Answering my own questions since 2001

Constant Contact, If You’re Going to Post Fake Comments, Leave the Office

About a year ago, I wrote a post with sundry complaints about email newsletter service Constant Contact. A bunch of people chimed in with other complaints, and recommendations for other mail services. Since then, we’ve moved nearly all of our business over the excellent and uber-usable Campaign Monitor.

About a week and a half ago, the post received three comments within ten minutes of each other, from “Gerard”, “AJ Mulvey” and “Stacy”. According to the information associated with their comments, Gerard and Stacy work at Constant Contact. Here’s the evidence (click for full size):

Constant Contact Spam  Constant Contact Spam 2

I emailed Constant Contact earlier in the week and asked them to confirm that these were their employees, but haven’t received a reply yet. This Google search suggests that corpfwai1.constantcontact.com is valid.

Marketing lessons? Well, they should be obvious:

  • Never lie. You’re going to get caught. Constant Contact should have just left a comment explaining the advantages of their service over the competition, plans for new features, and so forth.
  • Join the conversation, don’t try to spin it.
  • If you’re going to lie (and you surely shouldn’t), don’t be stupid about it. Understand how the Web works, and that if you comment from your desk at Constant Contact headquarters, that you may be traceable. And I’m no l33t hax0r–the evidence is right there in my notification email from WordPress.

You’d think the, uh, communications professionals at Constant Contact would be clueful enough not to make such daft and elementary mistakes.

UPDATE: Comments 14 and 15 below suggest to me that Constant Contact is engaged in a more subtle form of corporate astroturfing. It seems highly unlikely that two customer advocates for CC would spontaneously discover this blog post on consecutive days, and then post effusive defenses of the organization.

Before writing this post, I gave Constant Contact an opportunity to respond via email. That offer has never been rescinded, and my email address, IM details and phone number have always been on my Contact page. Why don’t they want to go ‘on the record’? That’s a fourth marketing lesson there, methinks.

UPDATE #2: As Karl points out in the comments, Constant Contact appears guilty of this behaviour on other sites as well.

UPDATE #3: Rebecca over at Xconomy discussed this post in a story about the Constant Contact IPO. They didn’t respond to my email enquiry when I made the above discovery, but they did answer Rebecca’s questions:

We had a bit better luck, and were able to get through to Kevin Mullins, a spokesperson for the company. He acknowledges that the comments on Barefoot’s site were made by Constant Contact employees, but stresses that they acted against company rules. “They acted outside our corporate policy. They were disciplined, absolutely. And obviously, we educated them about the proper way to blog and to fully disclose who you are. We believe in being honest and up front about who you are.” The comment on TechCrunch was done by a former employee who had left Constant Contact around a year earlier, Mullins says. “At the time of the posting, he was not an employee of Constant Contact,” adding that the person was not acting under the direction of Constant Contact. Why would a former employee would go out of his way to praise a company he had left? “He still has that passion,” Mullins says.

“He still has that passion?” is particularly cringe-inducing praise for a former employee, don’t you think?

UPDATE #4: Guess what I got when I visited ConstantContact today:

Constant Contact Down

51 Responses to “Constant Contact, If You’re Going to Post Fake Comments, Leave the Office”

  1. Dane

    Oh man, I have to say I’ve been a little happier with the usability of Constant Contact since they redesigned their site but moves like that make me want to use a different service on principle alone.

  2. Rob Cottingham

    Argh… not good. But I suspect Heather’s right. And actually, it points to the need for companies and organizations (especially political parties) to be very clear with their staff about being both smart and ethical in dealing with bloggers (not to mention that whole “life” thing).

    For what it’s worth, we’ve been delighted with Campaign Monitor, and the staff has been very responsive. (“It’s better than Cats. I want to use them again and again…”)

  3. darren

    Rob and Heather: Indeed, it may very well have been Junior Tech Support Agent #17, but from this side, it doesn’t really matter much.

    “It’s better than Cats”…where is that from? I remember it from somewhere.

  4. Rob Cottingham

    ‘Twas an old SNL commercial for a stage hypnotist, featuring audience member after audience member saying, in dull monotones, “I loved it. It was better than Cats. I want to see it again and again.” (Or words to that effect.)

