How to stop amateur advertisers irritating you

2012-08-06 08:03

Chris Moerdyk

Advertising types are largely a pretty professional bunch of people. However, by the very nature of their trade they sometimes sail perilously close to the wind of deception by delivering their big ideas through murky smoke and misted mirrors.

But, the real danger to the ad industry is the amateurs.

They are about as damaging to the profession as the Royal College of Surgeons allowing dentists to do spare time heart bypass ops in their kitchens.

These are the cretins who pepper our e-mail inboxes with spam; phone us up with offers of dodgy timeshare deals and hospital plans just as we’re sitting down to dinner. They litter our front yards with pieces of paper and set our cellphones off at three in the morning with SMS offers they claim we won’t be able to resist but which I am able to do with aplomb, alacrity and curses loud enough to wake the neighbours and give my dog a really nasty turn.

In all likelihood they genuinely believe we embrace these intrusions with wide-eyed wonder and lifestyle enhancing anticipation.

Most of us just curse and kick but rarely about doing anything about it. Perhaps we should.

For example I remember years ago a fellow called Charles Gilbert who was so fed up with junk mail he started suing companies right left and centre.

He put up a sign on his post box at home warning companies of a R250 fine per document or unwanted mail.

At one stage he had 100 summonses delivered by the courts.

I have no idea what the outcome was but I thought it was a darn good idea.

I suppose it might well have fallen flat when it was found that the justice system was so slow and cumbersome, not to mention time consuming, that just suing people became a more than full time occupation.

Since then things have changed. We have an opt-out system and the Consumer Protection Act. Although I must say these amateur advertising pests don’t seem to give a hoot about trivial things like opt-outs and the CPA.

As someone who is constantly receiving text ads and e-mail spam, I have been wracking my brains about how best to hit back. I’m advised not to because all these people want is some sort of indication that you exist and that your e-mail address or cellphone number is active.

There has surely got to be a way of nailing these idiots ads well as all those crooks who keep telling us we have won a lottery or that we can earn millions of dollars just by helping them out.

I am at a loss I must say, but perhaps the clever and inventive readers of this column might have some great ideas to share?

Personally, I think the ad industry in South Africa should offer some big prizes for the best ideas on how to hit back at the spammers.

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  • Rabbler.Rouser - 2012-08-06 08:31

    Any junk mail I get goes straight into the rubbish bin. I don't even have an inkling of curiosity as to what it's about. As far as I'm concerned it's trash.

      dakey.ras.73 - 2012-08-06 10:50

      A lot of normal mail also goes to the rubbish bin.

      Bergie - 2012-08-06 11:26

      For physical mail, add the crap to the Return envelope and mail it back to them (they pay for the postage. For obtrusive telephone calls. keep them on the line as long as possible and pretend to be interested. They are paying at cellphone rates. I have a short term insurance company that phones me weekly. We chat and i pretend to be interested...

      gareth.nefdt - 2012-08-06 11:48

      Some of that junk has a "return to sender" envelope attached. If it is posted back it then costs the company that sent it money. I suggest to seal and send each one back, maybe then these guys will learn.

      gary.bloom.967 - 2012-08-06 13:21

      100% correct.........what many people also don't realise is that if you opt out of an sms service you usually get billed R2 to do so. Why the hell should I spend anything to opt out of something that I didn't ask for in the first place?????

      Revelgen - 2012-08-06 15:16

      In the 'old' days, when one got junk mail via your thermal paper fax, the way to combat it was to partially feed a sheet of black paper into your own fax, turning the fax off then gluing the ends of the black paper together forming a loop. You then switched on, dialled the sender's fax after hours and let the black paper run round and round through your fax for an hour or so. Result: at least one cartridge and roll of thermal fax paper exhausted at the other end and sometimes a burnt-out fax machine too from continuously printing solid black. Now how can we do this with unwanted e-mails? Maybe someone can come up with a programme to jam senders of spam with millions of unwanted responses?

  • Goolam Mohiyudeen Ameer - 2012-08-06 09:29

    i agree those junk emails can be troublesome, but give those telemarketers a break. they just trying to make a living. jus say no thanks, and cut the call

      isabel.w.stokes - 2012-08-06 10:12

      I agree. They all work on a commission only basis, so I feel a bit sorry for them. They are very annoying and I NEVER want anything they're selling but the least we can do is be polite to them, no matter how irritating they may be.

