Little Chef and b2bdatalists.com’s response to my compaint about spam…

I recently wrote about some spam email I received from Little Chef. I wasn’t going to publish this email exchange, but to hell with it – this is dedicated to the Head of Marketing for B2B Data Lists Group who sold Little Chef the list that they used….

A personal word to the list broker – think very hard before threatening me with legal action for ‘harassment’ (or for that matter threatening me in any way) – My simple request to be informed where and how the email address in question was gathered is perfectly reasonable.

Frankly, my bet is that you’d get laughed out of court for describing my request as ‘harassment‘.  Your lack of understanding of the law can only be rivalled – in my humble opinion – by your complete and utter lack of professionalism. My complaint is against your business. Do you feel it either appropriate or professional to bully or make threats because I say something you don’t like about your business practices….?

Have you learned nothing in your “15 years of experience” (which you do so like to repeat)…?

We are all plagued by spam, most of it we can not trace – but when one like this comes along and it’s possible to research it’s origins and make a stand I will… I appreciate that I can be a bit anal (some may also say cantankerous or bloody minded) at times – but why the hell do you feel I do not have the right to know from where, and how you, your supplier and client took my email address without my consent?

Here’s the email conversation I’ve had with both Little Chef and the list brokers to prove my point so readers can make their own mind up…


From: Kids Eat Free [kidseatfree@littlechef.uk.com]

Sent: 11 April 2011 17:24
To: webmaster@xxxxxxxxxxxx.com
Subject: Kids Eat Free

Hello friend,

Why break the bank over the Easter

Holidays when it’s Kids eat Free at Little Chef?

It’s a brilliant deal…a grown-up buys a main course…a kid gets their main course free. Simple.

No vouchers to collect, no coupons to cut out – just turn up and tuck in.

It’s empty plates not empty pockets this Easter at Little Chef.

Pop in…we’d love to see you.


From: Alan Gandy [alan@xxxxxxx.com]
Sent: 14 April 2011 11:04
To: ‘customer.services@littlechef.co.uk’
Cc: ‘xxxxxxx@littlechef.co.uk’
Subject: FAO: Tracey Mulligan: Does the left hand know…

I have to say, I am more than a little perplexed by the amateur nature of your current email marketing. In addition to having virtually no targeting it breaches Data Protection legislation. Very surprised at that behaviour from a major brand such as yourselves.

http://www.lanzarotewebdesign.com/little-chef-puts-spam-on-the-menu/

Alan Gandy

PS: Receipt of this email does not imply any for of consent to be added to any of your mailing lists!


From: Helen Strang [xxxxxxx@little-chef.co.uk]
Sent: 14 April 2011 14:35
To: alan@xxxxxx.com
Subject: Letter from Tracey – Email Spam

14 April 2011

Dear Alan,

First of all… sorry. But let me thank you for bringing to my attention the fact that we sent you an email that you would have preferred not to receive.

As part of our marketing campaign to tell potential customers about our new restaurants and the “Kids Eat Free” promotion during the Easter holidays, we did buy a database of email addresses from a list broker which included business people as they become families during holiday periods and therefore may be interested in visiting a Little Chef whilst travelling throughout the UK. However, I appreciate that living in Spain, the information was of no interest to you.

You mentioned that we used an old e-mail address, if it is not too much trouble, could you let us have it so we can make sure that it is permanently removed from the database we used. We have already requested that your current e-mail address be deleted if it appears on any list used by our broker.

Again, please accept my apologies for having offended you and I am sorry that we didn’t get it right on this occasion. We strive every day to do it better and get it right, and your commentscan only help us.

Thanks for your time once again.

Best Regards,

Tracey

Tracey Mulligan

Managing Director


From: Alan Gandy [alan@xxxxxx.com]
Sent: 14 April 2011 15:04
To: ‘Helen Strang’
Subject: RE: Letter from Tracey – Email Spam

Dear Tracey,

I do appreciate your apology and thank you for that.