  5. Beth

    This is the funniest thing I’ve read today. The depths of people’s stupidity never ceases to amaze me.

  6. erin

    (I posted this in the original Constant Contact post, but thought it would be better here.)

    I’m commenting because I saw today’s post from Common Craft.

    I’m a ConstantContact customer–been a paying customer for two years–and it’s not the level of emails that drive me nuts–it’s the number of PHONE CALLS. It’s insane. You don’t opt in, and there’s no place on the website to opt out. In fact, I’m surprised more folks haven’t blogged about this. We’re spending $20/mo ($480/year) to be telemarketed by ConstantContact. If I found an html email solution that was comparably priced, I would move in a heartbeat.

    That ConstantContact has apparently decided to try to spin complaints about this contact policy REALLY reflects badly on ConstantContact.

    People trust personal information like their phone number with ConstantContact, with no indication of how many times you’ll get an unsolicited call from a “Customer Service Agent” basically looking to sell you a higher-paying package. And it’s A LOT of calls. For a company that puts so much into “privacy” and making sure that you’re not using their service to spam other people, they sure have a lax customer contact policy themselves.

    It’s too bad, too. ConstantContact has some reasonably decent materials about email marketing. They have a decent service. Their customer contact policy is a huge ding in otherwise decent experience.

    Bad form, ConstantContact. Get someone from executive customer service or your PR arm to answer these blogs, as they raise legitimate concerns that reflect poorly on your company.

  7. Jeremy Pepper

    I’ve seen similar attacks of couples – one writes a comment, then the next comes over and writes a similar comment. Not sure who they think they are fooling, but it’s a joke.

    You’re going to find stupidity wherever you look, including the Web 2.0 community.

  8. donna martin

    I called constant cotact one day for support and my call was esc to a sup becasue stupidly requested it. I spoke with a sup paul who was the rudest person i have ever spoke with. Also he has zero knowledge about the product. I asked him general questions that he ever gave the wrong answers or didnt answer at all. Then he had the nerve to talk negatively about the rep that transfered him the call. That is not something to do especially if you are a sup. I requested that he esc the cal to his manager but he said no that if I had a problem he would resolve it. Even though we both knew he wouldnt. I actually question if he really was a sup so I called back and just asked a general rep if he was and he really is. I couldnt belive that he was really a representavive for this company but then I read the info posted here. So now I am deffintly going to change my provider. And to Paul if you are reading this please learn to respet people and speak with them the way that you want to spoken too, and if someone questions what you are saying dont be so defensive. I was nothing but nice to you and you really the rudest person i have ever spoken with. Hopefully the call was recorded and you can learn from it and it will keep you from traeting others this way.

  9. Jonathan

    Feel free to check out VerticalResponse – full disclosure I am proud to say I work for them. We have great customer service, lots of cool features and great pricing.

  10. Alisa

    we use C.C and have been for the last 3 ysrs.. never be called to upgrade thank god!!! enjoy the service and have had very good service when calling in for tec. surport..but can fully the be called thing because we get calls all the time from nextel and att check in on us seeing how the service is ect….

  11. Kevin Tighe

    I’ve used C.C. since last October. I am very happy with their service and have found customer service to be very good. I’ve never received a phone solicitatio or for that matter any solicitation unless I orginated an inquiry.

    If anyone knows a better service interms of price and deliverability I would love to know about it.

  12. Joe

    CC is good for the certain level of email marketer. If you need more functionality or better service, try stepping up to something else. I work at email marketing company Bronto, which is more expensive but has more attentive support and higher end features. Like all things, in the end, you tend to get what you pay for.

  13. Erin

    I just googled constant contact to find their address so I could recommend them to a friend. Wow. Any chance those two goofballs actually are just happy employees who use their own product?

  14. Colin

    I found this thread when googling on Constant Contact — the first I heard of them was earlier today when they spammed me about some “seminar” — they wouldn’t have had a legitimate opportunity to get ahold of my e-mail address, so I’m forced to conclude that their sleaziness runs deeper than some astroturfing.

