Emailing etiquette: An unbelievably rude way to control spam

I received this auto response from one of my subscribers today after he or she got my newsletter:

This is a business, if your message is not related to photography delete me from your list

That's it. That's all that was in the email.

Well, I'm more than happy to oblige! This person had set up their email so that every time someone emails them, the sender gets this lovely message. No "thank you for your email." No signature. No nothing. And yet they subscribed to my newsletter and wanted a free issue each Monday.

I'm supposed to put up with getting this email every week from them? Not! I have my boundaries and this is one of them. They don't like getting spam. And I don't like getting rude messages.

What if I were a major collector? What if I were a gallery wanting to carry their work? What if, instead of setting this up as an autoresponder, they used this:

"Thank you so much for contacting me. I try to get to personalized email as soon as possible. If you are emailing for something unrelated to my photography business, you probably won't hear from me–unless you are a long-lost friend, have money you want to give away, or want to award me the Nobel Peace Prize. I hope you understand. Sincerely, [Photographer's Name]"

Is that so hard?

Share this post

Your mailing list is your #1 marketing asset.

Your Artist Mailing List report

A transcript with the 3 lists every artist should have + a 3-page assessment for understanding the health of your list. FREE with opt-in.

11 thoughts on “Emailing etiquette: An unbelievably rude way to control spam”

  1. Wow, that’s quite amazing! I don’t even set up autoresponders when on holiday, because I think it’s unacceptable to bombard any sender with a “I’m sorry I’m away” message. Partly because the majority of messages aren’t so urgent, partly because so many senders are like you and are providing me with a service that doesn’t need a response. *Especially* because I’m a business – my email issues, including spam, are *my* issues to deal with. Not something for me to pass on to any sender. Saying that, I would never let my emails go unchecked for more than 72 hours barring an actual emergency of course.

  2. Wow. I am surprised that anyone would USE an autoresponder! When a SPAMMER receives an autoresponse, it simply confirms that the sender’s e-mail address is valid and therefore sellable to other SPAMMERS. Duh! Why send the bad folks confirmation you exist, especially when you also annoy your legitimate contacts? The best protection from SPAM is probably a good SPAM filter and let that SPAM just disappear into Internet space.

  3. I had a very bad experience with an auto-responder and a group email list I was on. It kept responding every time anyone wrote in to the central group… and echoing endlessly because each time my auto-respond responded it would respond to the auto-respond… for 2 weeks. Fortunately I wasn’t as out of email as I had anticipated, and savvy participants in the group stepped in and fixed it. But this is somewhat different. It’s very easy to be more rude on email than one intends. What would be okay with a smile becomes devastatingly unkind (and definitely bad for business) without the visual cues. This guy/girl should figure it out!

  4. Dear Alyson, Thanks,I picked up on this topic because of your note on twitter.This provides me with some follow up that tweeting is a valid form of communicating. Rudeness is often a result of overload. I think we all need to heed your notes on prioritizing and decide just how many venues we can reasonably participate, keep up to date and personalize with a reply… not auto responders!

  5. Sophisticated server-side spam filters (like Google Message Filtering, which i recommend) are so easy and cheap to set up, there’s just no reason for this kind of a crude — and business-killing — method.

  6. Oh boy was this perfect timing…I sent out a short newsletter a few weeks ago and immediately got not an auto respond but someone unsubscribed with “no thanks” and then sent me an email to say they did not appreciate the spammed newsletter…I didn’t ask them to sign up for my newsletter and I certainly didn’t ask them to continue to receive it for the past year plus, open it and click through out it. I chaulked it up as they were having a bad day….but like you Alyson I have my limits. Thanks for another great post just when I needed it.

  7. My grandmother often said, “There is only one sin. Rudeness.” One can only hope that the “photographer” in question reads your post and the comments to it, and reevaluates his/her strategy. Having said that, however, it’s always possible the decision to use such an abrupt auto-responder was made in a moment of extreme frustration over the amount of spam they were receiving. I’ve been there myself. I like your alternative message. Using a sense of humor in dealing with the issue of spam (or any issue, really) is preferable to allowing yourself to become upset. Hmmm…I just had a thought: I wonder if Hormel Meats is at all upset over the word “spam” taking on such negative connotations?

  8. A sense of humour and common courtesy would also extend to anyone who after receiving yours, wanted more information. I don’t need a life story, but a very pre-emptory demand for info or materials without supplying details is in bad form too. Especially when they email me a second time saying “Respond!”

  9. Alyson B. Stanfield

    Tina: Love this: *Especially* because I’m a business – my email issues, including spam, are *my* issues to deal with. Not something for me to pass on to any sender. Kelly: Yep. That’s the other side of this. Liza and Helen: Yes, I’m certain this is not intended to be rude. But, boy, having this go out every time someone emails you is really bad biz. Debbie: Yeah, you kind of want those people to leave your list, don’t you? Burnell: Surely somewhere there is an article about Hormel and the appropriation of “spam.” From what I understand, Spam is enjoying (ick) a renaissance.

  10. I am surprised at the amount of “sales prevention” that a lot of businesses and people practice. Perception is everything and an auto-response like the one you received tells me that I need to earn the right to communicate with that person. There are much more effective ways of combating spam.

  11. Marilyn Sholin

    I know someone that lost a speaking engagement opportunity because they not only don’t check their email daily, but they use an autoresponder. A speaker dropped out at the last minute and this convention needed to book someone to replace them immediately. By the time the person checked their email two days later they already had someone booked and ready to fly in. Receiving the auto response also let the convention think the potential speaker was away or too busy to bother. Another reason to be tied to your iPhone or Treo or whatever…but a necessity in these days of fast moving information and decisions.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top

Your Artist Mailing List: Rethinking + Assessing

Get a transcript of episode 182 of The Art Biz (Rethinking Mailing Lists for Artists) followed by a 3-page worksheet to evaluate the overall health and usage of the 3 types of artist lists.

Where can we send it? 

To ensure delivery, please triple check your email address.

You’ll also receive my regular news for your art business.

Privacy + Terms

You're invited!


  • More than 7 strategies for growing your list lists, and why 1 shines above all.
  • How to redirect your energy for better results.
  • How a gratitude practice can help you shift your mindset.

I’ll also give you a peek behind the scenes at our classes and community.

This event is coming up soon. Will you come?