      ebon.geist - 2012-08-06 12:38

      Yup - I politely listen to all they have to say. Then I politely inform them that I am absolutely disinterested in being disturbed and that, with all due respect, I abhor the company for whom they work, and that my ire is not with them personally, but with that entity. I then politely apologise for wasting their time and the opportunity for them to actually get a sale, and tell them that as the representative of their company, they would do me and their company a great service by getting me off their database asap so as to prevent any further waste of time for either of us. It's a bit like "Steve" in the ABSA ads. In that fictional universe, his employers really need to just get the message that they need to can their whole telemarketting campaign...

      james.eayrs - 2012-08-06 15:28

      Goolam, sms's and calls after hours and over weekends don't deserve any "breaks" I receive sms's at all sorts of hours during the night. It's just totally inconsiderate and deserves the strongest sanction possible!

      deabreu - 2012-08-06 17:01

      Not all telemarkers work on commision. I know for a fact that Mustang Marketing (who sell sharetracking software) in Centurion have been abusing their staff for years. A quick google search will find a few complaints about their work ethics. They take the poorest of the poor by luring them with the promise of jobs in local paper adverts, but then never pay them because the staff leave after the constant abuse. Everyone knows about Mustang and their methods. Very sad. The bosses at telesales places like this should be named and shamed for their deception of not only selling expensive share software that promises quick rich profits, but the disrepect they have for their own staff.

      Leonore Engelbrecht - 2012-08-19 06:42

      i tried politely saying no thank you, even interrupting them every few seconds. after the 5th time i start with: 'by the way, i won a multi-million rand lawsuit last year because my name shouldn't be on anyone's list. please put me through to your legal dept. its the quickest that the 'signal get lost'... they just wont let go unless you're rude.

  • fussed.anderson - 2012-08-06 09:32

    Junk sms's should be reverse charge opt out, You did not ask for it so why must pay for it to stop

      Rugbyfan - 2012-08-06 15:29

      Agree. In fact, the whole "opt out" concept is flawed and as such is being abused by cunning advertisers.

      Hugh - 2012-08-07 08:55

      A company ZED made a fortune out of charging above average fees for opting out of services offered. However I do not agree that we should pay for the opt out. The problem is that advertisers have gotten around that by having a sectioned data bases. This means that one company may have you listed on 20 data bases. Opt out on car insurance and be sure life insurance will follow. I believe the operator and advertiser still share the spoils even if at normal rates.

  • chazfury - 2012-08-06 09:52

    I also receive a number of these spam 'ads' on my cellphone daily. Does anyone know what the sms charges are to 'opt out'?

  • jason.sole.92 - 2012-08-06 10:13

    I dont agree and whilst on the subject i dont think there is such a thing as a professional ad. Whats the difference between littering my mail box or boring the Moses out of me on television? advertisers that are doing flier drops generally are not big companies with large budgets and are doing the best they can to become something, i can assure you it is not easy in the trenches and you need to be lean and creative to cut a living out of this large money dominated planet. u strike me as the kind of guy that winds his window shut when ppl are doing drops at robots, little do you realise that sometimes the ppl at the robots are doing their utmost to try and earn enough to one day sit in a car just like u.

      ebon.geist - 2012-08-06 12:24

      1) Advertising on TV/radio or in magazines or newspapers PAYS for those media. It may be annoying but you would not have those things were it not for the advertising. And your alternative really is simple: go without TV/radio/newspaper/magazines. 2) Do you really think it is a good thing that every second street corner has a bunch of people standing there? (if you do, you have haven't really thought about it) Look at all that goes with it: littering, abluting (going to the toilet), distracting traffic, possibly causing extra congestion as some idiot misses the green robot because he is trying to deal with some street corner person. Hijacking/smash-n-grab risk is increased because those criminals just blend in with the rabble already loitering around there. I used to pity people in those positions. I suppose I still do. But encouraging them to be there (ie by supporting them) DOES MORE HARM THAN GOOD. If you want to do something for the lot of poor/disenfranchised people who are forced to find employment at a streetcorner, rather give them a real job, or go make a donation to a school in a poor area, or any other myriad charitable act that doesn't encourage people standing on street corners.

  • harry.boesman - 2012-08-06 10:37

    You can register your op-out choice with the Direct Marketing Association of SA. I did so a few years ago, and the number of unsolicited marketing calls subsided greatly. follow this link What still gets me down, though, is the fact that the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act of 2002 is not readily enforced. Section 45(1)(b) determines that the consumer MUST receive, on demand, the identifying particulars of the source of your contact details. Even when reminded that failure to comply constitutes an offence, direct marketers merely state "database", then hang up. The content of the Act may be great, but its implementation is useless. Technically, a consumer is entitled to file criminal charges in terms of Section 45(2) and (3). Maybe we should simply start filing these charges each time!