  15. DJ Emir

    I use constant contact and I like their new format much better than their old one. At least now I can re-arrange items and see them as I edit. Problem is their view boxes are not wide enough to view my entire message as I write it so I have to scroll. It also does take me a while to set up email campaigns and wish that could be sped up with just a drop n drag approach. The other problem I find is that they resize and resave my image files with a lower quality file so I find myself getting around that by just pulling files directly from my websites picture files. Other than that I like having a system like constant contact take care of my email management cause at this stage I have too many contacts to do it manualy. If anyone knows of a non web based email management system that can send mass emails let me know. Another thing that could be fixed is the way the messages come into peoples email boxes, the preview shows the garbled message of the template first instead of the actual message, if they could fix that the program would be worth a ton more. Overall I am satisfied with them but then I haven’t tried any similar programs like Verticle Response etc. to compare them to. I can only compare them to me manually sending out emails in batches of 25- That was retarded- and now at 2000+ emails nearly impossible.

  16. Ric Hansen

    Another of the Constant Contact customers here….I Have used their service and agree with the ease of use and nice design tools. I fear they have lost touch with their customers through marginal customer service response. A series of long waits on hold, curt automated e mail responses, and inflexable policies have me on the look for a new provider Before adding new features and new costs, they should work on making their core customers feel good about using their existing product. Any suggestions on another, similar service provider?

  17. Grant

    I also found this while searching for a review on Constant Contact, great informative post and good comments.

    I checked out Campaign Monitor, but couldn’t find any reviews. Can anyone vouch for them besides Darren? I have a small list and would be pretty cost efficient.

  18. Maria R.

    I have been using Constant Contact for about six months. Last night I spent 4 hours organizing my lists to realize that I can’t segment them. I can’t tell you how frustrating realizing that everything I did was a clear waste of time. Now I am looking for a newsletter company that is serious about putting their money in their product and understands how important segmenting lists are in marketing. Yea, I should have done my research more but they (Constant Contact) got me with the glitz and the glamour.

  19. Maria R.

    …also, I want to add, thank you for pointing out those posts were from CC employees. The only problem I have about you pointing them out is how detailed you were in explaining it. I am afraid once they know where they mistake was, they will make it harder for other bloggers to figure out they are corporate clowns.

    Just my two cents…

    Diana Reply:

    I think you are sooooo totally correct on your how they react to adverse coments.

    Sneaky little shits….

    Diana Reply:

    Constant Contact who I prepaid for the service of sending email newsletters has once again this week disabled my account. After I called and jumped thru all of thier hoops and answered questions honestly. For real!

    I only found this out this afternoon after creating, entering all the text and scheduling today’s newsletter that I normally send out in the morning. Which I could not do because Constant Contact was shut down for maintenance all morning long. This has been the worst online service that I have ever received.. Bad form on Constact Contacts part-

    So this afternoon upon arriving home the first thing I do is create the newsletter and send- well it never arrives, never arrives and I go to check on it on the Constant Contact site only to find out that I have been disabled after doing an hours worth of work. Locked out! No explanation, No spam alerts (where you guys say you don’t want the newsletter even though you signed up for it) nothing just shut down.

    And I found out that I would not receive any answer until business hours Monday thru Friday between 9-5. Well forget that. Now I could understand if I was doing something wrong…. but I am not. So it is going to take me a day or so to find a more reliable email service. Which should not be hard considering Constant Contacts track record.

  20. J.S

    Found this thread after googling ‘constant contact customer service’ seeing as the access to their homepage has ‘hung’ for the last 2 minutes. Must say I don’t know what has happened but I’m pretty sure I was recently fed the largest helping of bull imaginable. Here’s the story. I’m in the UK. I’ve used their service for about 6 months…and was more than happy with it. Then, a couple of weeks ago, logging in (even accessing the homepage) took a long time. Finally when logged in, moving through the site was slow, often timed-out and lead to lots of repeat tries at creating a mailing. Often it would fail at the last hurdle meaning I’d have to go back and re-do all the work. An hour wasted usually, trying to send a mailout. Ok, so having spoken to some generic sounding ‘I’m not really bothered’ type on the phone I managed to get onto their live help thing. Had a chat with a character who eventually concluded that it wsn’t constant contact’s servers that were slow but rather my ISP that – they had learned – had ‘issues’ with CC! In other words ‘it’s not or fault’. I have three accounts with them (well, I ‘manage’ three accounts) so I think I’m going to go back to their live chat and tell them I’m with a different ISP – see if they come out with the same bull (the guy told me conclusively that it was JUST my ISP and no other major ISPs that they were having the problem with)
    I’m currently seeking a good, affordable alternative. Would be interested to hear (partial) advice

