My buddy and I had a website when we were 18-19 years old that has been dead for well over a decade. I won’t use the real address (let’s call it pardonusforbadwriting.com) since the content was sports related and displays a quality of writing (that though I was proud of at the time) has not exactly aged well. We wrote a bunch of content, designed the website by scratch in HTML, and thought it was beautiful. We even had our own site-specific email addresses, email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’re 14 years older these days and over that time many things have come and gone and come and gone again. Recently my buddy went into a well known tux rental shop (we’ll call it John’s Warehouse) to get sized for a tux for an upcoming wedding. He provided his information as he got there including his current Gmail-based email address and got sized for the suit. At the end, he was asked by a different associate if he wanted to pay for the suit rental, and after doing so they asked him if he wanted a receipt sent to the email address they had on file. He agreed and they said, “We have email@example.com on file, is that correct?”
An email address that hadn’t been used or even valid since 2003 was being spoken aloud for the first time in 13 years and my buddy couldn’t believe his ears.
I was called immediately and the tale was hilariously retold until I couldn’t stop laughing. However, a mystery was afoot – how could John’s Warehouse possibly have this email address in their client database? The old website and the email address had been defunct for over a decade. My friend had never been to John’s Warehouse when the website or email address had existed. After some soul searching and more laughing at JW’s expense, we could think of only one possibility.
My friend used to use the email address to sign up for things online in 2002. It is likely that some company probably sold the email address to some email list broker. John’s Warehouse, in their nonstop fervor to make John’s ‘like the way they look’, gobbled it up and kept it until that very special day in late March when it resurfaced like a cocoon that hatched after a decade and an old, ugly butterfly fell out.
My buddy still rented the suit for John’s Warehouse so what did this possibly cost them? Nothing. Unless you consider that the email list that John’s Warehouse likely bought is the same one still being peddled today by tons of email list brokers. So before you consider buying an email list from a broker, ask yourself how many bad or defunct addresses are on it, and how many 19 year olds (who are now 33) are in your target market?
But seriously, buying a list is never worth it.