PLAYERS TASKS PRAXIS TEAMS EVENTS
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Charlie Fish
Level 7: 1909 points
Alltime Score: 10301 points
Last Logged In: January 20th, 2015
BADGE: INTERREGNUM TEAM: United Kingdom TEAM: Group Creation Public Badge TEAM: Team Shplank TEAM: SFZero Animal Posse TEAM: The Society For Figuring Out How To Get Those Damn Badges TEAM: Whimsy BART Psychogeographical Association Rank 3: Cartographer The University of Aesthematics Rank 1: Expert Biome Rank 1: Hiker Chrononautic Exxon Rank 1: Clockwatcher Society For Nihilistic Intent And Disruptive Efforts Rank 4: The Chaotic


15 + 210 points

Correspond with a spammer by Charlie Fish

December 17th, 2007 6:07 PM

INSTRUCTIONS: Correspond with a spammer.

I wanted to put a new spin on this task. To go the extra mile.

I flicked through my capacious junk email folder and an idea came to me, sublime in its simplicity. I would actually respond to one of the advertisements and purchase the goods or services offered (Viagra why not).

I was curious to see if these marketeers with mediocre morals would really follow through with their prolific promises, or if they would just take my money and run (albeit not before using any personal information they gained along the way to permanently fuck with me).

spam133408.jpg

However, although it might sound sublimely simple, it turned out to be quite epic. As I engaged with the practicalities of this idea, certain problems presented themselves to me. In order of difficulty:

1) How would I find out how to place an order without exposing my email address and/or computer to viruses, hacking, and even more junk mail?

2) How would I order and pay for the goods without revealing personal information to a company that has already proved they would abuse it?

3) Ditto for taking delivery of the goods.

4) Most vexingly of all, how do I justify rewarding this execrable marketing technique by giving the criminal bastards real live money?

OK, one problem at a time...

First, I looked through one page of my junk email folder while at work. Out of 25 messages, 11 of them offered Viagra (4 offered Rolex watches, 3 recommended I buy shares, 2 offered software, 2 offered penis growth patches, 1 was for a casino site, 1 offered sex chat, 1 was in kanji).

junkmailfolder33405.jpg

The logic of doing it at work was that there are so many firewalls and virus checkers that the computer would be unharmed if the websites I visited were proactively malicious. Of course, I was taking a risk that my Internet activity would be tracked as suspicious and I would get in trouble from the big corporate machine, but I eat risk for breakfast. (Mind you, I often get consequences for dessert.)

I copied and pasted the website links from the emails into the browser and I made a surprise discovery. All but two of the emails offering Viagra were from the same company operating under different URLs (even though the emails were all completely different). The URLs were fairly random, like www.wentsolution.com, heldmy.com, certaincoast.com, planetother.com, and my favourite... sydneyfluteschool.com.au. Try them in your browser if you dare!

Here is the hydra-like company's website:

spamsource33407.jpg

The fact that this one company was responsible for two fifths of the junk in my inbox was creepy enough, but when I saw the proudly displayed link to their "Anti-Spam Policy" on their home page I started to understand what Wishy Washy and Jane Doe were talking about when they spoke of being scared by how brazen and ruthless these lying spammers are. The hypocrisy boiled in my blood.

antispam33433.jpg

Anyway, the website bore an address: support@canadianpharmsupport.com. I created a fake email account and I sent them the following message:

Dear European Pharmacy,

I am interested in obtaining some Viagra. However, I am conscious that you are vicious spammers and I therefore do not trust you with my personal details, especially my credit card number. Can I send cash?

Thanks,
Chad

PS Why are you called European Pharmacy if you are a Canadian-based company?


After nearly a week, no response, so I sent a slightly less snide email (from the same account):

Dear European Pharmacy,

I am interested in obtaining some Viagra. Can I send cash?

Thanks,
Chad


I got a very quick response this time:

Dear Chad

you cannot pay with cash, you have to fill in the form on the website. you can pay in euros or usd using amex, visa mastecrard or echeck .


I looked at the form on the website, and became convinced that the entire website was just a front for a credit card details phishing scam. Sigh.

