To ‘Unsubscribe’ or ‘Not Unsubscribe’, that is the question…

By Sandra Clitter  

(With all due respect to Shakespeare and Hamlet)

We all get Spam. Its probably safe to say that we all get wayyyyyyyyyyy too much Spam. Spam, by definition, is e-mail that you do not choose or want to receive. It is junk.

On the other hand, there are newsletters and such that you really DO want to receive. So, how do you know when you can ‘make it go away’ and when you shouldn’t because it will just get you MORE junk in your inbox? When should you click ‘unsubscribe’? What are the ramifications if you do?

Normally, I don’t say ‘why’ I write particular posts…I just write them. Sometimes I am asked to write on a subject by a reader. Sometimes I get asked a question so many times that I figure it would make a good blog post. Sometimes an event in life causes me to write on a given subject…and so it is with this topic. Many of my ‘life’ blog posts have had their origins with my Uncle. This is another one of those posts!

Here’s the story…

December 31st of last year, I sent out a mail blast (using the free email service, MailChimp) to my entire email list. It wasn’t a newsletter, but rather a note that the name of my company was changing on January 1, 2012. Accordingly, rather than ‘SLC Consulting’, I wanted people to start using ‘Your Tech Tamer’ and to update their email addresses, etc. What better way to communicate important information to a wide-range of people? So far, so good. Off goes my e-mail. The next morning, I get an unsubscribe notice from, you guessed it, MY UNCLE!!!! What on earth?!?! Talk about dejected…if your own flesh-and-blood doesn’t want to read what you have to write, then why bother, right?

Fast-forward about five days. I’m visiting with him and he sheepishly tells me that he accidentally hit ‘unsubscribe’ when he was scrolling down the page and was there a way to ‘resubscribe’ because OBVIOUSLY, he didn’t want to unsubscribe from something that I had sent. Whew!!! He still loves me!!! While we laughed about the incident (and I showed him how to resubscribe), he was surprised to find out that I ALREADY KNEW that he had unsubscribed. How could that be?

So, to get to the ‘meat’ of this post, here are a few things to think about and know BEFORE you hit the ‘Unsubscribe’ button:

1. Only hit the ‘Unsubscribe’ button (or the ‘If you no longer wish to receive these emails…’ type of links) if the e-mail comes from a reputable e-mail blast service. ConstantContact, MailChimp, SendBlaster, iContact, etc. are all ‘reputable’ email services. You’ll know that an e-mail blast came from those services because you’ll see their ‘bug’ (logo) in the footer of the e-mails. The ‘bug’ identifies the e-mails as having been sent through these services. Clicking ‘Unsubscribe’ on an e-mail sent by one of these services will truly ‘unsubscribe’ you, and the owner of the e-mail list will NOT be able to resubscribe you…only you will be able to resubscribe yourself.

2. **BEWARE**: The owners of the email list (me, in the example above) RECEIVE A NOTIFICATION that someone has unsubscribed and their name/e-mail address. In other words, if you unsubscribe from your best friend’s list, he/she WILL KNOW!! If you really don’t want to receive that mail, it might be preferable to mark it as ‘spam’ or ‘junk’ in your email service…your friend won’t know if you do that, so there will be no hard feelings.

3. If the email does not show an email ‘blast’ service in the footer, but appears to come from a company that you know, then double-check the ‘from’ address (the sender’s email address) – not the name that displays, but rather the actual e-mail address from which the e-mail was sent. If you recognize it as being legitimate (e.g., then hitting ‘unsubscribe’ is probably safe to do. Here’s an example of a legitimate e-mail address from which it would be ‘safe’ to hit the ‘unsubscribe’ button:

4. If the email has a sender’s name that your recognize, but the actual ‘from’ e-mail address is ‘odd’, then DO NOT hit ‘unsubscribe’ or otherwise ask to be removed from the e-mail list. If you hit this link, you will likely get EVEN MORE unwanted emails because you have only verified to spammers that your e-mail address is a ‘live’ one!

Bottom line: The rules are pretty simple.

If the e-mail comes from a legitimate e-mail blast service, it’s safe to unsubscribe, but the owner of the list will know that you unsubscribed, so decide if it’s better to send the e-mail to the junk bin, rather than unsubscribing and potentially hurting someone’s feelings.

If the e-mail comes from an apparently legitimate e-mail address, make sure by checking the exact address. Only hit ‘unsubscribe’ from e-mail addresses that are ‘real’. Otherwise, you may be bringing a deluge of further unwanted mail by clicking ‘remove’ or ‘unsubscribe’. Again, block the sender via the Junk Mail or Spam feature in your mail service, rather than unsubscribing.

Friendly word of advice: NEVER EVER unsubscribe from close family or friends e-mails :-)! It is far better to keep the peace!


  1. Posted February 6, 2012 at 9:18 am | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks for such a good post, Sandy.

    Here is a tip for the reader of emails plus one for those who send them:

    1) If you like to sign up for lots of general information, think about creating a new email address JUST FOR online information. That way, all of those emails go to that one location and when you have time, you can review what has been sent to you and avoid flooding your inbox (so that you can keep seeing your more important emails without wading through all the other information). For those using gmail, only make your most important emails “Important” and let the others float further down, for when you have more time.

    2) To those sending emails and who want to avoid the “Sandy’s Uncle’s Removed-Me-By-Mistake Syndrome,” we always finish our autoresponder and broadcast emails by adding several (maybe TEN) extra blank lines and then adding a period. The blank lines space the period down the screen and thus ends your email further down the page. THEN… when your email company adds the required “here’s how you can unsubscribe” information, it’s further removed from your own information and fewer people will click the link thinking it’s a way to get more information from you (can you tell that I did that once and learned my lesson?).

    There is SO much good information out there and to get it for free, delivered right to your inbox, can be priceless. Just take a few precautions first.

    Charlie Seymour Jr

    • Posted February 6, 2012 at 9:11 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Love the tip about spacing down the page, Charlie! Great idea. I’ll try to remember that whenever I send ‘blasts’ – be it on my own behalf or for clients. Terrific tip!

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