The easy peasy: One click and I’m out

Click a link and you’re taken to a page confirming your unsubscribe. Perfect. A+.

I like you so much I might even resubscribe.


8. The needy: Please tell us why

One click and you’re unsubscribed, but please tell us why. Are we sending you too much? Are we boring? Do we smell? Whinge, whinge. A for efficiency. E for insecurity.

There’s never an ‘I’m just sick of your shit’ option, or a ‘you caught me on a bad day’ option (which are my two main reasons) so I just ignore the check boxes. Don’t you?

7. The lazy: Confirm your email address

You click the unsubscribe link and you’re taken to a page that asks you to enter your email address. Erm, do you know how easy it is to pass an email address through a link? Lazy lumps.

6. The bizarre: Send us an email address

No you can’t just reply – You have to cut and paste their special unsubscribe email address into a new blank email and send it. Why? Who knows?

5. The ping-pongers: We’re confirming your confirmation

You unsubscribe, then they send you an email to confirm that you want to unsubscribe.

You click the link in the unsubscribe email and then they send you an email confirming you have now unsubscribed. Confused much?

Look we’re not signing up to sell our kidneys here. Why make it so complicated?

4. The last ditch attempt: Update your email preferences

‘Would you like to reduce the number of emails we send you? Only receive our surveys, only receive emails that are purple? Or would you like to unsubscribe from everything’ –  in tiny font, at the bottom. Nice try. EVERYTHING PLEASE.

3. The delayers: Give us 48 hours

We all know how databases work, it’s an instantaneous thingy. You can process my order in two hours, so why not my unsubscribe?
Do you think that by procrastinating I’ll change my mind? I won’t. It just gives me two more days to berate you to friends and strangers.

2. The lost causes: You’ve unsubscribed but we’ll email you anyway

Generally these are the super small businesses that are manually mailing you, or worse still, that friend who sends round hilarious Friday funnies with 1689 friends visible in her cc. field.
They don’t have an unsubscribe function.

They don’t listen.

You will NEVER escape.

Learn to live with it.

1. The f**kwits: Please log in

Ah, the triumphant winners of the rubbish unsubscribe process. You know who you are!

You click the unsubscribe link only to be taken to a login page.
Of course you have absolutely no recollection of your password or username, so, if you want to unsubscribe you have to request a password reminder, reset your password, log in, go to your profile and then – and only THEN – can you actually unsubscribe.
That’s ten or fifteen minutes of your life you will never get back.

The result?
I HATE your brand.
The kind of hate that makes me tweet bitchy remarks or click the ‘phishing scam’ alert button on Hotmail.
The kind of hate that makes me actively choose never to buy from you again.

I’ve had some success with the f**kwit category by sending angry, all caps emails to their If I get a bounce back I send to and it kind of works.

But some I have, so far, been unable to get rid of, so I think it’s time to name and shame:

An example of email unsubscribe f**kwittery



The inaugural Kate Toon Copy Unsubscribe Fail Awards go to:

  • Emirates Airlines
  • Skywards
  • Chain reactions cycles
  • Mojo themes

Over to you:

Have I missed out any unsubscribe types? Which type of unsubscribe do you use? Have you experienced an appalling unsubscribe process? Name and shame below.

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Email unsubscribes: My top nine tactics was last modified: by
  • This post made me laugh! It’s funny coz it’s true. I did the same thing a few months ago and came across the plethora of infuriating unsubscribe methods as well. I can’t STAND having to log in to unsubscribe! Isn’t it a breach of the SPAM act?

    I would also like to name and shame:

    I had to do the forgot password palava after months of ignoring their emails. I now detest them and am reminded of their painful unsubscribe process whenever I see their ads on TV (and I usually remind whomever else is in the room at the time how much their emails suck, too).

    I unsubscribed from Outrigger Fiji recently and was comforted by the fact they used the words “unsubscribe instantly” in their email – it sure was instant! So instant that I almost regretted unsubscribing…almost.

    • ha.. thanks for naming and shaming. I might tweet my blog to them and see if they react. Instant is great. I hate it when they promise instant and it is anything but. Unsubscribe is the cold call of the digital world in terms of irritation!

      Thanks for commenting

    • Bridie Jenner

      I have the same problem with the Commonwealth Bank’s business women network thingy. Their emails are so long and dull that I never read them, but I they want me to log in to unsubscribe and I haven’t a clue what my user name and password are.

      There is another form of this spam, and that’s people who have your email address from places such as LinkedIn and sign you up for their newsletter. To be honest, I don’t see why I should have to waste time clicking even a simple unsubscribe button when I never subscribed in the first place…

      • Hey yep there is a lot of that. In the early days I must admit that I occasionally took the emails of people who were my clients and added them to my newsletter assuming they would be interested.

        But it’s just plain rude.
        Now if people want to sign up they can.

  • Geraldine Jones

    Brilliant post Kate which I read right to the end; found myself nodding in agreement (coupled with a feeling of familiarity) with each example! The tactic I seem to see most often is no. 5 The Ping Pongers which really annoys me as I then have to delete yet another email!!! Bizarrely enough most of the unsolicited emails landing in my Junk box recently have been from companies offering to help me with my email marketing…

    • Ah the dreaded PPs – I just can’t see the logic.
      Currently I get about 20 emails a day tell me that they can make me rank in No. 1 for Copywriter Sydney, when I already do. Sigh. They are all Foooooools!

      Thanks for reading and commenting GJ!

  • The conclusion here is that the easier it is to unsubscribe the less likely they will. But also, people will hate your brand if you even appear to be spamming them. Very nice to see your post shared on the BizSugar community.

    • Hi Heather, thanks very much for commenting and introducing me to BizSugar 🙂

  • 70 % of my e-mails are sort of this Bacon, and I still procrastinate with rubbish unsubscribe process. I foretaste what Kate’s listed… It really seems that some brands just want you to hate them. Thank’s for this post, it made me laugh 🙂

    • Yep I hear. I’ve been another rampage recently and have encountered some terrible unsubscribes!! Still drives me crazy. thanks for reading Scott.