Take 2. I went back through my junk emails to find a different, much friendlier-seeming website offering Viagra:

spamsource233398.jpg

This time, a breakthrough. They accepted Paypal payments - which means they would never see my credit card details. Much more encouraging.

To be extra-sure that I was completing the task properly, I corresponded with them before ordering:

Dear Ed Express,

I would like to buy some Viagra, but your smallest pack is too expensive, and I don't need so many pills. Can I buy a smaller pack? Say, four pills?

Thanks,
Chad F


The eventual response (after a "your message is important to us and we will get back to you" email):

Dear Customer,

Thank you for your query. All of the products we offer are on the website, but if you order now you can take advantage of our Christmas discounts!!!

I hope this answers your query.

Yours Sincerely,
Julie Hapton, Customer Services Manager


reply33498.jpg

Fair enough. Next problem: which address do I give for delivery? I had little doubt that the unscrupulous company would be happy to sell the address to junk mail providers around the world.

I ended up making this pretty damn complicated. I contacted a variety of companies offering mail drop services (www.mailboxuk.com, www.Regus.co.uk, www.bpm-lux.com, www.EarthClassMail.com, www.irishoffice.com, www.additionaladdress.co.uk), asking them if I could do a one-off mail drop rather than buying a whole month or year's subscription. They all said no (the ones that replied), and I think they considered me rather suspicious for asking.

I considered giving the address of a friend who was about to move out. I considered giving the address of my local postal delivery office. I looked around Brixton (where I live) for an abandoned property that I could give as an address.

After all of that, I went for the simplest option and gave my own address. The deciding factor was Royal Mail's reassurance that if I was regularly receiving someone else's post they could stop it, and seeing as I was using a false name (literally - Chad False) I could take advantage of that service if necessary.

ordering33496.jpg

When I pressed the "Submit Order" button, I absolutely assumed that I was giving my money away. And I felt a little afraid that I was opening myself up to identity theft or postal harrassment or whatever.

Which brought me to addressing problem #4. How could I assuage my aching conscience at having funded these spamming sleazebags? I took a two-pronged approach. Neither of which redeem me completely, perhaps, but in the words of Paul Arden or X-Wild or someone like that, sinners are winners.

Prong #1: I ran a whois search on every single URL thrown up by the emails in the first page of my junkmail folder, and then forwarded the spam messages to the relevant ISPs with a polite request that they delete the spammer's account. I also reported all of the junk emails through spamcop.net for the sake of thoroughness.

Prong #2: I made a donation to spamcop.net - the same amount of money I had given to the spammers.

spamcopdonation33500.jpg

I then turned my attention back to other things (see future praxis for details). I figured I'd leave it for a couple of weeks just in case - against all odds - they actually sent me some Viagra.

Three days later (though this was nearly three whole weeks since I started working on this task), I was opening the packages from my online Christmas shopping, and stared in disbelief when from one of the packages spilled out a pack of Viagra.

Real, actual, unprescribed, black market Viagra. Fuckin' hell.

Well, I couldn't let it go to waste, could I? Check out my spam poetry praxis for what happened next...

cimg516533785.jpg

=


I am on a nigh-impossible mission to complete every single pure-EquivalenZ task by the end of the era. Prior tasks:

- Cellular Breakdown
- SFZero Text Updates
- Objectify a Subject
- Attachment Theory
- Bathe Electonics

+ larger

Pfizer.jpg
Junk mail folder.JPG
spam1.JPG
spam2.JPG
spam3.JPG
spam4.JPG
spam5.JPG
spam6.JPG
spam7.JPG
spam8.JPG
spam9.JPG
spam source.JPG
Anti spam.tiff
spam source 2.JPG
Reply.JPG
ordering.jpg
Spamcop donation.JPG
Blue Pill.JPG

43 vote(s)


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18 comment(s)

(no subject)
posted by Flitworth on December 17th, 2007 6:13 PM

Dear Charlie Fish,
I am afraid that by giving money to the spamming organization you have released feathers that will never be recovered, however, your efforts at redemption are admirable. Well done, sir. What, pray, will you do with your pills?

