Out With the Inbox

Jenny wants to meet me. Suzie has the “hots” for me. What Sheryl wants to do to me is not suitable for publication, but she clearly didn’t go to a reputable finishing school. In all, 187 women, six barnyard animals and a couple of wayward members of the clergy have offered to meet, defrock and otherwise exploit me in the past 24 hours. Hope springs eternal, but I’m not that cyber-charming.

In addition to promises of massive infusions of “love,” I get an outrageous number of offers for ink cartridges. The online ink cartel appears to rival the Teamsters in scope and influence. The black market for ink conjures up images of Berlin in the 1980s. “Hey, man, got ink?” “I got a kilo of blow, a case of Havana Sour and a Kalashnikov.” “I need ink, man. Nevada’s outta ink.”

On Oct. 22, the U.S. Senate passed the first anti-spam bill, approving certain regulations for e-mail marketing. The bill, which passed unanimously, calls for barring high-volume commercial e-mail senders—spammers—from disguising their identities and using misleading subject lines to attract attention. Well, whoop dee doo!

Dan Jaffe of the Association of National Advertisers says the bill is not a “silver bullet” solution to the problem of those odious weasels who are ruining the e-mail marketing party for legitimate companies. Give the ANA, the American Association of Advertising Agencies and the Direct Marketing Association credit for releasing their own guidelines on spam recently; they are a solid step in the right direction. But spam marketers are the Willy Lomans of 2003: losers. Having one’s inbox invaded is equally as obtrusive as telemarketing pitches and fliers in my mailbox.

My inbox should be as private as my telephone number. I would no more want marketers to abuse my e-mail than I would want to give them the keys to my apartment.

I come to work to e-mail with my friends, my fiancée, my boss. I don’t sit in my cubicle 10 hours a day, growing a small pot belly, to get requests from people like “Matumbo” in Nigeria, who needs me, “Miss Sandy,” to deposit $3 million in his bank account so we can go into business in America once he sends me back a check for $10 million. Matumbo, if you are reading this, here’s a hint: Journalists don’t have $3 million to throw around. If I did, I would be living in a Tuscan villa with Gwyneth Paltrow and Salma Hayek. I suggest you try this address instead: dcheney@halliburton.com. He’s a very nice man.

If I want to buy a Hummer, I’ll go to gm.com or a dealership. Canali suit? Yes, please, but I’d sort of like to try it on first. If I want to meet Christian singles in my area, I’ll go to church.

I wish these spammers would offer something that might add a little value to my life. A mansion in the Pacific Palisades. A trip to Mars. A full-frontal lobotomy. What I don’t need are more credit cards. This weekend I was approved for more than $1.2 million in new credit. Luckily, I am no longer 16, when I thought money grew on trees. At that tender age, I took it upon myself to put money down on a convertible BMW. The credit-card statement was eventually delivered to my father, who turned out to be somewhat more conservative than I expected when it came to spending his money.

All this to say that children big and small need some protection from the ridiculous offers that filter through e-mail.

I don’t want a remote-control helicopter. I don’t want to increase my breast size naturally (“guaranteed!”). I don’t want to earn a criminal-justice degree online. I don’t want to stop paying too much for my Phentermine (whatever that is). I don’t want most of the spam I receive from flaks. And I most certainly don’t want to win a pair of Oscar de la Hoya’s old boxing trunks.

Wait … ooh, a personal letter from Santa! They had me at hello.