Barnes & Noble: It’s Been a While! (since a Spamtrap responded…)

I bet it has been a while since a pure spamtrap (an email address that never existed) responded to Barnes & Noble’s marketing emails! That’s right — B&N is sending bulk email offers to an email address that never existed, and has been sending those emails for over a year. The ESP is Cheetahmail, a division of Experian.

The spamtrap hit could be due to any of three causes that I could think of offhand. First, a customer might have mistyped (the domain portion of) their email address when subscribing, or have deliberately entered a bogus email address, which B&N failed to confirm via an email to that email address before adding it to their list. Second, a B&N employee could have mistyped (the domain portion of) the email address when entering it into the list database. Third, B&N could possibly have purchased a list.

I don’t strongly suspect a purchased list in this case. If B&N were purchasing lists, I would expect to have seen more than a single spamtrap hit. I think that the point of failure was probably that B&N doesn’t confirm additions to its bulk email lists. Lots of companies don’t. Those companies are responsible for many annoying spams to personal email addresses that never subscribed, as well as many spamtrap hits. Companies that use bulk email to market have an obligation to clean up after themselves. Many marketers do not recognize this obligation. That results in ISPs having to manage the complaints, and end-users having to use spam filters to clean up after companies that shouldn’t have bothered them.

It also results in those of us who fight spam having to wade through the trash that these marketers leave in the mail stream to find the deliberate spam. If a company is especially careless, sometimes the spam fighters can’t distinguish between the two, and that company ends up listed in a blacklist. Does the punishment fit the crime in that case? Maybe not. But because spam is such a problem, and because the company’s carelessness makes it harder to tell deliberate spam from “mistakes”, they’re at least partly responsible for their predicament.

Think about it, B&N. And other readers — if your company does not confirm subscriptions to your lists and gets regular one-off spam complaints, think about it too, because you’re also part of the problem.

Sending IP:

Spam Sample:

Actual Headers:

Received: from ( [])
        by <xxx> (Postfix) with ESMTP id <xxx>
        for <xxx>; Thu,  1 Dec 2011 03:xx:xx -0600 (CST)
DKIM-Signature: <xxx>
DomainKey-Signature: <xxx>
Date: Thu, 1 Dec 2011 09:xx:xx -0000
Message-ID: <<xxx>>
List-Unsubscribe: <mailto:rm-<xxx>>
From: "Barnes & Noble" <>
To: <xxx>
Subject: It's Been a While! Click Today to Save 20% on Elf on the Shelf & More Kids' Gifts
MIME-Version: 1.0
Reply-To: "Barnes & Noble" <support-<xxx>>
Content-type: multipart/alternative; boundary="<xxx>"

Readable Email:

From: Barnes & Noble <>
To: <spamtrap>
Subject: It’s Been a While! Click Today to Save 20% on Elf on the Shelf & More Kids’ Gifts
Reply-To: Barnes & Noble <support-<xxx>>

We haven’t heard from you recently. Do you still want to receive great
offers and the latest book buzz via email from Barnes & Noble? Please
click on any link in this email to let us know we have your correct
email address and that you want to continue hearing from us.


Click below to unsubscribe.<xxx>

(c) 2011 Barnes & Noble. All Rights Reserved.
This email is an advertisement from Barnes & Noble, Inc.
76 Ninth Avenue New York, NY 10011, Attn: Marketing Preferences

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