Consumer Email Verification – Is It Better or Worse for Customer Service?


This morning, I tried to buy a refurbished laser printer from an online retailer. I wanted to use paypal to pay for it, but the paypal button on the site kept sending me to a blank page. So I emailed customer support for the retailer and explained the problem. I received the following response:

Thank you for your email with the subject "paypal not working", that you sent me at *******. In order to ensure that email from our valued customers reaches us quickly, while Spam is ignored, we're asking you to please confirm your email. You will only need to do this once — after you verify your email address, all subsequent emails from you will be delivered without delay.

You can confirm via email or on the web:

1. Email Confirmation:
Reply to this email with "CONFIRM" as your subject.
Please note: You MUST reply to this confirmation from your ****** email address or it will not serve to verify your original email.

2. Web Confirmation:
Click here. If the link does not work, copy and paste the following URL into the address bar of your browser:

Please verify your email using one of the methods detailed above, and it will be delivered promptly. If you do not confirm within 14 days, your email will be deleted from our server and will not be delivered.

I replied to the email because I get a ton of spam, so obviously I understand their desire to minimize it. But I also thought about just shopping somewhere else. It made me wonder about the cost-benefit curve of implementing this kind of policy. Cutting down on spam most certainly improves the speed of customer service, and probably keeps them from missing emails that get flagged incorrectly. But how many people decide to go somewhere else? "Easy" is one of the reasons people shop online. Do consumers sympathize with anti-spam measures, or do they find them a nuisance? I'm not sure, but it struck me as an interesting decision for online retailers.

  • I HATE these. If I get them from my own customers, I have to grit my teeth while clicking the link to say I’m for real and I’m only confirming dispatch of their poxy order… If I get them from people I’m trying to buy from, then I do NOT buy from them. There are so many better ways of dealing with spam that frankly, I can ONLY JUST be bothered to deal with these idiots who think they need a pneumatic drill to crack a pistachio.

  • Lee

    Having worked as an online customer service agent, I can tell you that even with all kinds of spam filtering (though you can’t filter too much or you miss legit email) that lots of spam still gets through and it takes 10-15 minutes out of each day just deleting the crap.

    In this case, I think if you take an idealist approach and want a one-size fits all answer, it won’t work.

    If I’m buying a refurbished printer, most likely from a small or very small company, then I see the need for them to keep their prices low and avoid the 15 minute resource drain of deleting emails every day. Especially if I’m getting a good price, then I personally sympathize.

    That being said, if something like this is too much a bother, than maybe you just aren’t the kind of customer they can ‘afford.’ But still a good question to put out there.

  • Is 15 minutes in a day worth losing a customer over? I get many spam E-Mails and they are so obvious that it takes maybe 10 minutes to weed out 50 E-Mails. Also filters like spam assasin help mark the ones that are likely spam so this helps a lot.

  • Spam is a problem and losing a customer at the cost of spam is bigger problem. I agree with Lee. If it is a small company with less resource then they should go for consumer email verification or else there is no need.

  • Darrin

    What About The Web Form Email Address Verification Annoyance

    I find it an annoyance when a web form asks to “verify” my email address such as the form at

    Raley’s takes this annoyance one step further, by informing you that they will get the link in the email, so you MUST supply a valid email address to get the link if they want to help them out. It is not a convenience to customers, since a form field can be auto populated in most browsers these days. I am sure I am like many customers that find this annoying. Those who do not use auto populate are used to typing out all the form field information as they chose this security setting themselves. I am sure there are a few folks who do not know their email address well, they will figure that out. I would think most people have their correct address in that field. Verification should be used for password text boxes with the security feature enabled so that you only see asterisks, not for an email address.