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We recently had a customer muse to us “I think there’s got to be a phone number at the ISP that we could call, so we can ask them to explain the reason we are being sent to the junk folder.”

As most of you who read this probably know, well, there isn’t such a phone number.

But why not?

In part, it’s because that simply wouldn’t scale.

Think, for a moment, about how many computers are connected to the Internet. This number is largely unknowable, but two years ago the estimates were well over 300 million.

Of course, even if that statistic were accurate – and even if it were still accurate here in 2008 – that doesn’t mean that all 300million+ computers connected to the Internet are sending email, right?

So let’s look at another statistic: According to Entrepreneur magazine, in 2003 there were 22,659,000 businesses in the United States alone. Let’s assume that the number hasn’t grown (unlikely), and let’s assume that only 10% of them send email (also not likely). Even with these generous assumptions, that would be 226,000 email senders in the United States alone.

And, of course, ISPs – particularly the larger ones – don’t deal with email from the United States alone; far from it.

Are you starting to get the picture that ISPs deal with a lot of email, from a lot of different email senders?

Now, can you imagine what it would be like if ISPs published their phone numbers for email senders to call whenever there was an email deliverability problem?

Ok, let’s, for a moment, say that you can imagine it.

The other reason that ISPs don’t get on the phone with email senders is because guess who would – overwhelmingly – call the ISPs?

That’s right, spammers. Spammers who would whine and complain to the ISP that their email is being blocked, and that their email isn’t spam, because the products they are selling are real. Or because it has an opt-out link in it. Or because everyone on their list “really wants to get email from them”, and they know that’s a fact because that’s what the person who sold them that CD of 10 million email addresses told them.

And, when that doesn’t work, they get nasty, and even threatening.

I know, because I’ve been there.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t legitimate email senders out there who truly can’t figure out why their email is being blocked – perhaps even wrongly blocked – there are! And, in fact, that’s where we come in, advocating for them with the ISPs, and helping them to figure it out, and get their email flowing to the right place again.

Is it fair that we can get in touch with the ISPs, while our email sender customers can’t? I don’t know; but I do know that I’m just glad that we can do it for them.


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  1. Not every ISP has a “Bat Phone”, but ISPs do publish some contact phone numbers… AOL’s is right on their postmaster page. Other ISPs have also made similar information available.

    I’d still recommend that email (or the published contact method) be the first point of contact though. Following preferred channels will almost always get you the fastest resolution.

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