Although Mitch was new to the Internet, he was quickly turning into a fanatic. He had been using the net for about two months and everywhere he looked he saw opportunities for his business, Road King Travel. Mitch had grown Road King into the largest travel agency in Orange in the short space of four years. He could see that the Internet might be an easy way to expand even beyond the borders of sleepy little Orange.
One day in an airport bookshop Mitch had spotted a book by two lawyers; he couldn't remember their names now; but the book had described the potential of using mass email to reach possible clients. It seemed to him he would be a fool not to follow the authors' advice!
As Mitch saw it, the World Wide Web was fine but email was the way to reach customers. More people use email than use the world wide web, and in addition, you have to wait until people happen to arrive at your web site. With email, your message goes to them. In addition, the cost of the sending email to 100,000 people is not much more than sending it to a thousand.
He had been in contact with a group that could send email to over 200,000 online consumers. Their price was unbelievably low compared with direct mail. Mitch could hardly believe the opportunity.
As the case opens, Mitch is in his office, on the phone
with the president of the company that claims
to be able to send email to
One of Mitch's employees, Jen,
is also on the phone.
"OK, I'll put those tickets in the mail today," she concludes.
Both Jen and Mitch hang up their phones at the same time.
Mitch describes the service he is negotiating to Jen.
"The price is unbelievable.
Even if a tiny percentage of people who get this email order tickets,
it will have paid for itself."
Jen gives him a sceptical look.
"I think you are going to make a lot of people mad.
Better be ready to get some mail bombs."
Mitch looks taken aback.
"What is a mail bomb?" he quickly asks.
"Someone can send you a huge file. It can
clog up your email because its too big to handle."
Mitch asks, "Why would someone do that?"
"I pay to be online. Why would I want to pay for junk email?
Whenever I get unsolicited stuff on email I always complain
to the postmaster at the site where it came from.
Of course those guys can just get another mailbox somewhere,
but I figure it slows them down."
Jen looks at Mitch. She seems to expect a response.
Jen's mention of the mail bomb reminds Mitch of something the mass
mailer said that had puzzled him.
The guy on the phone had
used the word "spoof" and Mitch had asked him what he meant.
The guy said it was possible to fake a return address on the outgoing email so that recipients cannot
send email back.
Without another word,
Mitch gets up from his chair and walks toward the back room. His brow is furrowed as if trying to work out the answer to a difficult puzzle.
Jen looks at him quizically as he walks by.
What is Spam?
Internet users have a name for unsolicited commercial email: spam.
Just in case you have never received any,
it might be educational to check out some samples of real spam.
By all accounts the amount of spam is increasing each month.
Personal reports I have received indicate that America Online subscribers are an especially
tempting target for spammers with many AOL subscribers suffering from
heavily clogged mailboxes.
There are a large number of
web pages which
Almost all of these are dedicating to protecting
the online user
from spam, a fact which illustrates how unpopular spam is with many
A sampling of such pages appears below:
Ethics in Marketing
Marketing practitioners, as well as those who teach marketing, began to move
ethical considerations to the forefront after the 1980's when so many businesspeople
ended up in jail for financial manipulations. At that time, many business
schools decided to include more ethical information in the curriculum.
Ethics is not as easy to teach as Basic Marketing, however.
Day to day political discourse would seem to imply that it is
inherently difficult to achieve consensus about ethical questions or else contraversies about abortion or the death penalty, to use two examples from contemporary American politics,
would have been over long ago.
These and other ethical questions stay with us,
but we begin to deal with them in a logical fashion by understanding how and why people make ethical decisions. One approach to comprehending differences in ethical decisions is presented in Kohlberg (1981).
Four possible frameworks are presented in
The American Marketing Association has created a
Code of Ethics for Marketing on the Internet.
The AMA Code of Ethics for Marketing on the
Internet states that one should not do something on the Internet if that activity would be illegal to do if conducted by mail, telephone, fax or other media.
Junk fax is illegal in the United States, but marketing by phone or direct mail is quite legal.
Compare spam to
junk fax, telemarketing, direct mail, and broadcast advertising. Which, if any, of these media provides an appropriate analogy for spam?
Does spam hurt its recipients?
How might this be measured?
At this time I receive about 10 spam mailings per week
and my personal reception total is doubling about every three months.
If you were to receive about 20 spam mailings per day, how would this
change your answer to the previous question?
Might spam mailers be under any legal or contractual obligations to not engage in unsolicited mass mailings? Is there any dishonesty apparent or possible in the sending of spam?
Could it be the case that if Mitch were to send the spam, at least some of the recipients might find a bargain and get to take a trip that they might not have the opportunity for otherwise?
Could one argue that since Mitch has this opportunity, he has a duty to send this spam so as to increase the happiness amongst these customers?
The case does not mention it, but Road King Travel has some silent partners who have invested in the firm. If Mitch foregoes the spam opportunity, has he
in effect cheated his partners out of a superior ROI?
Should Mitch send unsolicited email to advertise his travel agency?
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