Do You Know How Your Email Works?

December 15, 2015

I’m sure some of you know exactly how your email works. Unfortunately I often hear from users who don’t know how email works. My fear is that their misunderstanding of email will mean those users miss this post. Just in case, I want to outline a few things to help you understand. This will make everyone happier.

The typical computer users gets a huge number of email messages every day. Sadly many of them are pure junk or even infected with malware. These are commonly referred to as “spam”. But there are also messages that you are receiving that might not be wanted, but they are not spam.

Let’s go over an example. I once purchased luggage from a company. I love the product I purchased. But I rarely need to purchase new luggage. Yet I still receive a lot of email from that company. While it is unwanted by me, it is not spam. They are a legitimate company and I have the option to unsubscribe from future messages. If I don’t unsubscribe, I can’t really complain if I still get the occasional message from them.

Most email providers have some sort of “spam filtering” where they try to make sure that the really spammy e-mail never lands in your inbox. While it has improved greatly over the years, spam filtering is still very inaccurate. Therefore many legitimate messages may get filtered and you are thinking the sender dropped the ball. I’ll give two examples.

Last week I got a call from someone who had purchased a product. While I don’t think I would categorize them as angry, they were frustrated that they hadn’t received their product (it was a download). I asked the person if they had looked in their spam folder. Of course the “missing” email was in the spam folder as it had been since seconds after the order was placed. Problem solved, but this was someone who had a negative impression of our company simply because spam filtering had inaccurately filtered the email we sent.

Another customer recently emailed their frustrations with not receiving the product they ordered. When this happens, there is a 99.999% chance it is something out of our control. Spam filtering is typically the problem, but you’d be shocked how many users type in the wrong email address. I spent ten minutes writing a detailed response to this customer. Unfortunately it was also a waste of my time since my response also went to their spam folder.

whitelistSo I ask all of you to check your spam folder carefully before you accuse any person or company of failing to send you a message. If you know you are expecting to hear from certain people or companies, whitelist their address. Our company only uses two addresses and we’d certainly appreciate it if you whitelist them so you can receive the messages we send. Those addresses are and

For those who don’t understand how to whitelist an address (or domain), the best answer I can give is to go to Google and ask how to do it. So search for “whitelist gmail” or “whitelist aol” or “whitelist cox” where you insert the company providing your email services. If your company provides their own email server, contact the folks in your IT department.

If you can do this, you’ll be a lot less frustrated because you’ll receive the emails you are expecting and the people or companies currently being blamed will be happy that you got the message you wanted.

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