Dear Automated Sales Bots – F*#K Off and Leave Me Alone!

Sep 9, 2017

JP Danko

JP Danko is a commercial photographer based in Toronto, Canada. JP can change a lens mid-rappel, swap a memory card while treading water, or use a camel as a light stand. To see more of his work please visit his studio website blurMEDIAphotography, or follow him on Twitter, 500px, Google Plus or YouTube. JP’s photography is available for licensing at Stocksy United.

Dear Automated Sales Bots – F*#K Off and Leave Me Alone!

Sep 9, 2017

JP Danko

JP Danko is a commercial photographer based in Toronto, Canada. JP can change a lens mid-rappel, swap a memory card while treading water, or use a camel as a light stand. To see more of his work please visit his studio website blurMEDIAphotography, or follow him on Twitter, 500px, Google Plus or YouTube. JP’s photography is available for licensing at Stocksy United.

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Dear Automated Sales Bots

Sales 101 says that it is much more profitable to convert sales from existing customers than to retain new customers – but retailers have taken this to a fantastically annoying new level – to the point where I have to waste significant amounts of time and effort to ignore them.

Continue reading for a few examples of the most annoying practices of modern retailers and a few strategies that you can use to avoid them.

1. Ratings for Everything

After you purchase something or use a service it is inevitable that within a few days you’re going to get an email asking you provide some sort of rating. If you ignore them, they’ll keep emailing you over and over and over and over…

I don’t mind providing feedback once in a while – but this practice is now at the level that you’re asked to rate everything all the time.

If I really love or hate your product or service, I’ll let you know – otherwise f*#c off and leave me alone!

AirBnB Rate Your Experience
If I really loved the place (I did) – or really hated it – I might take the time to rate it – but otherwise – go away.

2. User Surveys

Even more annoying and time consuming than rating stuff is full on customer surveys.

I get it – I appreciate that you want to seem like you care about your customer’s experience, you might even be genuinely collecting data to improve your product or service (although in most cases I highly doubt it) – but it’s a little much to expect me to waste 5 or 10 minutes of my time to fill out your survey for free.

One of the most annoying examples is PayPal who have popup surveys in the middle of tasks! “How would you rate your experience transferring money?” How about you just F-off and let me transfer the money!

At the very least, offer one of those gift card draws (I’m pretty sure nobody ever actually gets a gift card – but it’s a nice gesture).

Quickbooks Survey
Quickbooks Survey – At least they’re offering $10 to waste 10 minutes of your time…sort of.

3. Q&A Forums

This is something that B&H and other online retailers have been doing recently that drives me crazy – after you purchase a product if someone has a question about that product, they’ll contact you and ask if you can answer the other person’s question.

I’m sorry, did I forget about being hired by your customer service department?

If you want me, your customer to take care of your Q&A forums, then pay me – otherwise f*#c off and leave me alone!

B&H Question and Answer Luxbanx
Sure I’ll just spend my time answering your customers questions for you…

4. Endless Deals

After you purchase something or even search for something, you now get endless emails and online ads of the latest deal.

For example, I used to book a few hotels while traveling in Europe. I now get daily emails about the latest last minute deals in Venice.

I’m not in Venice. I don’t plan on going back to Venice any time soon.

Here’s an idea: the next time I think I might need something from you, I’ll get in touch – until then f*#k off. Deals
A last minute deal in Venice – well let me just get on a plane right now!

5. Email Updates

I hate email. I mean I really really hate email because 95% of the email I receive is auto-send newsletters, offers, sales notices etc.

I don’t mind the occasional newsletter from organizations and companies that I like – as long as there is some useful information and not just sales notifications – maybe once or twice a year would be good.

But once an organization has your email, it’s like it’s their sacred duty to email you as much as possible. My gym sends me email updates everyday – sometimes more than one – I love my gym but seriously – who needs multiple daily motivational stories, recipes and sales on supplements?

TD Tips for Enjoying Summer
My insurance company wants to make sure I know how to enjoy summer…oh ya and they sell travel insurance too.

6. App Updates

It seems like every app I use needs to be updated…constantly.

Every time I try to use a piece of software or simply shutdown the computer I have to wait for one update or another.

I get that it’s good to occasionally update things, I appreciate security flaws need to be fixed and if you want to add a few features, sure I’ll wait for that – but for the love of all that is holy, can’t anyone release a functional piece of code that doesn’t need to be updated every five minutes?

