Tip: Use One Catch-All Email Address To Collect Restaurant Offers

Tracy Ham and Eggs shared a great tip with other readers on our Pizza Hut spam post earlier today:

My last decent sized company had a “food@company” email. They opted into everyone deals and menu emails and when we wanted to order something we hit that email and searched for what we wanted. Worked out so well I set the same thing up for myself with gmail.

(Photo: jason.kaechler)


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  1. Nick says:

    I suppose you could also set up a filter to tag messages from food companies and move to a separate folder. That keeps them out of the inbox, but easily accessible (without a separate account).

  2. Chris Walters says:

    @schwnj: Or—and this is a bit more complicated but would be easiest to use in the end—set up a restaurant-only gmail account, then forward everything from it to your real account. Then set up a rule in gmail to tag everything from that address with a tag like “food” and archive immediately.

    I spend way too much time customizing my email accounts…

  3. ludwigk says:

    This is called a spam account, and everyone should have one. But, this is yet another good use for them.

  4. Michael Belisle says:

    @schwnj: There’s also the + alias:

    Gmail doesn’t offer traditional aliases, but you can receive messages sent to your.username+any.alias@gmail.com. For example, messages sent to jane.doe+notes@gmail.com are delivered to jane.doe@gmail.com.

    You can set up filters to automatically direct these messages to Trash, apply a label or star, skip the inbox, or forward to another email account. [mail.google.com]

  5. scoosdad says:

    @Michael Belisle: Oh man, I have an underscore _ in my username in my various email accounts, and it’s hard enough to get people to put that in correctly, let alone now convincing them that it’s ok to put in a ‘plus’ sign?

    People with tildas in their email username have my sympathies as well. “You know, the squiggly thing next to the one?”

  6. missdona says:

    @Michael Belisle: You can also use the . to customize. Like if it’s first.last@gmail you can give out f.irstlast or the . wherever you like

  7. Michael Belisle says:

    @scoosdad: It’s not that hard to type into an online form.

    I can see where it might be a problem if you hand-wrote your email address on a opt-in card. In the worst case applicable to this story, you won’t get email from Quizno’s.

  8. evan says:

    Quizno’s has an email list that sends out coupons monthly. Usually it’s $1 off sandwiches that you can print and use as many times as you want- not a terrible deal tbqh.

    Not that I would ever do something like this but it’s pretty easy to fudge the query string on the image they send and change the expiration date, too…

  9. randombob says:

    I use a similar tactic with ALL my emails… I have at least 6 email addresses right now, one for friends & family only, one for “junk” stuff that I use for web “offers” and the like that are just junk (hence “junk” in the name of the email, haha), another that is for REAL web-based companies (banking, etc), one for work stuff, etc.

    So when I glance at my email client and see where my new messages are, I already have a good idea what to expect. The “Junk” emails are typically automatically forwarded to a catch-all “Junk mail folder” so I don’t have to look at them.

    I keep telling everyone to set up their email addresses like this; that way, you’re never giving out your “real” email address to companies or entities that would just spam the living hell out of you or sell it to others who would.

  10. DadCooks says:

    @Michael Belisle: Be aware that many sites will not accept an email address with a “plus” (+) in it, even though that “special” character, and many others, are allowed in the email address standards.

    Gmail’s +alias is a nice feature, and I use it when I can. Folks just need to be aware that it will not always work.

  11. freshyill says:

    This doesn’t make it any less shitty that Pizza Hut forces you to get spam with your pizza.

  12. Steve Trachsel, Ace says:

    @randombob: I do the same, I just seperate out the food ones. I tend to do a lot of carry-out orders to take with me to customers so having a quick access to an email with just coupons and menus is handy. It was really great with the company, since we set it up with an efax number too so the local places that did blastfaxes fell into there too.

    not exactly ground breaking stuff.

  13. ShortBus says:

    Email-enabled public folders… damn… why can’t I convince my company to adopt Exchange? :(

  14. humphrmi says:

    Wow, you guys are much more sophisticated than I. So I give out my yahoo address to anyone who asks, and any e-mail I receive there is summarily marked as spam. I guess I would care if spending $2.50 in ink and paper were less than the buck I’d get in coupon savings.

  15. littlemoose says:

    I use a separate e-mail account (yahoo) specifically for commercial stuff. I use it when I shop online or sign up for offers. I have two other e-mail accounts, one for work and one for personal mail. It’s a huge time-saver and makes it easy to read important mail, rather than scrolling through the 15 e-mails I’ve gotten from Dell that week to find something worthwhile.

  16. adambadam says:

    Why not make a Consumerist food email — say consumeristfood@gmail.com and a simple password everyone knows? Then the community can go out and sign up for whatever they want and everyone can log in and search for their coupons.

  17. Kali Mama says:

    @adambadam: Because some totally hilarious person will change the password within minutes?

    There are plenty of free coupon sites out there.

  18. Nick says:

    @Chris Walters: That’s how I handle my spam and school email accounts. The real trick with this is to combine using secondary email accounts (e.g., for spam) with plus addressing and the deliveredto: operator in your filters so all forwarded messages are labeled correctly. See my blog post for more on this.

  19. kamikasee says:

    The problem with having a “spam” account is that eventually you get too much spam. I had a Yahoo account that was getting 100 spam emails an hour, which rendered it basically useless.

    This is a little more complicated, but I own the domain I use for email and I set up a subdomain for commercial emails. So if my regular email is bob@mail.com (it’s not, by the way), then I configure *@biz.mail.com to forward into my regular email. Then when i sign up for something or have to give out an email address for an online purchase, I use the name of the company as the first part of the address: gevalia@biz.mail.com, amazon@biz.mail.com, etc. You can just make up the name on the fly, because anything in that space will get forwarded.

    With this, I can check my spam to see what addresses it’s coming from, and route those specific addresses to :BLACKHOLE: without compromising the rest of my commercial accounts.

    It’s also funny when I’m on the phone and I give people an email address with their own company name in it.

    Granted, web hosting costs me $6/mo which is significantly more than a free google account, but I will control my email address forever and I get to do cool stuff like this.

  20. sleepydumbdude says:

    My spam accounts eventually got over run also. I got about 350 a day. At work when I was bored I used to pass the time by going to half the sites and opting out. Most the spam was stuff like
    Se xualyv Exp1icjtp F’REEj PO1RNOk terror found quick massive information bodies…
    I just went to it and thats the first one. Most of them are like that, no use in blocking them and they haven’t been caught in the spam filter.