Clearly your list broker has been harvesting email addresses from the internet. By definition buying such a list and sending unsolicited email constitutes spam – which to the best of my knowledge breaches data protection legislation as outlined here

http://www.ico.gov.uk/for_organisations/privacy_and_electronic_communications/the_guide/electronic_mail.aspx additionally I would also imagine it may well constitute a breach of the terms & conditions of your ISP.

For this reason I do not want my address removed of the list. I would instead prefer it to remain in the hope that it can not be used again in this manner. As if I receive any more I will be reporting this to the ICO.

Please don’t take this action the wrong way Tracey, I quite like Little Chef as a brand. Most of us have some happy memories of our past travels associated with the company! If anything I’d like to think I am trying to protect the company from itself… In all honesty Tracey I can think of 101 better ways to get your message across via online marketing.

Regards

Alan


From: Tracey Mulligan [xxxxxx@little-chef.co.uk]
Sent: 19 April 2011 12:19
To: alan@xxxxxx.com
Subject: Reply from Tracey Mulligan

Dear Alan,

Thank you for your reply and I am pleased that you like the Little Chef brand.

As you will appreciate e-marketing is just one element of the marketing mix and it gives us an opportunity to communicate a simple message to consumers who may be interested. Clearly not everyone will be and they are invited to opt out from any further communication.

Our list broker has assured us that your email was collected in accordance with data protection rules. They work closely with the Information Commissioner’s Office to ensure that they do not do anything illegal on behalf of their clients and we have also contacted the Commissioner’s Office to make sure that this is the case.

If you would provide us with your old email address we will make sure that you are not contacted again.

Yours sincerely,

Tracey Mulligan

Managing Director


From: Alan Gandy [alan@xxxxxx.com]
Sent: 19 April 2011 13:45
To: ‘Tracey Mulligan’
Subject: RE: Reply from Tracey Mulligan

Dear Tracey,

I happen to feel very strongly on the issue of spam.

I have no wish to be a thorn in anyone’s side. But please allow me to reiterate how extremely unlikely it is that the email address in question could appear on a legitimate list.

1. It is a long standing domain name which has not been in everyday use for quite some time.

2. The email address is only in one place on the Internet, and the specific address was only set up about a year ago for this one purpose.

3. Even if it was in regular use (or I have made a mistake and used it), I always click the no subscription and no third parties options on any website.

4. I have not elected to receive email from Little Chef directly, so this email is by definition spam.

It’s my belief that you are a reputable company and would not knowingly break the law. However, it would seem to me that your list brokers are likely being untruthful about the source of this list. Unless they could identify how the list was sourced and prove my suspicions wrong I could not possibly even consider changing my view on this matter.

I won’t be providing the email address for the reasons I gave in my last email.

Regards

Alan


From: Tracey Mulligan [xxxxxx@little-chef.co.uk]
Sent: 28 April 2011 09:10
To: alan@xxxxxx.com
Subject: Response to your email

Dear Alan

We do take your comments seriously and I think at this stage I need to involve our list broker so that they can explain how they compile their lists.

With your permission I would like to give Steve James from B2BDatalists the contact details you supplied to us and asked him to contact you directly. I hope that they will be able to respond to your concerns.

Please would you let me know if this is OK with you.

With best regards

Tracey

Tracey Mulligan

Managing Director


From: Alan Gandy [alan@xxxxxx.com]
Sent: 28 April 2011 10:27
To: ‘Tracey Mulligan’
Subject: RE: Response to your email

Yes, you do have my permission Tracey.

Regards

Alan


From: Alan Gandy [alan@xxxxxx.com]
Sent: 16 May 2011 16:30
To: ‘Tracey Mulligan’
Subject: RE: Response to your email

I can’t say I am surprised – but I have not heard from your list broker.

Alan Gandy

Subject Unsubscribe
From Steve James | B2B Data Lists Group
To alan@xxxxxx.com
Sent 18 May 2011 10:17

Hi Alan,

Further to your recent correspondence with Little Chef your details have been forwarded for my attention on behalf of B2B Data Lists since we are responsible for the sourcing of data and any claim you feel appropriate should be directed towards ourselves. I have tried calling you a few times with no success.

To confirm, I have requested all emails to alan@xxxxxx.com are “unsubscribed” from our suppliers, however, please be aware that we are not a “data owner” and only have contracts with a few major providers in the UK and there’s well over 100 companies who could be selling your information as you can imagine.

