The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Monday, August 11, 2003

If you ever open a spam mail and think to yourself, "Why on Earth are they sending this to me?", this case study presented in Wired should shed some light on the way spam marketing works, and works well.

Honestly, the general population can be so fucking simpleminded:

All [customers] were evidently undaunted by the fact that Amazing's order site contained no phone number, mailing address or e-mail address for contacting the company. Nor were they seemingly concerned that their order data, including their credit card info, addresses and phone numbers, were transmitted to the site without the encryption used by most legitimate online stores.

"There was a picture on the top of the page that said, 'As Seen on TV,' and I guess that made me think it was legit," said a San Diego salesman who ordered two bottles of Pinacle in early July. The man, who asked not to be named, said he has yet to receive his pills, despite the site's promise to fill the order in five days.

I also liked the hilariously inept rogues gallery that's behind this chop shop:

Records on file with the New Hampshire secretary of state show that Braden Bournival, a 19-year-old high-school dropout who is also listed as vice president of the New Hampshire Chess Association, owns Amazing Internet Products.

Bournival refused repeated requests for interviews about his business. When approached for comment at a chess tournament in Merrimack, New Hampshire, last month, Bournival, who is a national-master-caliber player, ran away from a Wired News reporter...

An investigation last month revealed that Bournival's mentor and business partner is Davis Wolfgang Hawke, a chess expert and former neo-Nazi leader who turned to the spam business in 1999 after it became public that his father was Jewish.

It couldn't be funnier! I smell a made-for-TV movie in the offing.

But seriously, folks... This might be an entertaining example, but the reality is, there are thousands of outfits like this that regularly employ spam. The reason they send out so much of it so indiscriminately is that there's truly nothing to lose. The emails cost basically nothing to send out, and a return rate of only 2% more than makes it a successful business model. And as this episode so vividly illustrates, it's hard to go broke underestimating the great mass of stupidity out there.