We are firmly anti-spam.
Spam -- the colloquial term for bulk email usually of a commercial nature, and almost always unwanted -- has become a tremendous problem for just about everyone.
For me, it fills up my in-box every morning, obscuring important messages and slowing down my computer. I've had to add spam filters in order to avoid spending hours every day going through spam messages. Every now and then a real message gets misfiled as spam, which is to me an unacceptable cost; it makes spam a serious menace to our ability to use email effectively.
How We Fight Spam
Although we cannot prevent others from abusing email addresses (and other contact information -- computer-dialled telemarketing, for example, is essentially phone-spam) entrusted to them, we can make very sure that we do not contribute to that abuse by:
- preventing customer contact informtion from falling into the wrong hands, and
- making proper use of customer contact information ourselves.
In addition, we can also support the efforts of those who are working against spam.
The above summarizes our anti-spam efforts; more details are below.
Keeping Contact Information Confidential
We never give out any contact information entrusted to us beyond what is necessary for filling an order. In the process of filling orders we will obviously need to give the recipient's name, address, and possibly email address to the delivery courier (usually USPS). The email address lets the recipient receive notifications from the USPS about their package.
(If you would like to see an option to specifically request that we not give out your email address to the shipper, please comment on the discussion page.)
Occasionally (mainly for overnight delivery) we will also give the courier the customer's phone number. In cases where the supplier is drop-shipping directly to the customer, we will obviously need to give the supplier the customer's shipping address.
To the best of our knowledge, these are the only circumstances under which we give out any contact information of anyone who has contacted us as a potential customer. (Suppliers are obviously a different matter; we post a link to each supplier's web page, where available.)
Using Contact Information Properly
At this time, we do not send out bulk email to anyone -- neither customers nor anyone else who has contacted us. Our outgoing email consists solely of one-on-one dialog regarding contact initiated by the other party. None of it is generated automatically, with the sole exception of the automatic order confirmation sent out when a customer completes an order online.
At one time, we were planning to start sending a newsletter via email; it's not clear whether this will be necessary or useful, given developments since then (mainly RSS and the "watch" feature).
Responding to Spam Reports
It hasn't happened yet as far as I know, but it's bound to happen eventually (especially with a short domain name like "vbz.net": spam misrepresenting itself as originating here. If we hear any such reports, we will respond as appropriate on a case-by-case basis to minimize the likelihood of anyone's personal information being misused. We are already planning to increase the availability of anti-spam notices and information on the site.
As of 2009, we frequently receive spam addressed to [random address]firstname.lastname@example.org, but we have not yet heard of anyone else receiving emails from such an address.
Promoting Spam Prevention Tools
New techniques for fighting spam are popping up all the time; we'll be adding to this list as we hear more.
- ClamWin: free, open-source anti-virus software for Windows
- Spam Gourmet: temporary email addresses which only forward a small number of messages, and bounce the rest.
Vbzwiki also gets link spam almost daily. I monitor the site's RSS feed for edits, immediately remove any spam (whether it affects the page's actual appearance or not – many spammers cleverly hide the spam content so it only affects search engines) – and log the spammer's IP address here.
If you have any further questions about our anti-spam policy or anything else, please feel free to contact us.
Measures We Do Not Take
This seems a bit extreme to me, but only a bit.