Speaking from over 15 years industry experience, rest assured all legislation is strictly followed and no laws are broken when emailing a business email address such as this for a businessproduct/service. Your details do not require “opt‐in” (unlike consumer legislation) and you can be removed at any point in time by simply “unsubscribing” which I have now done for you and removed this record from the particular supplier’s database involved. Again, we cannot be accountable for other providers.

Could I request any future correspondence be directed to myself, although as far as I am concerned this is an end to the matter which I trust is acceptable since you are now officially unsubscribed from our suppliers database to receiving third party promotions.

I appreciate it is very frustrating and please accept my apologies on this occasion on behalf of this particular data provider.

Kind regards,

Steve


Subject RE: Unsubscribe
From Alan Gandy
To ‘Steve James | B2B Data Lists Group’
Cc ‘xxxxxx@littlechef.co.uk’
Sent 18 May 2011 14:53

Steve,

I don’t know if you’ve read my original emails to Tracey Mulligan. It would appear not.

Had you read them you would know that this email address is not the email address in question. You might also have read that my concerns were as follows;

1. It is a long standing domain name which has not been in everyday use for quite some time.

2. The email address is only in one place on the Internet, and the specific address was only set up about a year ago for this one purpose.

3. Even if it was in regular use (or I have made a mistake and used it), I always click the no Subscription and no third parties options on any website.

4. I have not elected to receive email from Little Chef directly, so this email is by definition spam.

Let me add to this, that the site from which the name appears to have been taken has NOTHING on it to indicate that it is a business website – it is simply a blog. Which I can only assume would make this matter fall under the consumer legislation you refer to….

This is not the end of the matter you might wish for in your email. I feel I am within my rights to ask where the original list was sourced, and the refusal to accept any responsibility both from Little Chef and yourselves in this matter is I feel at best unprofessional.

Regards

Alan

 

Subject: RE: Unsubscribe
From: Steve James | B2B Data Lists Group
To: alan@xxxxxx.com
Sent: 18 May 2011 23:48

Hi Alan,

I am sorry you feel this way, but I have to say you are wrong in your assumptions and B2B Data Lists is not in breach of any laws speaking from over 15 years industry experience and also after consulting our legal representative.

From a legal prospective, I think any judge would agree that Little Chef have bent over backwards to try and please you over an issue that is quite honestly not their fault since the responsibility lies with B2B Data Lists as the provider, but again no offence has been committed here.

We have apologised on behalf of both Little Chef and B2B Data Lists and given you the benefit of the doubt for any upset caused along with the agreement to unsubscribe you from the suppliers database. We simple cannot do any more and you are now in the eyes of any court seen to be unreasonable and therefore suggest that if you wish to take this matter further, it be done through the legal system since any further correspondence from yourself by email will be regarded as harassment and we will take the necessary courses of action against you for upsetting our client over a false claim, which tarnishes our reputation moving forward. Believe me, this is a far stronger claim.

This is my final email to you and as far as I am concerned this is the end of the matter. I hope you can be equally as reasonable and in return apologise to my client for the upset you have caused. If you persist in this manner, it will potentially backfire on you as I am sure you are now aware.

Regards,

Steve

 

Subject RE: Unsubscribe
From Alan Gandy
To ‘Steve James | B2B Data Lists Group’
Cc ‘Tracey Mulligan’
Sent 19 May 2011 10:04

Steve,

I find your command of the English language (prospective) almost as absurd as your blatant disregard for my concerns in this matter, this being compounded by your threats of legal action . I am more than happy to provide my address to you for your lawyers should you wish to pursue me on this ‐ good luck with that one!

However, I think you know as well as I do that the case for ‘harassment’ you may have suggested is spurious to say the least. I will not be intimidated by your threats.

No, I do not see this as the end of the matter ‐ I believe I am perfectly within my right to request details of from where this list was sourced and how I received spam from yourselves and/or your client, for all the reasons I have outlined to both you and them already.

