AsktheBuilder.com Deadwood Debacle
On July 3, 2011 I was trying to get caught up on some business chores. One of the things on my list was to send the final email to a small segment of my AsktheBuilder.com newsletter list. This small segment were subscribers that were no longer opening and reading my newsletter. It was a stern email that basically said that if they didn't respond to a call of action, they would be deleted from the list. Guess what?
I made a mistake and sent the terse email to my entire list of well over 100,000 subscribers. In the screen shot here, you can see just a few of the choices on the list. The trouble is, the software defaults to the All Subscribers choice. I blew right past this and clicked the Send Now button far at the bottom of the page.
As you might imagine, some where taken aback by the email, some were confused, most shrugged their shoulders thinking it was a mistake, but a handful went ballistic.
Once I became aware I made the mistake, I sent out a long email explaining what happened. Both emails are at the bottom of this blog post. The terse email is the first one. It would make total sense to you if you had read the two other emails that I successfully sent to the small segment.
I wasn't bothered in the least by the rude responses I received from a handful of subscribers. I've come to know, after publishing a free newsletter for nearly 14 years, that a certain percentage of the population is self-absorbed and horribly selfish.
Perhaps you've run into some who belong to this group where you work. Maybe they're your neighbors. Surely they're not your friends. They stand out like a lighthouse on a foggy night. And just like a lighthouse, you steer clear of them to avoid problems.
For your enjoyment, I've decided to publish some of the best responses, both good and bad. In a period of just 24 hours after sending the rogue email, I received well over 1,000 pleasant emails from subscribers who were blown away by the rude responses that were polluting my Inbox.
It's impossible to print all the wonderful emails I received. Some brought tears to my eyes. Especially the follow-up email from Tina in Canada.
Here you go. I've decided to not publish the names of the guilty. They know who they are. Also, on purpose I've not done any editing of the comments. Not for punctuation, grammar, spelling or proper formatting and English. We better start paying attention to what's going on in our public schools!
".....Maybe you need to polish the crystal ball with some Stain Solver!!"
"This happens too much and too frequently. Take me off your list."
"Your news letter is filled with junk about your life not much help to those looking for real solutions to problems."
"Why are you insulting me? If this is the way you treat people I have some Very Strong Words for you. I do not like being treated like garbage at work, at play or by someone who is trying to put out a so-called helpful website!!!!!!!!!!! "
"I think you're very rude, take your f***ing newsletter and shove it! I don't give a s*** if you stop sending it or not. Better yet I'll block you, hows that for rude , you piece of deadwood!"
"tim,,,,I enjoy your tips,and I like your videos. what I don't like,,,,is the scare tactics that I guess you thought is appropriate;"
"I guess next time you'll do it right and not over before hitting the send button! LOL!" (This is a well-deserved shot because of my motto at AsktheBuilder.com: Do it Right, Not Over)
"It is amusing that the "do it right - not over" guru has had to do it over this time, but, hey we can't be right ALL the time."
"What does it matter whether I open all the emails or not? Your sophisticated powerful software cans send to a thousand or a million with the same effort. Perhaps your motive is that you need an actuate list for advertising .
That's your problem. Don't bother me with manipulative work ploys to solve your problem. I don't care. If you don't want me on your list take me off. I bet many more folks unsubscribed than you expected. I suspect all email lists are trash lists. That's the nature of email.
You don't need to know which emails I open and which I choose not to. If you were not making money from advertising you would not send "free" emails."
"Tim - the cyber Luddite:
Why not learn how to use your email functions? This is NOT the first time that you have done this! We had a fossilized sales guy at my old company that used to do this ALL OF THE TIME. He would send the most personal of email info to the "reply all" function and could not understand how that happened or even that this was possible! It did not matter how much tutoring he got!
Why does it matter that someone does not open your newsletter anyway? Do you pay some sort of per piece email tribute to someone?
Get someone to ride herd over you next time to supervise your actions and head you off at the pass!"
"No it didn't make sense to me. I think that you found too little interest in your web site and e-mails. I don't open your e-mails but I thought that since I like t get into home projects, and I am a too nut, one day I would like to have a forum for information for a particular project that I might have questions about. But it seems that you are a very cleaver and deceitful person with your e-mails so close together and announcing that the answer is forth coming with so much contrived yada yada yada well you got some of your list members to click now didn't you? you remind me of a republican politician. Full of shit."
"blah, blah, blah......i agree with the folks that said it happens too often, the ones that say it comes off as rude and '\ or as scare tactics.....etc. I should have asked you to drop me when you accidentally sent out your right-wing blather a few weeks back, but didn't.
I'm on many, many email lists and this stuff never happens with them. And I rarely find myself clicking on your links in your emails, so it's really as good as spam, I suppose. Safe yourself some money and me some time..........
"Remove me" - and good luck; no hard feelings."
