Company Cancels Order Because It's Confused About Anti-Spam Techniques

A reader writes in to warn that if you purchase from Cascade Toboggan, be prepared to be treated with suspicion and hostility, and to have your order canceled if you attempt to straighten things out. Michal used a fairly common spam-tracking technique when he placed an order with them earlier this month—he put their company name as part of his email and shipping addresses, so that if his information was sold, he’d be able to source the perpetrator. We’ve done this ourselves in the past, and it works. However, the owner of Cascade, Dana, says this is trademark infringement, and even after getting Michal to agree to remove the name from his personal info, canceled the order and effectively banned Michal from future business.

UPDATE: Cascade Toboggan responds.

Dana! If you read this, please understand that no sane person will mistake Michal’s custom email address—”cascadetoboggan@mydomain.com”—with yours, which ends with cascadetoboggan.com. We know that being a small business owner is a challenge, but going after legit customers isn’t going to help. You could have asked Michal to use some other unique identifier in his shipping and email addresses, so that you’d sleep better and he’d still be able to track spam leaks. (And this is what we suggest to Michal and other readers in the future too, if only to avoid raising any red flags at companies that do sell their info.)

The only other reasons we can see for canceling the order, even after talking to the customer about it, is you’re just a hot-headed guy who doesn’t like to be confronted by an angry customer, or you indeed sell your database to other companies and don’t like the idea of someone tagging your data to track it later.

In our previous incarnation as a web developer, we were consistently amazed by the willful ignorance of clients regarding the web. It’s certainly okay to not know about a new(ish) technology—but wouldn’t you want to ask questions and try to learn more about how everything works? (“No,” said our clients 90% of the time.) Having a Ted Stevens-like understanding of the Internet is only amusing when it’s a national lawmaker.

An account of the experience (Thanks to Michal!)
(Photo: Getty)

CASCADE TOBOGGAN’S RESPONSE:

To Whom It May Concern: I can certainly appreciate your role as consumer advocate. So many times consumers are treated unfairly by companies (usually large ones) and have no recourse. However, I believe it benefits all to get both sides of the story before making judgments or decisions concerning correct behavior.

First and foremost, we sent Mr. Bryc an e-mail immediately after he placed his order that was both cordial and requested he stop the practice of using our company name as both a ship to address and as an e-mail handle. I understand the rational for this, but there are certainly better methods of tracking the sale of information. I cannot say why Mr. Bryce did not receive our e-mail, everyone else does.

We do not sell any of our customers information, or give it away. We state this in our privacy policy on the web.

After not hearing from Mr. Bryc following my original e-mail, we assumed that he had elected to take his business elsewhere. Several days later, he sent an e-mail (this was Friday), then another on Saturday. When I returned to the office on Monday, I promptly called him to apologize for not sending his order. I also asked him if he received the e-mail I sent on the day of his order. He denied receiving this, although he has received every e-mail I have sent him since? I then asked him about his use of our name. He explained to me why he used this technique. I empathized with his desire to track people that engage in this practice, but suggested there were ways that this could be done without using someone’s legal trademark. I requested that he stop using this method and asked for his assurance that he would not use our name further. He told me that he would not be doing business with us in the future, but would not agree to not use our trade name.

At this time I did agree to send him the product he ordered, but would not send it to Cascade Toboggan at the Seattle address he specified. Several minutes afterward when I had a moment to reflect on the conversation, I made the decision that Mr. Bryc was not the kind of customer that we wanted to be involved with. His tone and in my opinion, his intent was inflammatory. I sent him a very cordial e-mail indicating that after further consideration we were invoking our right as a company to decline to do business with him.

I’ve owned this company for nearly 10 years, and the company has been in business for over 45 years. To the best of my knowledge, Mr. Bryc is the first customer we have declined to do business with. That should tell you something. We don’t make hot headed decisions regarding business practices.

I too am a ski patroller, and have been for many years. My company has also donated many, many thousands of dollars to the National Ski Patrol, various Search and Rescue organizations and the National Avalanche School. I’m sure if you polled our many thousands of customers, you would be hard pressed to find a handful that have had a negative experience with our company. I would hazard a guess that the opposite is true of Mr. Bryc.

Sincerely,

Dana A. Jordan

Cascade Toboggan Rescue Equipment Company