Should You Unsubscribe from E-Mail Lists?

It is possible to unsubscribe from "junk" e-mails—but is it worth it?

  • Julia Edelstein

You’re familiar with the e-mails. You probably have a few in your in-box right now. “Free shipping this week!” The term for these enticing messages is bacn. (Because you must opt in to receive them, they’re more wholesome than spam.) “Anytime you buy something, you’re asked to give your e-mail address, which lands you on the company’s list,” says James Siminoff, the founder of Unsubscribe.com, a website dedicated to eradicating unwanted messages. No wonder online consumers receive, on average, 12 bacn messages a day. That’s a lot of mail to read—or to delete without reading. But is unsubscribing worth the time and effort?

The pros: The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 mandates that companies include an unsubscribe link or clear instructions on how to do so in every commercial e-mail. Thanks to the law and policing by e-mail services, clicking on “Unsubscribe Me” is a safe and effective way to remove yourself from a list. (If an e-mail strikes you as fraudulent or is unfamiliar, drag it to your spam folder.) Unsubscribing usually takes about 1½ minutes per e-mail, says Siminoff, so you should be able to trim most of your bacn in about a half hour.

The cons: You won’t completely clean out your account in one session, as bacn is usually not delivered on a set schedule. “Unsubscribing from even a full month’s worth of e-mail won’t necessarily get you off every list,” says Siminoff.

The bottom line? Worth it, as long as you’re willing to be vigilant—and avoid giving out your e-mail address in the future unless you absolutely must, like when you’re shopping online.