  21. Paul

    JS, I am also in the UK and have been using CC for around 2 years. This month I have been unable to create anything as I have been having exactly the same problems you have.

    As with you, I found this page after searching for some meaningful help as I cannot even access the CC home page 50% of the time.

    Sorry to use your blog as a CC technical support proxy Darren, well done with your initial work.

  22. Marketing Director for Non-Profit

    Constant Contact has to be the rudest and most disrespectful organization I have ever had the misfortune to work with.

    I get squeamish just thinking about having to call them.

    Here are the honest reports from some of my clients.

    Their codes for tracking are so long and obvious, that sponsors refuse to donate through their links… it just looks too suspicious. Not good for fundraising non-profit organizations

    Constant Contact place their own logo at the end of every one of your e-mails, a sure tip off that it was a mass mailing… even on a one line e-mail, you have to promote their logo and sales pitch. THIS is what “I” call SPAM! Spamming to all your contacts trying to make themselves another sale. And yes, YOU have to pay THEM every month.

    Constant Contact will block you from sending out e-mails, but you STILL have to pay them…they refuse to refund even if they block you for a month.

    You can have the same mailing addresses for six months – but suddenly, on a whim, their LIST REVIEW self appointed gods, decide to cut you off. No warning, no e-mail, not the courtesey of a warning note.

    And you unsuspecting hit SEND on the piece you’ve been working with all day (Did I mention that snail mail works faster than their servers?) that you won’t be able to get back in touch with them till they are back, after the holiday of course. No problem if you just got screwed.

    But Wait, it is not all that bad, everything actually works quite well just make sure you must pay them monthly – just don’t try to send out e-mails.

    And they want to be a Public Company?

    Darren Keep this post updated !
    Caveat Emptor

  23. ted

    I am a CC client and have been for about a year and a half. They are very good at very small clients. We have now grown to a $250 per month client with CC and they are not so good.

    I agree with their customer service. The left hand does not typically know what the right hand is doing.

    It seems like a maze. And the funny part of it all is they have this supposed anti spam policy. Yes, they sort of do, but they are sort of in on it, don’t you think?

    It’s the same as my email spider saying this is not used for spam purposes. Yes I use a spider, but for good! Not evil! My spam complaints are less than 1 in 10,000.

    Frankly what bothers me the most is that they cut you off from sending if they think you add too many folks or perform other normal business procedures as they force us, the paying client) to explain to them where we go the emails from.

    If they don’t like the answer you have to remove them. But if say something they like to hear. You can. Perhaps funny is not the word, maybe obtuse?

    As a biz client I will say that I do get quite offended

  24. Keith Holloway

    Hey everyone,

    First a disclosure: I run a Canadian email marketing company called BetterMail.ca.

    Some of these stories are quite amazing.

    I can understand why ConstantContact wants users to have their log on the bottom of the email – it’s certainly helped them grow but they shouldn’t force it if you are a paying customer.

    My impression of constant contact is that it is a good service if you have very basic needs, but I think there are much better services out there if you shop around. We’d certainly be happy to speak with anyone that want to switch to a small customer service focused company.

  25. JaMoy

    I am currently working on an alternative of ConstantContact, and i saw this post as i was researching Constant Contact, wow. im really shocked, the CC site offered great tools and such, but customer service sucks?…wow. guess i’ll take alook at others then, im planning a hybrid of mail build, campaignmonitor and constantcontact in one site. and yeah, customer service wont be a problem. now, i dont know what to think of constantcontact…..grrrrr, yeah, i just tried their trial and havent had a problem, just the logo below though, too annoying, and if you’re going to send incomplete emails just for test, they wont let you…..