Do you know what’s even worse than App updates? Its when apps force you to update and then take away something, or make you do something you don’t want to do.

Here’s an example from DJI: ya, no I don’t want to share my personal information with you but since you’re effectively threatening to send a goon to my house to break my drone if I don’t comply…


DJI App Update

DJI App Update 2
You will comply – or we will intentionally break your drone. Whattaya gonna do about it sucka?

And as bad as this example from DJI is, my personal favorite has to be social media networks – in this eula update from Twitter, they’re basically telling you that you agree to whatever the changes are – and if you don’t like it you can screw off.

Twitter Update Terms of Service
Your agreement is understood – or feel free to deactivate your account.

7. Unsolicited Sales Calls

The only thing that I hate more than email is unsolicited sales calls.

It doesn’t matter how hard you try to safeguard your business phone number, sooner or later it will get onto some sales list and the bots will start calling…and calling and calling and calling and calling…

This is to the point that unless I recognize the caller, I don’t even bother answering my phone anymore (see Why I Don’t Answer My Phone Anymore – Also Why I Cancelled Voicemail).

How Social Media Networks Enable Creative Content Theft 2
Sooner or later – your phone number will be released into the wild.

8. Targeted Ads

Targeted ads are so ubiquitous now that we all just ignore them by default – but that doesn’t mean they’re not still annoying.

Google something, anything and it will follow you around the internet for weeks. I don’t get it, its not like I’m suddenly going to remember – oh ya – I forgot to buy that thing I was looking at on Amazon three weeks ago – better buy it right now!

The lord have mercy on you if you Google something sensitive!

Facebook Ads
Gee – I wonder what I was looking at this morning…camera bags and sports scores maybe?

Strategies To Ignore The Automated Sales Hustle

Most of the time sucking automated sales hustle is directed at email – so in most cases you can unsubscribe from whatever email lists you’re on.

I make it a monthly task to unsubscribe from every single email list I have somehow managed to get myself subscribed to (except for a select few that I like and that are not too frequent).

However, no matter how hard I try it seems like I can never unsubscribe from them all – and somehow I keep getting added to new lists – so a far better solution is to simply use a sacrificial email account for all online transactions and then pretty much ignore the whole account.

You can take this a step further by inventing an online pseudonym. With a fake identity and a sacrificial email, it’s less important when your personal information is inevitably sold to a sales list. (I always get a good laugh when I get a phone call or email for Photy McPhotoface).

Just be warned that some services (especially those that deal with money – such as PayPal) expect you to use your real identity.

When it comes to phone calls, the best approach I have found is to use an app with an SMS and Call Filter. I use eSet Mobile Security so every time I get a sales call or text, I add the number to the blocked list.

It’s not perfect but I’d say it blocks about half of the sales calls I receive.

When it comes to app and software updates – there’s not much you can do except make sure you turn off all notifications and only keep apps and software installed that you use on a regular basis.

For browsing, I figure the less big data and the NSA know about my search and browsing habits the better. I have started using the “private browsing” option by default – which at least doesn’t leave behind a trail of history, passwords, cookies, and other bits and pieces of data.

Private Browsing With Tracking Protection
Its not much – but better than browsing naked.

What Do You Think?

Are you annoyed by the constant on-slot of automated sales bots – or is that just how the online world works?

Do you hate wasting time filling out ratings and surveys – or do you see it as your duty to help others?

Are you frustrated by app updates – or are you happy that you’re always getting improvements?

What are the most annoying online sales strategies that you’ve had to deal with?

Do you have any productivity tips to avoid online sales distractions?

Leave a comment below and let us know!


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JP Danko

JP Danko

JP Danko is a commercial photographer based in Toronto, Canada. JP can change a lens mid-rappel, swap a memory card while treading water, or use a camel as a light stand. To see more of his work please visit his studio website blurMEDIAphotography, or follow him on Twitter, 500px, Google Plus or YouTube. JP’s photography is available for licensing at Stocksy United.

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3 responses to “Dear Automated Sales Bots – F*#K Off and Leave Me Alone!”

  1. Renato Murakami Avatar
    Renato Murakami

    Yep, this is pretty much the new reality.

    The essencial thing people need to understand is that it happens for a reason: it works. All of them. Specially the most annoying stuff, like telemarketing and whatnot.