I'm sure you're getting thousands of replys to your various emails if you have a database of 100k, but here's one more:
So far, yours is a free Web site. I don't care what it costs you, that's up to you. Asking your readers, almost begging your readers, to do anything because it will help you is so antithetical to the way the Internet is used. In my opinion, it's not a smart decision on your part. I'm a partner in an advertising agency who found your Web site because someone who blogs about Web sites said you do a good job of growing your site. So I was interested in that. But I'm also a DIY guy who has worked with power tool and lawn & garden tool manufacturerers for 30 years in my business. Honestly, I was shocked by your original email request. I would have been, whether I was a frequent reader of your site or not. Please communicate with your subscribers by keeping their viewpoint in mind, rather than yours. (Probably a bit too many offers of cleaning solutions on your site.) I frequently read your emails in a preview window. So your software doesn't see me. That's life on the Internet. Please don't ask me to change my behavior because it would benefit you. I frequently watch your videos and I trust your advice because you write in a genuine way. It's up to you, of course, how you communicate with "deadbeat" readers. But I think you may have stumbled here."
Please stop calling yourself an idiot and any other bad name. Just think of all the good you do.
I've watched you on TV and often wished I could get you to come to my old 52 year old diplated 2-flat and help me here in Chicago. Instead, I signed up for your newsletter. You have helped me tremendously in annual upkeep with the furnace; losing the fear of redoing my kitchen cabinets and countertops.
Everyone wonders how I was able to do all the remodeling I have done and I tell them about you. They laugh but I believe they secretly go to your website and check you out. You are a great handyman; you give excellent tips and advice on just about any home project.
If I can't get to a Home Depot class, I go to your website and look up the project and you always have an answer (most times with a video). I was wondering last week why my flower boxes on my 2x4 porch rails would not stay up straight and I go to you email today and learn about french cleats.
Please don't knock yourself anymore and don't apologize to people. Don't pay any attention to the naysayers. Thank GOD for them because they just make you a better person and they make you realize what a heavyweight you really are.
Personally, I am very grateful for you because if I had to hire someone to do all the work you have helped me to do, I would have spent a small fortune by now. I own an electric saw that I am not afraid to use; I know the difference between a phillips and a flathead screwdriver; I own 2 drills, 18V electric and 18V impact, because your website showed me how.
Several years ago, I wanted to give up this house and get out of the mortgage but your encouragement to another couple changed my mind. If it looks like I don't read your emails, don't despair. I'm working on my projects with your instructions from your website (askthebuilder.com). I will however open all your emails from now on.
GOD Bless and keep you..."
"I just signed up for your newsletter and to date have not received any information that is useful to me. If you wish to delete me, go ahead. If you do not wish me to delete myself then send out some USEFUL INFO pertaining to BUILDING. Not ads, not generators, not wallpaper ... BUILDING!
It's always about the money, isn't it, Tim."
"We'll I must say that I am totally flabbergasted at some of the responses to the little mess-up, AS IF? BUT, I hope you're not taking it personally, this anger obviously has nothing to do with you, you just received the brunt of it. All of your hard work & financial investments to this endeavour are truly appreciated, you have helped us tremendously & for that I am extremely grateful.
Keep up the GREAT WORK Tim! LOVE the "Do it Right, Not Over" slogan by the way."
Okay, are you still with me? Here's the first email that got that select groups panties in a twist:
Dear INSERT SUBSCRIBER NAME HERE,
Okay, this is it. This is the FINAL nudge email you'll get from me.
I reached out to you last week and you may have been on vacation, sick or abducted. No matter, but I didn't hear back. It's time to prune the deadwood from my email list.
You signed up for my newsletter back before December 1, 2010, but my mystic powers and sweet computer skills indicate that you've not been active at all. You seemingly are rejecting my emails, not opening them, nor clicking a link inside one.
If you want to continue to receive my FREE weekly newsletter you need to do just one thing. It will tell me that you are active and want my free tips. Do this:
CLICK this link which will take you to the AsktheBuilder.com home page.
That's it! That's all you have to do.
Don't forget - Do it Right, not Over,
Here's the email I sent out after I discovered the error:
Dear INSERT SUBSCRIBER NAME HERE,
About two hours ago I sent out a message to my entire email list.
You're on it obviously.
But the message was only supposed to go to a SMALL SEGMENT of my list. Guess what? I FORGOT to select that small segment from the enormously powerful and complex software that powers my newsletter. I sent the message to the ENTIRE list.
Oh my, did that cause problems, confusion, laughter and anger.
Who'd think that would happen to a guy who tries to help others by producing a free newsletter.
Go figure. :->>>>
Grab a cup of coffee, tea or water, and sit back and read this. I
promise it will make sense, and the best part is that you'll get a
peek behind the magic curtain of AsktheBuilder.com. That's worth
First I want to say how interesting it is to read replies to my
emails - especially the mistake ones.
Everyone gets the exact same email, but the reaction to them are as different as night and day. You might enjoy a few of the responses that are pouring in, yes POURING in.