  26. Debbie

    Hi, We have recently signed up for 6 months with Constant Contact. We have used the email customer service almost every day, and have always had a direct reply, to be honest its so far so good. We are more than happy with it.

  27. fabie

    Love this post, great one! Hopefully it will give them a lesson… hehe

  28. Nick Stamoulis

    Wow, this is such a harsh post! I am a real advocate and customer of Constant Contact. I have been using them for the past 5 years and NEVER had any issues…ever. We resell their service and recommend it to all clients.

  29. Riddle Me This SEO Mystery

    […] One of my posts on the popular (but crappy) email newsletter service Constant Contact used to be ranked #3 when you searched for “Constant Contact”. […]

  30. dzengal

    About that “better than cats” comment. I thought it was originally from a commercial for the Grand Hotel play or musical in NYC, in which a little old lady is so excited about having seen such a spectacle that she says “it’s better than cats… I’d see it again and again!” Then SNL did a skit on her phrase. Please tell me someone has this video clip.

  31. Burt Dow

    I used to work there last year in engineering… Gerard is a real employee – (his father makes great hummus). The company has a giant call center. I suspect by now they have well over 200+ people that work in “tele-sales”. They get nice commissions, hence the calls you get.

    Constant Contact employees get a big dose of how good Constant Contact is (we’re the best, go team, rah rah). If you’re fresh out of college the job is a dream come true – the pay is great if you have the gift of gab and can coax people into upgrading their service plan, etc.

  32. Brian

    Oooh….burn!! Why are people working at a technology company so dumb. Hahaha! I use Constant Contact at least twice a week…I send out over 50,000 emails per month to my opt-in list. The service is pretty easy to use and they’ve supported us fairly well. The funny thing is that they have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to spam but it sounds like they take advantage of being a email marketing company and email whoever they want and call people constantly. Get it? Constant Contact…they call you constantly…haha! I don’t mind telemarketing calls…the company I work for during the day calls people as well so I can’t complain. Anyway, like someone mentioned previously…it was probably a over zealous newbie that made those posts. Does anybody no a less expensive alternative to Constant Contact? I’m spending about $400 to $500 per month. Thanks!

  33. Kim

    I do email marketing for Realtors and Contant Contact said I couldn’t use my list because it was a 3rd party….Even though I am a Realtor email to other members of my Realtor Board! I cancelled my account and will tell all my fellow Realtor not to use this “service”. I am going back to creating my own emails in Publisher and emailing them out FOR FREE from my company email account using Outlook!

  34. Steve

    I had the same problem as Kim and then moved to icontact, then to talkwaremedia, then back to Constant Contact. Now I am leaving to just do my own.

    Alan Jenkins Reply:

    Steve,

    Why did you leave icontact? I noticed that Obama uses them.

  35. jaghla

    Constant Contact is SPAM.
    Regardless of what anyone says, Unsolicited email is SPAM. I receive email Marketing at my office with the constant contact logo. It is all Unsolicited! It is all Unwanted! it is all annoying. It is all SPAM.
    I refuse to do business with any company that uses unsolicited eamil SPAM to promote their products and services. All email received with the constant contact logo is immediately sent to our email service for blacklisting /blocking.

  36. William R. James

    Constant Contact has a long history of spamming, has spammed me repeatedly, and had the gaul to respond to my complaint claiming they don’t tolerate spam. They are liars and spammers and I will be blocking all emails from any provider who hosts them.

    I invited them to join the discussion of their ongoing abuse in news.admin.net-abuse.email, but apparently they don’t want to face the music, cowards and spammers too apparently.

    William R. James

  37. Brad

    hahaha that is awesome! Good job Constant Contact, way to think it through!

  38. Tina Gleisner

    Went through hell last Dec/Jan when ConCon did nothing to handle their template conflict with Outlook 2007 (variable text on graphic not handled & displayed as white space). Now the template that worked fine in August, has the banner & footer corrupted. Appears they changed column widths and didn’t think anyone would notice? mind? Can’t wait to find something better but I need a syndication solution.

Comments are closed.