    So you really have to divise ways of dealing with it because most likely – they won’t go away.

    For cellphone calls, I block. And there are times when I have to do contact whitelisting – which means, I’ll only take calls from my contact list. Everything else gets blocked by default. If you are on Android, here’s the tip: NQ Call Blocker.

    I also use Tor (Orbot) on my smartphone, refuse access for stuff apps have no right using, and turn GPS off whenever not in use. Yes, it’s a hassle.

    E-mail? Long time ago I learned how to use filters on Gmail, went ahead and implemented a system. Everything gets separated in folders. If I get spam, it gets labeled like so, don’t even bother trying to unsubscribe… even if the products are related to something I was searching recently, if I didn’t subscribe to a list, it’s spam.
    Also have accounts on more private e-mail clients like ProtonMail just in case one day Gmail becomes a problem and I have to switch to something else.

    Fortunately, brazilian law instated a no telemarketing list you can subscribe to. If someone calls my landline (yes, I still have one of those), I immediately cut the talk, notify that I’m on the list, ask the company’s name, and threat to sue if they call me back. Haven’t had a single telemarketing call in months. If I discount charity fund raisers, that goes up to years.
    If I lived in the US I’d have switched to Google Voice already – it has all the tools to set things up.

    Targeted ads? Sorry, but I just use a bunch of blocking plugins. Adblock Plus, uBlock Origin, and there’s more that are currently not activated because for now it’s enough. But they are there if needed, like Privacy Badger, Disconnect, Script Block and others.
    I never minded helping websites, blogs and whatnot with ad revenue, but after getting my computer infected multiple times because of nasty ads, no can do anymore. It’s a personal position, but I place security and privacy over the content I consume, so it’s just the way it goes. I also disabled, uninstalled, and am not going to put flash plugin among other entry vectors into the browser again.

    Oh, I mostly use DuckDuckGo as search engine these days, Google just when I’m trying to find something very specific that DuckDuckGo is having a hard time with. And for those cases, I tend to go with private mode – search it without being logged in, so it doesn’t register and populate ads. Still using Chrome, but there are also alternatives for that… Tor browser, private browsers, and storing bookmarks offline.

    I’m still using Lastpass for password management, but will be migrating to Keepass soon… just have to get a proper device (tablet, desktop, laptop) that will be kept offline with all the private info, including contacts, calendar and whatnot.

    I also took sometime to go and opt-out of several mailing lists that social networks and general services have… it’s quite involved since most of them hide this as much as possible. But Google, Facebook, Twitter, plus a bunch of other big online services have them. Chat services also generally do – WhatsApp and whatnot. I don’t remember step by step instructions, but if you search around you are bound to find them. It’s a liability thing, so most online services are bound to have them because they want to avoid lawsuits.

    If I could start over, and someday I might, I’d just make a bogus e-mail account without any real information, use an alias for everything, and use that to register all services and such. Leave the authentic everyday usage accounts for the ones you absolutely have to, and even then keep information to a minimum. Use tor and vpn for everything.

    In fact, I am already semi prepared for this, but for now, I can handle the ammount of spam I get. I really don’t receive all that much anymore. If a time comes that I can’t, I’ll just flip the switch. Unfortunately, every single measure you take towards privacy you’ll probably lose some convenience and have some extra work for your daily tasks, but it’s not impossible and if push comes to shove, it can be done.

  2. Gvido Mūrnieks Avatar
    Gvido Mūrnieks

    These things are really annoying. As the matter of fact although I buy from online stores quite often – I have never received any of these automated suggestions, that I have found something I decided to buy.

    I got annoyed quite a bit a few months aggo and I unsubscribed from all possible automated e-mail letters I was on. This emptied my personal e-mail account from 10-15 e-mails a day to 2-5.
    When it comes to sales calls and SMS – I go even further: If I receive unwanted SMS – I make one star review in their social pages, like Facebook. As for sales calls – those aren’t really a thing in my country, not including mobile operators…

  3. Mario Dennis Avatar
    Mario Dennis

    Is this really a major human problem? If you don’t want to provide feedback or complete a survey, delete/unsubscribe and move on. On the other hand, I have appreciated being able to ask a question of people who have actually purchased and used a product, rather than rely on advertising hype. There are issues more worthy of indignation.