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Today we look at an unusual member of the Problems with Permission club. A site that attains permission, appears to send no “commercial” content, and breaks no laws. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t send spam.

A few months back a coworker turned to me and said “You should sign up for Plenty of Fish.”

Noticing my baffled expression he explained:

“I know you do those blog posts about people who do bad email marketing, and these guys are the worst. They don’t give any unsubscribe options, and they keep sending me email!”

And he was right, Plenty of Fish stinks.

PoF was started in 1999 by a Vancouverite named Markus Frind. Up until 2007, he ran the site completely on his own and from what I understand, he still is responsible for most of the website’s operation. As such, it might be hard to fault him on, say, the usability issues, or the poor aesthetics, but my god, Markus, hire some one to sort out your email.

The fishy part

PoF sends out weekly reminders about your “matches” that ride the border between transactional and promotional. Every email is the same, with the same content and the same link. The role of this email thus becomes unclear, is it really a transactional email? Or is its real purpose to catch users who may be floundering and bring them back into the site? If the former it’s failed transactional, if the latter its marketing.

After the first two you start wondering why they’re sending them. After…


Obviously I do not want these emails, however there’s no way to disable them from the email itself. So let’s say I haven’t logged in in a while, don’t know my password, and want to turn these off. What do I have to do? Well first I have to request my password be delivered to my email, wait for it, then login and then… what do I do?

Well, in mail settings there’s nothing.

A little digging in help turned up this:

For those of you that can’t read it, it says:

“You can stop message notifications (sent out when you get a message) by logging on to POF and clicking on ‘Mail Settings’ and selected the appropriate options. Unfortunately, you cannot stop receiving the latest matches emails usually sent out on Mondays – if these are a problem we can remove your account upon request by clicking HERE.”

There you have it. From the carp’s mouth: you can not stop receiving their email unless you request that they delete your account. Well, deletion request away.

Now let’s look at what this situation will result in:

  1. Most users will just click “report spam” in order to unsubscribe
  2. Users who care to do the research will click through, only to find that they have to delete their account. They will then either:
    1. report spam
    2. delete their account
    3. both

In summary

Plenty of Fish does not send spam, but some fishy equivalent (tuna?). They break no law (what law? We don’t have any Canadian CAN-SPAM Laws) and they send transactional email. However, their transactional email borderlines on promotional, and by sending it weekly they overload their users, creating a situation where users must either put up with it, delete their accounts, or mark mark messages from PoF as spam.

Remember, spam isn’t defined by law, it’s defined by how users treat it, and if you’re sending messages that are being tossed by the bucketload into users spam folders then you’re going to have trouble getting your email seen.

As a final laugh, I noticed while writing this that I’ve received a somewhat snarky message from ‘Markus’ letting me know that my PoF account is in review. Why? I have no idea, I’ve barely logged in. Of the reasons they cite for reviewing an account: spam.

Nice one guys.

Edit: Managed to delete my account last night, and was greeted by this wonderful screen:

No “other” reason, plus the button declares that you’ve “given up”. Classy.


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