  • dakey.ras.73 - 2012-08-06 10:58

    Reputable email marketers have an incentive for you to open as well as read your emails. They typically pay per email, so it is in their interest to ensure you actually want to receive their emails. Typically OPT-OUT if you don't want to receive their communication and if that continues, contact your ISP. They will raise a call with the email sender and potentially block all their emails to everyone at your ISP. Your best bet is not to give your main email address out to just everyone. Have a junk yahoo/hotmail account if you want to sign into any temporary web site (like kalahari etc) to buy something. Lastly, avoid (if you can) guys like WebMail or Hotmail especially if you're going to have a simple name like ''. This is rife for email mining. Rather use a name like MikeMcDonnald_223344...'

      fussed.anderson - 2012-08-06 15:00

      @ Dakeyras Then why would you try to contact them in the first place and then give them a junk email address. You will still have to go through that one at some stage just to find something you missed and now too late

  • straatslak - 2012-08-06 10:59

    I'm thinking some sort of advanced SMS spam filter. At its foundation it must have the ability to silently divert spam (no more interruptions of nappy/sleepy time). I'm not to sure about the protocols used in mobile communication, but if it is possible to echo the adds back to their senders, then the moment the company starts sending adds on mass, they'll launch a DOS attack on themselves :P

      dakey.ras.73 - 2012-08-06 14:09

      And this would help companies that send legitimate bulk sms how?

  • mike.bundy.73 - 2012-08-06 11:19

    Oh Chris it's so easy and so much fun dealing with physical spam mail. Keep all of the leaflets, brochures and other garbage that flops into your post box until you hit gold! Somebody will send one with a "Postage Paid" or "Freepost" envelope. Now just place all of the junk mail into a box, attach the freepost envelope to the front and post it all to them.

  • justice.ubuntu - 2012-08-06 12:03

    Good article as usual Chris... Problem is, I have indeed contacted both WASPA and ICASA about the spam texts and calls... and they both say there is nothing they can do... and I should contact the other...!! So what and where do you suggest people like me, who do want to do something about this, can lodge a complaint where there is at least a possibility of action being taken...? Or a place where contact numbers of these companies can be reached to lay complaints directly at their doors and demand to be removed from their lists. The two useless, toothless, gravy-train organizations above make no effort and seem to just be another quasi-private club used to keep useless no-goods in fine style... How about an article and/or guidelines on exactly what CAN be done and how to reach people who do indeed want to do something to assist the public..? Would be much appreciated...!!

      justice.ubuntu - 2012-08-06 12:12

      POint being Chris... that with your contacts you will be more likely to get to the right people who can provide some sort of answers... as opposed to Citizen Jane or Joe...

  • ebon.geist - 2012-08-06 12:08

    The first step in combatting this is creating a culture which rejects any kind of undesirable marketting. The fact is that spam (all types: telemarketers, email, sms, flyers, mail) exist solely because some (foolish) people actually respond and buy whatever it is that is being sold. The problem is that although most people are annoyed by spam about stuff they don't want, they fail to realise that by responding to the stuff they are actually interested in, or because they feel pity for the telemarketer/guy on the street corner etc etc, they are feeding the monster. It is very simple: If *any kind* of spam annoys you, you need to reject *all of it*. If you buy into even 1 "seemingly harmless" product sold to you by a spam medium, then I am sorry to have to say it, but you have basically asked to be inundated with rubbish marketting 24/7. On top of that there are other ways to hurt these marketters: Telemarketers: Keep them on the line as long as possible. They either want a sale or a quick "no". Keeping them talking wastes their time and money. Eventually end the call telling them you have trolled them, and that you want your name removed from their database, and tell them it is in their interest to do so because otherwise their agents will waste more of their time. Spread the word to your friends and family: If enough targets do this to them it will become unprofitable to continue.

      ebon.geist - 2012-08-06 12:14

      The latest round of rudeness is the automated call that "politely" tells you about some product and that if you are interested press "1" to have an agent call you back. I always press 1. Why? So that I can tell the "agent" that it annoyed me to be rudely put upon by the automated call, and that what I actually want is to be removed from their database altogether. I let them know point blank that I am intentionally wasting their time, as they did mine by getting their clever system to phone me. This wastes their time and punishes the company employing this antisocial practice. Again, the more people that do this, the more effective it becomes. Bankrupt the bastards. PS: For those who would like to respond that this is "job creation" or "good for the economy" I say bollocks: this kind of job is a leech on the economy: The man hours can be far better spent doing something useful, eg building houses.

      justice.ubuntu - 2012-08-06 12:19

      great ideas ebon... only prob is having the time to follow up with them... not being lazy... as above i do try to do something about this... but they often catch us at very busy or inappropriate times which make it very inconvenient to do as you suggest with any consistency... but great ideas none-the-less and will try them...

