Toad’s ordered to stop mass e-mailing Yalies

Yalies who have e-mail accounts cluttered with announcements from professors, messages from friends and notes from deans may now have one fewer item to clear from their inboxes.

Officials at Information Technology Services directed Toad’s Place owner Brian Phelps in October to stop sending e-mail advertisements to University students after receiving repeated complaints from undergraduates about spam messages. Phelps said he thinks the mandate is unreasonable and that it is doing a disservice to the students.

Many students have also reported receiving e-mails from female clothing store Archetype, although the boutique’s owner said his store does not send mass messages to Yale students.

Although many Yalies said they simply forward such messages to their spam folders, they said they are unsure how these businesses — which they have never visited — obtain their e-mail addresses. The e-mails can be a nuisance, but they are usually not a significant inconvenience, students said.

Phelps said he asks students who attend his club for copies of residential-college facebooks. Once he obtains the books, he said, he directs employees to input all of the e-mail addresses manually into a software program that allows him to “mass-send” advertisements.

But after recently changing e-mail software, Phelps said he sent e-mails to several students who had previously requested to be taken off the Toad’s e-mail list. After “three or four” students submitted complaints to ITS, he said he received an e-mail from ITS informing him that the University was banning Toad’s from sending further mass e-mail to students without the students’ signing up for the lists.

Repeated requests for comment from ITS were relayed to ITS Senior Director of Academic Media and Technology Charles Powell, who did not return phone and e-mail messages sent Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

Phelps said he has been using the system for a decade.

The News reported in Sept. 2006 that ITS last updated its spam filter for Yale e-mail accounts in Sept. 2006. But some students said the e-mails from Archetype and Toad’s Place have slipped through the filter’s cracks.

The recent Yale e-mail spam filter update caught 30 percent more spam than the previous version of the spam filter on a trial run by ITS in Sept. 2006, the News reported.

Two e-mails sent by Toad’s Place, dated Oct. 3 and Oct. 25, were obtained by the News.

Addressed to Yale@mr1.its.yale.edu and dancers@mr1.its.yale.edu, the Oct. 3 e-mail, with subject line “Wednesday Dance Party-PENNY NIGHT…,” included an advertisement for an event at the club that night. The end of the e-mail featured a calendar of upcoming events and discounts at the bar. The sender is listed as toadsplac@aol.com.

The Oct. 25 e-mail, addressed to Vampires@mr5.its.yale.edu and Monsters.&.Goblins.at.Yale@mr5.its.yale.edu, advertised a joint DKE-fraternity and Toad’s Place Halloween costume party under the subject line “Halloween Costume Party this Saturday night…” The e-mail had a different sender — thetoad@toadsplace.com — and featured a link that allowed readers to unsubscribe from the “Toadsplac@aol.com” e-mail list.

The Oct. 3 e-mail did not include an unsubscribe link.

Phelps said he always offers an unsubscribe link on all his e-mails because he does “not want those who don’t want them to get them.” He said he obtains contact information from about 1,300 students per class, but about 400 to 500 students from each class unsubscribe from the list.

He said many students he had talked to said they were upset by the ITS decision.

“If it’s hurting the students [not to get the discounts via e-mail], it’s up to the Webmaster’s hands,” Phelps said. “She’s the one who caused it.”

Some students said they do not mind the “spam” e-mails and even find them helpful sometimes.

Although Stephanie Brockman ’08 — who has been receiving e-mails from Archetype since her freshman year — said she thinks the e-mails are “annoying,” there are too few to constitute a significant inconvenience.

“I like looking at the pictures in the Archetype e-mails,” Brockman said.

But several students said they are glad the University has issued the ban.

When told of the ITS ban, Rishahb Khosla ’10, who had attended Toad’s Place only once and did not request to be on an e-mail list, had just one word to say: “Good.”

Archetype owner Odysseus Rethis said the business only sends e-mails to customers. The store keeps a record of those who sign up for the e-mail list — which they can do either in person or on the store’s Web site — and does not disclose the list to outside parties, he said. He said some customers may have forwarded the e-mail to others in the Yale community.

“We don’t want to send out spam or anything like that,” Rethis said.

To attract new customers, the store relies on word of mouth from previous customers and advertisements in local newspapers like the New Haven Advocate and the News, Rethis said.

But many students who said they have never visited Archetype said they have received e-mails from an address named ArchetypeClothing@geonetinc.com. The e-mails are addressed to their individual e-mail addresses, the students said.

A recent e-mail obtained by the News and dated Nov. 30 displayed the store’s name, address and phone number and photographs of coats under the subject line “great winter lines.” At the bottom of the e-mail was a link titled “unsubscribe,” which leads back to the Archetype store Web site.

Rethis said he uses archetypeclothing@hotmail.com to send e-mails.

When a News reporter forwarded him the e-mail Sunday, Rethis said he would look into the matter.

“I will investigate this further in hopes of preventing this from continuing,” he said in an e-mail Monday. “Once I find out what is happening, it will be remedied.”

Monday night, many female students received an e-mail from Archetype offering a coupon, contact information and a link to unsubscribe from the list under the subject line, “4 Days Left.”

Rethis said the unsubscribe link can help those who receive the e-mail in error so “they won’t be inconvenienced again.”

Comments