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Q.           Who are these time-wasters?

Q.           What’s the difference between time-wasters and spammers?

Q.           How do we stop the time-wasters?

E.G.1     I work for a recruitment agency and I’m looking for candidates for a role as IT project manager in the retail industry. I try the company database and type in “project manager” and “retail” for a keyword search on cvs. and it finds 1000 possible candidates.

That’s too many c.v.s to read and I can’t be bothered refining the keyword search to reduce the number of possibles so I decide to send out an email to all 1,000 people. After all, it costs me nothing and if it’s irrelevant to almost all of those people – well, they can simply delete the message. 

The search returns 1000 possibles when only a few are actually relevant to the job because the keywords can appear anywhere in the c.v.s and be nothing to do with what the searcher is looking for e.g. picking out lots of people who used to be project managers but have moved on from that or people who have been project managers but not in the IT industry.

To the majority of the 1000 possibles who receive the message - it is junk sent by an idiot too lazy to check before sending out such a volume of email.   

E.G.2     I have a list of company names and contact details and I want to know which industry sector each is in.  I could look up the answers in a directory such as Dunn and Bradstreet or I could do Internet searches but I think I’ll phone each company and waste their time telling me the answers.

This wastes the time of a lot of people who have better things to do than answer such questions where the information is easily available.

E.G.3     I want to get people to claim PPI from the financial institutions. I buy a list of 1 million phone numbers and setup a computer to dial them in sequence and play a message that tells them they must claim PPI before the government stops the claims. The phone numbers are just random and could be anyone on the line but so what if it doesn’t apply to them then they will just ignore the message. The caller is told in the message to press 1 to speak to someone.  If they don’t press 1 then we just call them 2 days later and carry on until eventually they press 1 to talk.

Cold calling like this is regulated but many callers ignore the rules and do as they please.

E.G.4     I work in Marketing for a seller of email lists and telephone numbers and we are supposed to pride ourselves on the quality of the data. I need to sell contact information for healthcare providers. Now, I could go to the trouble of selecting companies that do business with healthcare providers or businesses that in some way connect with healthcare but I can’t be bothered so I’ll just email a random list of .co.uk email addresses and they can sort out whether its relevant to them or not.

These are examples that did happen, although I don’t claim to know the mind-set of the people involved in sending out such emails and making the phone calls – so that part is assumed.

Sending out emails is extremely cheap – a poor quality Marketing company will send out millions for you for just a few hundred pounds.  For many people it’s easier to just email than to stop and think.

If companies had to pay 10p for every email they send out that is pointless, inappropriate or unwelcome then they’d soon stop to think.

Likewise, if these companies had to pay £1 for each phone call they make that is pointless or unwelcome they they’d shut down their direct calls operations or make sure to check properly before each call.

Sending out letters and physical mailshots does cost money and some companies send out huge volumes but they do that as a deliberate ploy to overcome the fact that they will only ever get a tiny response rate for their messages.  

Q. What’s the difference between time-wasters and spammers?

Spam emails sometimes also fit the category of time-waster, but the difference is really that the time-waster would be offended to be called a spammer and didn’t intend to be one. Whereas spammers are very deliberate in sending out as large a volume of emails as they can knowing they will only get a very tiny percentage of responses.

Q. What can we do to reduce the number of these time-wasting emails, letters and calls?

Unlike spammers, time-wasters are essentially thoughtless in their actions and sometimes respond to a well-intentioned message to get their act together and stop wasting other people’s time.

It’s worth a try!