      ebon.geist - 2012-08-06 12:27

      Hehe - another idea I have employed if busy is to put them on hold. Keep checking back every 30 secs or so and tell them you'll be back shortly.

      justice.ubuntu - 2012-08-06 12:29

      LOL... will give that a go too...!!

      mike.bundy.73 - 2012-08-07 08:24

      I say to them "Keep talking, my hands are full so I am going to put you on speaker and not answer you, ok?" The morons always say "Ok", then I do exactly that. The phone eventually goes quiet lol

  • Mark - 2012-08-06 13:34

    Best I ever did was when I was getting constant calls saying I had possibly "won" a car and I needed to go to a meeting where I would be entered into a final draw. Having fallen for it once before, there was no way that I was falling for it again. After requesting about 20 times to remove my details, I somehow managed to get an email address for one of their managers (cant remember how) and setup an automatic email that would send to him every 20 seconds. It took about half an hour for him to come back to me requesting that I stop it, my response was that I will gladly do so once I am removed from their system and that he confirmed that this was done. Also pointed out o him that if I ever received a call from them again, he would be receiving my emails every 10 seconds. Never got a call again.

      Livvi Krige - 2012-08-12 13:24


  • mike.mcfadyean - 2012-08-06 14:16

    I don't accept that the infuriating advertising spam that we have to tolerate here is only the work of "amateurs". I am pretty sure the likes of Vodacom and MTN don't employ the services of amateur advertisers. I believe that the tactic of "shotgun" advertising through media such as SMS, email etc... is a widely used tactic by ALL advertisers, and not just the amateurs. On a bi-weekly basis, I receive a call from Vodacom on my cell phone trying to sell me a Vodacom contract. Since I AM already a Vodacom subscriber (for my sins), I have on more than five occasions asked the person calling to "please take me off your call list, I do NOT wish to receive any more calls". Sure as eggs-are-eggs, the next week I get the calls again. Grrrrr! I now just hang up when I hear the beginning of the blurb from the caller - so annoying!

  • Jacques - 2012-08-06 14:18

    Google the company. Find out where the head of marketing lives. Take photos of his house and photoshop it so it seems to be on fire. Then drop all your junkmail with your 'new and improved' homey pics in his personal mailbox. Problem solved, in a creepy way.

  • syd.harling - 2012-08-06 15:16

    My phone has a "block number" facility, doesn't everyone's? Any unwanted text senders addresses are captured in block sender and you never see them again. Try it, it works.

  • Quartus - 2012-08-06 15:33

    So why must we "opt out" if we never "opted in"? To opt out is not free, so now we must incur expenses simply because some idiot decided to pepper us with rubbish. Personally I would like to get the residential address of the sender. I have some great plans with him/her/it!

  • janet.upsher - 2012-08-06 17:12

    I delete about 60 e-mails a day. Half are informing me that I have won a lottery and half are spam from Pakistan. There is no opt out option. I have tried blocking the sender's email address but they continuously change email addreses.

  • jacqui.grigg - 2012-08-06 21:00

    Oh gosh....everybody is talking about about mails about winning the lottery. Am I the only one getting the "enlarging my pe nis" emails? The constant spamming infuriates me and the only thing that stops me from responding rudely is the fact that it will acknowledge a "live" number or email. The latest harrassment campaign comes from VVM attorneys telling me I should make arrangements on my arrears SABC licence. I have called several times at MY cost to advise that I am not Mr (MISTER) Tshabalala (hellooooooo)....and what happens?..... the NEXT sms arrives at 11.30 at night. During one phone call I opened the conversation, "please record this call" and they hung up on me. Iedjits!

  • Hugh - 2012-08-07 09:01

    Yes there is something that can be done. Join an anti spam system offered by your ISP and diligently transfer all your spam into a specifically created spam box email account that is set up as an Imap. Imap reports back to the email server. The anti spam reads and learns spam from your email server. It takes about six months and you are relatively spam free.

  • flysouth - 2012-08-07 09:34

    If you have your own domain on a server you can set up filters for incoming emails. It remains a problem however, some will get through as the spammers constantly mix and match domains and IP addresses etc. I have blocked mails from entire countries in the past - e.g. China, using the IP blocks assigned to that country. Usually the spate of spam from a particular place subsides as they target mew email addresses, then you can remove that filter if you desire - or just leave it, I know nobody in China!

  • barry.clemence - 2012-08-07 17:04

    I have a friend who is currently oversees and has to pay an incoming charge for every call she receives due to international roaming. 10 calls in one day cost her R86. I'd be a bit muffed.

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