Monday, January 9, 2012

Unsubscribing from Junk Email

One of the extra steps I've taken this month to reduce STUFF in my life is to unsubscribe from email I don't need. It's not really "spam" -- that is, it's not entirely unsolicited or irrelevant to my interests. That stuff gets filtered into my Spam folder by my email client, for the most part, and I only see it when I skim over the subject lines to make sure I'm not deleting anything I need. I'm really talking about what still lands in my inbox.

Some of the email I get on a weekly or daily basis is left over from actual purchases I've made, or from a project I was working on last year, or from companies I like. I know where to find their websites! I don't need to be notified of every sale that comes along. So I'm using this month to weed out the (very few) promotional emails I want to receive from the larger mass of junk.

Easy steps to reducing junk email:
1. Open it.
Figure out who the email's from (and think about why you got it). Do you need it? Will you need something like it in the future? Would a browser bookmark or calendar reminder serve the same purpose?

2. Unsubscribe.
In most mass emails, an Unsubscribe link is located down at the bottom, in all the fine print. Thanks to hypertext, it's often easy to find, because there's a link highlighting the word Unsubscribe. Click that, and you'll be taken to a page set up by the company or by its email distributor. Then you'll have a few options:
- You may not have to do anything further; you'll see a confirmation message like "You've been unsubscribed from XYZ mail notifications. We're sad to see you go!"
-You may have to confirm the email subscription change on the website by checking a tickbox or just clicking a button that says "Submit", "I agree", or "Unsubscribe" or something like that.
-The website might offer you some choices, such as "send only one email per week" or only receive "special promotions". Depending on why you're unsubscribing, choosing one of these can still help you reduce junk email. But you should always be offered an option to stop receiving all emails if that's what you want.
-Often, the page will ask you for feedback: "Why are you unsubscribing?" There might be a selection of options like "too many emails", "not relevant to my interest", etc., or a free-text field for you to input your reasons. Usually, this section is optional, and you'll be able to unsubscribe without filling it out.

2a. Every now and then, there won't be an unsubscribe link in the email, or the link will be broken. In those cases, you'll need to contact the company directly. I recommend the following:
-Reply to the email.
Usually, it's not smart to do this, because mass emails almost always come from an inbox that's not monitored by humans. If you need customer support, don't respond to, even if your receipt came from that address -- no one will see it! But these automated inboxes are sometimes configured with some basic filters, such as one that will notice unsubscribe requests and will either change your subscription or send a notification to a human who can do something about it. To have a better chance of getting the attention of the bot or human at the other end, change the subject line to UNSUBSCRIBE and make your first line "Unsubscribe", inserting your own email address. You might also want to include a note afterward like "Unsubscribe link doesn't work, so I'm trying this route in case you have a filter set up." (I did this with emails from, which had a broken Unsubscribe link, and received a confirmation notice from a support agent 4 minutes later.)
-Contact the company directly from their website.
If you go directly to, you should find a Contact page or Help page, with contact information displayed prominently. Usually, you'll see an email that looks like "" -- this email inbox will be monitored! Either forward the email you sent a minute ago to this address, or just send them a new email. Make it short and sweet; support agents deal with a lot of simple requests like these. Try something like "Please unsubscribe me from your mailing list. I no longer wish to receive any emails from XYZ Company. My email address to unsubscribe is" You should receive a confirmation in the next 48 hours or so (sometimes much sooner!); if you don't, skip step #3 for that email and hang onto it for now. That way, if you get another email from the same company, you can follow up.

3. Delete it.
Guess what? You no longer need it! Feel free to delete the email and free up a little more space in your inbox. If these are frequent junk emails (I'm looking at YOU, Bed Bath & Beyond!), you might get one more email from the same company in the next day or two, because it may take time for the subscription change to be processed in their system. But do this every day for a couple weeks, with new emails that come in, and you'll see a dramatic increase in the amount of junk email you receive.

I made an exception for one daily email from, even though I don't always read it. Yipit is an aggregator site that collects all the special deals from sites like Groupon, LivingSocial, and Google Offers (and many, many more!). I used to receive half a dozen emails a day from these sites, telling me their latest daily deals, but now I get only one. I can tell Yipit which categories I'm interested in (restaurants, massage, theater) and which to skip (wine tasting, golf, baby, skydiving), and select MULTIPLE geographical areas -- very helpful if you commute a long distance to work and want deals both near home and near the office, or if you visit your folks in another state frequently, or you want to keep an eye on deals where your grandkids live that might make good gifts. I'm even looking at deals in Portland and Seattle for when we go on vacation!


  1. Great post, I have been trying to do the exact same. I feel like every once in a while my email is full with junk that I never subscribed to. Everytime I make an online purchase I make sure to opt out of everything, but regardless i still receive plenty of junk email. I have been opening, and clicking the unsubscribe at the bottom, although I'm pretty sure I still get some emails from the same sites I unsubscribe to. Maybe I need to start making a list.

  2. Some companies are a little sneaky about email... I noticed that I got another one from OpenTable this morning, and when I unsubscribed, it told me that I would not receive any more Newsletters, but that I might be subscribed to other types of email. To fix that, I just had to log into my OpenTable account and change my settings. Not so bad, but when I was told to do the same thing with my United MileagePlus account, I balked. I haven't used the darn thing in 3 or 4 years! I don't know what my login or password are anymore -- I just want them to stop sending me email!


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