Feathers? +1
posted by Charlie Fish on December 17th, 2007 6:26 PM

It's no more wrong than responding to an envelope that you get through your door from a credit card company. That doesn't excuse it at all, of course, but I hope that my mitigating actions were sufficient to save my soul from the spam devil. I intend to continue the rest of my life in defiance of spam.

Please read my spam poetry praxis to find out what I did with the pills!

(no subject)
posted by rongo rongo on December 17th, 2007 6:49 PM

Wow, that really goes the extra mile. Who knew you could actually buy stuff from these sites.

(no subject)
posted by Levitating Potato on December 17th, 2007 7:34 PM

I'd have to disagree with you on that, Charlie -- it's more wrong than responding to paper junk mail because the industry you're supporting is far nastier, in ways I'm sure you're well aware of. Regardless, I find your penance fully sufficient.

Awesome tasking!

(no subject)
posted by teucer on December 17th, 2007 7:59 PM

Yeah, penance done. And vote thoroughly earned.

The extra mile.
posted by Spidere on December 17th, 2007 8:22 PM

Well done, sir!
I also find your penance well-thought out and quite suitable.

(no subject)
posted by The Revolutionary on December 17th, 2007 9:09 PM

This is beautiful Tasking. Far more dangerous, for sure, than scaling a silly little bridge with a silly little flag.

Potato - nothing is more nasty than that which occurs on paper.

(no subject)
posted by lara black on December 18th, 2007 12:13 AM

inspired completion...real next level shit :)

(no subject)
posted by Meta tron on December 18th, 2007 6:34 AM

I'm very glad you are still alive after taking what could have been a small blue diamond of bleach. Is it true it makes you colour blind?

If I'd known (though how could I have) you could have used my work address, we are responsible for a horrendous amount of junk mail* and it would have contributed to the recompense to sell our details on for once.
On the other hand that would make me complicit in something I find wholly unsavoury. I feel I might have to go out and assault a charity-mugger to make up for even entertaining the thought.

*The comments and thoughts of Mink ette, aka Meta Tron, are by no means representative of her player. Mink ette, aka Meta Tron, is fictional and therefore cannot be sued for libel, Mink's player is real and will not be named for the same reason.

(no subject)
posted by Lincøln on December 18th, 2007 8:17 AM

Awesome.
You took it to the limit.
You want to read about somebody who really took this to the limit? This is the show I have been doing the past four years. Read the correspondence on the right.

(no subject)
posted by Charlie Fish on December 18th, 2007 2:10 PM

Lincoln, are you Dean Cameron? That's an incredibly sustained show of spam scam scamming.

Mink - yes, unsavoury indeed. I feel quite dirty. I will be doing extra good things for a while.

(no subject)
posted by Jellybean of Thark on December 18th, 2007 3:12 PM

We are all Dean Cameron.

Wow.
posted by Loki on December 22nd, 2007 4:21 AM

I can see that those of us who expected (hoped? No, that is untrue, even if it makes for some possibly fun artificial competition) your insane era-ending commitment would surely wreck your Player Satisfaction Score are in for a surprise.

Mr. Fish, you continue to amaze me.

(no subject)
posted by Lincøln on December 23rd, 2007 3:32 PM

Fish, you are awesome.

And no, I am not Dean Cameron, but I was with him throughout his spam scam experiment, and now that it's a show, I travel with the show and make it run. I'll let you know if we bring the show out to the UK.

(no subject)
posted by GYØ Ben on May 20th, 2008 12:14 PM

THIS.

NEEDS.

MORE.

VOTES.

;>

(no subject)
posted by GYØ Ben on January 9th, 2010 2:47 PM

Cut forward a year and a half. This still needs more votes.

(no subject)
posted by teucer on January 9th, 2010 6:41 PM

I have no more votes to give.

(But this already has a full one from me, so, yeah.)

deep respect and four votes for Charlie Fish
posted by King of Spain on February 7th, 2010 12:08 AM

very impressive effort, putting life and limb and home address on the line, and brilliant expression in the last photograph, too. well done, sir!