Here's one that gets the Great Sense of Humor Award:
".....Maybe you need to polish the crystal ball with some Stain
Here's a response from the "I, Tim Carter, am an IDIOT" email. He gets the Zero-Tolerance Award:
"This happens too much and too frequently. Take me off your list."
This one gets the Chill-Out Award:
"Why are you insulting me? If this is the way you treat people I
have some Very Strong Words for you. I do not like being treated
like garbage at work, at play or by someone who is trying to put
out a so-called helpful website!!!!!!!!!!! "
This one gets the Potty-Mouth Award. It was from a woman, oh my!:
"I think you're very rude, take your f****** newsletter and shove it! I don't give a s*** if you stop sending it or not. Better yet I'll block you, hows that for rude , you piece of deadwood!"
And more responses to the "I, Tim Carter, am an IDIOT" email:
"Well, what can I say.........."
"yes you are an IDIOT"
"Everyone has a bad day. I Am open minded."
"tim,,,,I enjoy your tips,and I like your videos. what I don't
like,,,,is the scare tactics that I guess you thought is
"No worries, Tim I like your style!"
I think you get the picture. Some have far more tolerance than
others. Some are highly sensitive, and others just recognize a
mistake and move on.
The Long Story
I've been doing my AsktheBuilder.com newsletter for about 14 years I believe. It's not perfect, but I try to do my best.
It's not as regular as it should be. Sometimes life gets in the way.
But I really started to grow the list about three years ago.
Suffice it to say you're part of a great group that's way north of
100,000. That's a big list.
I use very sophisticated software to manage and send the
newsletter. It's wonderful.
It has built-in tools that allow me to see if I'm doing a GOOD job.
A good job means that you open the newsletters, find them
interesting and occasionally click a link. The software can tell me
what interests you.
I'm sure you can see how that's helpful to me as I want to keep you engaged. I want to produce a newsletter that you enjoy getting. I want to know that you're happy.
Here's an example.
Week in and week out when I do a tool or product review in the
newsletter, the software can tell me those are the MOST interesting topics. That communicates to me I should do more of them and spend LESS about things that might be of little interest to you. See how that's helpful to you and me?
But the software is not perfect. Just like me.
It's all very complex, and I don't pretend to understand all the
science behind how it works.
Yes, things happen at your end that prevent you from opening a
newsletter. Illness, stress, you're busy like me, the list goes on
You may save the emails and open them months later reading them all at once. I get that.
Evidently, other things can confuse the software. For example, it
appears that some email software has a preview window. You can read the email there. If you do that, you really don't OPEN it. The
software can't tell the difference, and thinks you're ignoring me.
I need you to really open the newsletter email. Really.
It appears that if you read my newsletter on a Blackberry device,
the software can't see you open it. If you want to tell my software
you like the newsletter, you need to open an issue on your regular email from time to time.
There's a good chance that if you have images turned off in your
email reader, like Gmail, that the software can't tell you opened
it. Consider turning images on. Or in the case of Gmail, it has an
option to Always Show Images from this Sender. Trust me. Make that selection.
Make sure I don't end up in your Spam Folder. Add me to your white list or to your Contacts. That's very important.
I believe you get the picture.
Here's why it's important for me to know that you've opened and
read the newsletter.
Let's talk about SPAM. Let's say you don't want to get the
newsletter any longer, so you ignore it and don't open it. I get
But some folks get angry and instead of going to the Unsubscribe
link at the bottom of the newsletter, they click the THIS IS SPAM
button in their email program.
Guess what? It's not spam. Remember, yoou signed up for the newsletter and asked me to send it. Spam is something you never asked for.
When you mark my newsletter email as SPAM, I get penalized and
everyone on my list suffers. You don't think that's possible? Keep
The big email houses like AOL, Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail, will stop
delivering my emails to you if enough people ignore them or click
on the THIS IS SPAM button. I start to get a reputation that I'm
producing a loser email newsletter. That would be very bad
If you don't want the newsletter, just unsubscribe or reply to me
that you want to unsubscribe and I'll take you off the list. It's
SAFE to click all links in my newsletters. Nothing bad is going to
happen to you.
Please understand that it costs me money to send the newsletter to you. As the list grows, it costs me more and more. I'm sure you
understand that I only want to send the newsletter to people that
want it, open it and click links within it.
I'm also starting to sell advertising in the newsletter so it can
continue for FREE. The advertisers want to know how many people Open and read the newsletter. That makes total sense. That's another reason why I need you to Open it and click a link if you're interested in a topic in the newsletter.
Now that you know all of this, I hope it makes sense that I delete
those that are inactive. Ergo the term Deadwood.
I need to only keep you on the list if you're interested. It's best
for you and it sure helps me.
Sorry for ALL the confusion earlier. I hope you understand now
what's going on.
Enjoy the Fourth of July! I'll have a REAL newsletter for you on
Founder - www.AsktheBuilder.com
Do it Right, Not Over
Posted by Tim Carter at July 4, 2011 2:29 PM