Your threats bear no weight with me…. I find your attitude with this both threatening and unprofessional. Your representation of your clients reflects on their brand. Tarnished reputation: Your own doing. As for your demand for an apology, I have nothing to apologize for in highlighting the misuse of my email address by yourselves and your (apparently misguided, or ill‐advised) client.

Regards

Alan

End of emails (I have omitted email addresses as a courtesy!)

In conclusion: I have to say, I don’t really have that much of an issue with Little Chef – like so many institutions of its type I think they have little real understanding of how to use the online world for marketing, though perhaps it is time they got themselves up to date on best practices in my opinion.

I do however take serious offence when a company who deals in information and boasts (according to their website) clients like Asda, Audi, Toshiba, Honda, Axa and Volkswagen might be a little more professional… At the risk of repeating myself :) I do not think it unreasonable to know where and how this list was obtained. And, I certainly do not think such a request warrants puerile threats of legal action….

I await my Super Injunction with bated breath…

 

5 Responses to Little Chef and b2bdatalists.com’s response to my compaint about spam…

  • Critic says:

    OMG Alan,

    You’re like a Monkey that speaks English!

    Are you kidding me? All this trouble for what ??? because you’re going to make a difference in what?

    You do make a difference … but not the one you think you are making. It’s people like you that are so freaking consumed with your own egotistical, naive and so called professional opinion that make the average consumer look like a jackass.

    No one likes getting pounded by spam, but to force the issue beyond reason such as this and after all you needed to do was ask to unsubscribe is moronic. Listen buddy, if your email is on the net, as you said, whether graphical or in programatically havestable text, prepare to receive a few emails.

    Jesus, you leave a dollar on the street, hide behind a bush and expect no one picks it up because “stealing is illegal”, then when someone walks by and picks it up … wahlah … out jumps Alan to same the day and put a stop to text.

    The rest of us in the real world keep the dollar in our pocket you moron.

    Get a life …

    We all want better legislation for the web … that will come with time … but people like you are just confusing the situation and slowing that process down. You make a legit business jump through hoops to please little old Alan … I’d of told you to go F**k yourself!

    Signed … Common Sense.

  • Alan says:

    Interesting comments – I’m trying to find reasons to give a toss!

    Damned if I can find any! :)

    Here are the reasons I shouldn’t…

    1. You choose to hide behind anonymity which would suggest, at worst, and agenda, at best, the lack of conviction to put your name to you view.

    2. Let’s say for instance I do put that imaginary dollar behind a bush – is it not still theft if someone takes it? Theft is theft.

    In actuality, farming an email address is more akin to someone coming into my garden and taking some garden furniture – well it wasn’t locked up was it, despite being on my property?

    3. I think you’ll find in the UK and Europe there is legislation in place. Spain where I live being one of the strictest.

    You say you’d like stronger legislation. However your proposed apathy would result in no change. I’m not confusing the situation; I’m just trying to add to the case for it…

    There are people who are prepared to make a stand, and people who aren’t. And yes, I am prepared to put the time into what to some like yourself may sound petty (despite in my opinion being legally and morally right to do so) when I am threatened with legal action.

    What I really find baffling is that you appear to consider my attitude somewhat futile in your eyes – so why bother spending time even making a comment, which somewhat negates your point. That really is a demonstration in futility.

    PS: I think you meant save rather than same! ;)

    (profanities in the original comment have been edited)

    Signed….. Me….. With my name!

  • Nick says:

    Hear hear Alan – ALL companies who use these brokers should at least accept the responsibility and lean heavily on them when something goes wrong. If you can’t change the behaviour of Little Chef perhaps you might get them to think about using a more professional harvesting company (if that’s not too much of an oxymoron).

    As for Mr. Common Sense, I might just have to laugh a bit longer over someone who really cares (apparently) but can’t be bothered to worry about it and seems to want legislation but doesn’t want any attempts to actually get it. Idiot.

    All the best.

    Nick (signed with my name)

  • Alan says:

    @Steve James – how’s that 15 plus years of experience working out for you now?

    http://www.lanzarotewebdesign.com/why-it-is-worth-chasing-spammers/

  • Alan says:

    Still getting spam I’m pretty sure originates from these people now operating under a different name…

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