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Exclusive: 1-800-Flowers Spam 'Was the New Guy'


By Ken Magill

And from the all’s-well-that-ends-well file comes the story behind 1-800-Flowers earning a listing on anti-spam outfit Spamhaus’s blocklist and then being delisted within 24 hours.

Spamhaus—which blocklisted 1-800-Flowers on April 28 and removed the listing by April 29—maintains a list of emailers it deems as spammers. Internet service providers and email administrators can set their systems up to check incoming email against Spamhaus’s list in order to help them identify and block incoming spam.

Though there are about 150 anti-spam blocklists—or blacklists as they are also called—Spamhaus is one of the few that matter. A listing on Spamhaus reportedly results in serious email delivery troubles.

1-800-Flowers’ listing last week led some to speculate that the incident may have had something to do with its email service provider Epsilon’s infamous data breach where someone or group gained unauthorized access to millions of Epsilon’s clients email files.

According to Steve Linford, executive director of all-volunteer Spamhaus, the 1-800-Flowers spam snafu had nothing to do with Epsilon. The listing was the result of the actions of a new employee at 1-800-Flowers, he said.

Also according to Linford, the 1-800-Flowers spamming/blocklisting incident was a textbook case of how to properly deal with getting listed on a prominent anti-spam blacklist.

“The SBL [spam blocklist] team has been working with Epsilon to help pinpoint the problem in the 1-800-Flowers list, which we understand was caused by a new staff member pulling some data for 'Mothers Day' mailings from ‘very old files’ which included data from ‘now-defunct acquisition programs’. (There's a lesson there in not keeping old co-registration files around),” wrote Linford in an email exchange with the Magill Report.

“We regard Epsilon as responsible and honest, and incidents like this as flukes which, when brought to their attention, are very quickly handled,” he wrote.

Linford also had praise for 1-800-Flowers.

“1-800-Flowers also reacted very quickly to suspend the mailings and find the problem, and Spamhaus suspended the SBL listing as soon as Epsilon told us they'd stopped the mailing and were working with the customer on the problem,” wrote Linford.

Author’s note: Isn’t it great when anti-spammers and marketers can get along? Okay everyone! Sing with me! Kumbaya my lord, kumbaya…


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Terms: Feel free to be as big a jerk as you want, but don't attack anyone other than me personally. And don't criticize people or companies other than me anonymously. Got something crappy to say? Say it under your real name. Anonymous potshots and personal attacks aimed at me, however, are fine.

Posted by: Glenn Harris
Date: 2012-05-13 21:48:15
Subject: Spam Still Continuing

The 1-800-Flowers continues to thrive, despite what this alleged piece allegedly says.
Posted by: Ken Magill
Date: 2011-05-04 08:55:30
Subject: Mistakes happen

That sbl listings usually don't go like this is precisely why it was news.
Posted by: anonymous
Date: 2011-05-03 20:17:04
Subject: mistakes happen

not sure it's so newsworthy to call out a senders mistake that landed them on the sbl. Most sbl listings from legit senders are simply mistakes like typos, and you could write one up probably every week. it's rarely so "kumbaya" as described here, and usually results in some legit sender reconfirming a lot of regularly opted-in users and losing $$$. perhaps spamhaus is changing their tune as they go more commercial, which would be great for all senders.
Posted by: Chet Dalzell
Date: 2011-05-03 16:26:58
Subject: age of email lists

Another great argument for email list hygiene, wonderfully demonstrated and thank you for sharing. Let's hope none of my clients send press releases to you at Penton!
Posted by: Andrew Barrett
Date: 2011-05-03 15:18:26
Subject: Isn't it great?

Anti-spammers and marketers get on well, indeed. Spamhaus is an important reason why e-mail remains a viable channel for marketers in the first place.