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Every Friday, I post a small insight into running Curio City and/or Blue Hills Editorial Services. My most recent posts are directly below. You can also start with the first post, or use the subject labels to the right to home in on particular topics. Feel free to comment on anything that interests you.
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Friday, April 24, 2015

Spam: It's What's for Breakfast

Following up last week's post about telephone spam got me thinking about traditional email spam. In the eight days since I last rebooted my laptop, my junk mail folder has accumulated 116 messages that slipped past the filters. GoDaddy and MDD Hosting, depending on the account, catch the most obvious crap. Messages then have to pass my Penis Rule, which drops any emails with words like "Dr. Oz", "Fox News", "mortgage", "pills", "GMO", "pharmacy", etc. in the subject line into the junk mail folder, to make it into my Inbox. ("Penis" was the first word I put on the list and the name stuck.)

I right-click on messages that survive that winnowing and add the sender to my blocked senders list, which is at least 1,000 addresses long and grows daily. Few spammers ever use the same return address twice, but it does block a few.

Most of my spam is vaguely business-related: ads for various i-Things, ads for Ess-Eee-Oh companies, and similar marketing crap. The next-biggest category is diet/weight loss and nutrition snake oil. Then there are a lot of links to conservative "news" articles and sites; I don't know how I ever got on that list since I'm a socialist. Miscellaneous sales pitches (insurance, investment services, office supplies, mortgages, etc.) comprise the next-largest category. You know you're old when wrinkle removers outnumber Russian brides and sex services. There are a few half-hearted phishing expeditions, but not a single Nigerian prince or Viagra ad. The server-level filters must be skimming those.

Spammers and pornographers must make a lot more money than I do for less work. Changing my business model has crossed my mind, but my pesky old-man ethics keep me on the straight and narrow. An ethical legitimate business must surely prevail in the end, right? Hah!  

Golf ball lady never came back, even after I threatened to raise the price of a dozen loose balls by $3. Oh well; as I said, 75% of these bulk inquiries never go anywhere.

I cracked open Wednesday's email to find that a $625 order for four dozen of Panther Vision's old 2-LED caps had come in overnight. Sadly, the order came from Germany. First of all, Panther won't dropship outside of the US, so I would have to pay $35 for inbound freight and then reship them myself. Second, Panther's price had gone up by 75 cents per cap since the last time I ordered, reducing my markup by another $36. Third, because the currency exchange inflated PayPal's usual cut, there was only $75 left after steering the customary 20% into payroll.  

The USPS delivered the coup de grace. Germany and Italy are the only two countries in the world that strictly prohibit shipping all lithium batteries (everyone else accepts batteries that are installed in products). The customer understandably pulled the plug when I offered to ship the caps sans batteries, but without any price reduction due to the already-high cost of filling her order.

And here we see why my payment processing costs have tumbled under the PayPal regime. A normal credit card processor would have charged me a transaction fee, a percentage, and an exchange surcharge amounting to perhaps $40 altogether. Then they would have hit me for the same amount when I submitted the refund; I'd have been out $80 for nothing. PayPal, OTOH, refunded all but 30 cents of their original fee with no additional charges.  

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