Earlier this week, I received an unsolicited commercial e-mail from dBase Inc. about a new product for web development. The mail used the typical dirty tricks of a spammer -- it was sent to a webmaster account I have never used, had a fake return address from Yahoo and was relayed through servers in a foreign country (in this case, Armenia).
Since I would not have expected a reputable company with a famous name to engage in spamming, I sent a complaint. Here's the response I got from dBase CEO Alan Katz <email@example.com>:
We apologize for any inconvenience this e-Mail may have caused you.
We contracted with what we thought was a responsible third-party marketing company to manage a legitimate commercial e-Mail campaign. We were working under assurances that they would mail from a list that was strictly "opt-in" and that every recipient had already indicated his or her desire to receive information about products like ours.
We were surprised and dismayed to find that mail had been sent from "anonymous" servers and, apparently, to a number of recipients who had never "opted-in" for such information and who were dismayed by receiving it.
As soon as we found out how this campaign was being conducted, we halted it, and are in the process of posting an apology on our Web site.
Once again, please accept my personal apology for this intrusion.
We have a marvelous new product and it was most certainly not our intention to annoy our potential customers.
Even if Katz is telling the truth, his company didn't have the good sense to check out a bulk-mailer's reputation before using them. (It's also a little dicey that he is declining to name the company involved.)
As it turns out, dBase Inc. isn't what I expected. It is a group of developers who licensed the rights to the software from Inprise in 1999, and many employees work out of their homes.
The new developers of dBase should hang the spammer they hired out to dry and stay away from using any kind of outside mailing list for marketing. I buy web and software development tools with alarming regularity, but I would never become interested in a product as a result of a bulk e-mail.
A good web development product will generate its own word-of-mouth as people put it to use.