Updated: 25 October, 2000


The True Cost of Spam

(How to Get Rid of Junk Mail, Spam, and Telemarketers)

Cost of spam FROM: Shoshannah Forbes
My main problem with spam is that I pay for it. I would like to share some information/observations.
Some time ago I argued with someone who claimed that "there is not much spam, and it is mainly by people trying to earn a living" (where is he living anyway?).
So I did a little experiment: for one week, I saved all the spam I got via my POP accounts (not web based), and today I uploaded everything to my server at http://forbes.co.il/spam/.
I haven't had a chance to analyze most of it very carefully, but some general findings:

Now let's pull out our calculator and crunch some numbers: I use a dial-up connection, which means an estimate of 3kb per second for download time is rather reasonable. That comes out to 3.5 minutes a week for spam, or 14 minutes a month of download time.
I pay $0.95 per hour to my ISP for my connection. That comes out to about $0.22 to my ISP per month for spam.
Recently my Telco lowered its prices. So now I pay my phone company 0.09NIS (New Israeli Shekel) per minute for a local call. That comes out to be 1.26 NIS per month for spam, or $0.31.
So, as a rather average user, I pay $0.53 per month in direct, unhidden costs for the privilege to get junk. And it is junk. Just take a look at the week's worth of spam at http://forbes.co.il/spam/.
There are probably more interesting and amusing facts there.
Shoshannah Forbes

The following comments are from: Henry Butz fine art photographer, in reply to Shoshannah's statement.
I think your cost estimates for receiving spam are rather conservative. Twenty spam messages per day, you say? But, how do you know they were spam unless you read them? On top of your estimated 14 minutes a month for downloading the 'content', figure another 15 seconds per message per day to realize it is spam. 20 / 4 * 30 = 150 minutes per month reading spam, in addition to your original estimate of 14. And, do you hang up the phone while you're reading your email? Probably not... tick... tick...
Then, how about a reply? Removal instructions conveniently located at the bottom of the spam, to a drop box in China. Scroll down, edit/paste the reply address, and compose a 'REMOVE' request and fire it off. At least another full minute. [Responding to spam in any manner is not recommended]. 20 * 30 * 1 and you're adding yet another 600 minutes per month... tick... tick... your ISP has you on-line for 14 + 150 + 600 additional minutes and you haven't even gotten around to your own personal business. That's 12.7 hours a month just reading and removing yourself from mailing lists every month. Ouch. That's about one Saturday per month gone - wasted reading spam.
But, wait, there's more! You've grown tired of the spammers and want to get into a little anti-spammer action. You go into your mail preferences and look at the full headers. After a few months, you learn to spot open overseas relays and memorize half a dozen IP addresses from the big ISP's. You're firing off complaints to the appropriate ISP's and shutting down spam at the source. Total cost to you - about five minutes per message. Uh-oh. 5 * 20 * 30 minutes and that's another 50 hours per month in anti-spammer activity.
What are we up to now? 12.7 hours for read, reply, delete plus 50 hours for "lart"ing is 62.7 hours. Wow - the average work week is only 40 hours. You have to ask yourself, Why isn't the Federal Trade Commission sending me a pay check?
.95/hour for the ISP and .09/min for the telco, you say? Unless you switch to flat rate, you're into some serious cash. How about email to pager? Email to PDA? Email to cell phone? Gee, wouldn't it be great to take advantage of the existing technology, but my paycheck just won't stretch that far.
Personally, I had to drop my email to pager feature entirely after spammers rang up $300 in wireless fees. I had to drop the inexpensive per-hour ISP's for a more expensive flat-rate provider, total cost: another $15/month. I had to switch to a flat-rate plan with the telco for my dial-up instead of paying by the minute, total cost: $20/month. So, by switching to more expensive services, I was able to put a cap on my incoming spam expenses at $35/month - a mere fraction of the per-minute fees.
But, I no longer have a choice of ISP, cannot take advantage of wireless email technology, and still spend many hours a week handling spam - which is, fortunately for me, less than your estimated 20 spams per day. And, isn't your time worth something?
Henry Butz

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Thanks to Shoshannah Forbes and Henry Butz for the information on this page.