The article Mr. Spam Man over at Westword is an in-depth look at one of the kings of spam, Scott Richter of OptInRealBig infamy. It makes for fascinating reading on many levels not the least of which is how someone like Richter got started and built a company that sends out between 50 million and 250 million emails a day and clears over $2 million dollars a month in revenue as a result. With bucks that big on the line it’s hardly any wonder why spamming is a popular line of business.
What I didn’t expect was that the article would provide good reasons to encourage skeptical thought and critical thinking while describing how Richter got his start. At one point the article is discussing how Richter was selling diet pills presumably bought from some wholesaler:
Working out of his basement, Richter was soon shipping several thousand dollars’ worth of pills a day. Still, he discovered that he had to keep coughing up bucks for barrages of e-mail to keep the orders coming in.
“Lots of people would order diet products once, but maybe 10 percent or less would come back and reorder,” he says. “I’d send out ‘Lose 10 pounds in a month,’ and someone else would come out with ‘Lose 11 pounds’—and people would switch to an identical product. So I’d take the same pill and change the name. Instead of Inferno, it’s Thermalife. I’d spend $10,000 a week marketing, get $15,000 in sales, and hope for reorders.”
It seems that a lot of people would buy the same bottle of pills repeatedly as long as it carried a different name as they searched for the easy fix to their weight problems. It’s sad enough that there are plenty of people out there willing to buy whatever craptastic product shows up in their inbox with a clever name and tagline, but the fact that just changing the name repeatedly kept the sales up speaks volumes about how much critical thought some folks are applying to their decision making process. It also shows you how there are plenty of people out there willing to cash in on other people’s stupidity.