Monday, November 05, 2007

Balancing Act

ProQuo has an interesting twist on the 'Do Not Call' concept. Instead of dealing directly with every mass mailer and credit card company that send you unwanted mail to clog up your (physical) mailbox, you use ProQuo as your proxy to those 'annoyers'. You tell ProQuo from which annoyers you don't wish to receive mail, and ProQuo sends the corresponding 'cease & desist' message (or helps you send it yourself).

As unwanted credit card offers occasionally cause me to miss exciting offers for 'enhancing my sexual prowess' I gave it a whirl.

First things first. Although not explicitly stated, ProQuo is for annoyed Americans only. Canadians must, at least for the forseeable future, continue to suffer under the barrage of igloo duct-cleaning & moose-grooming offers.

I forged on with the only US zip I know.

After creating an account, I was shown a list of mailers from which I could 'opt-out' of receiving mail.

I used the 'Stop All' link to ask to be removed from all the mailers. It seems there are three types of mailers, those that support ProQuo directly sending them the 'stop' message electronically, those that expect a letter, and those that require the user to opt-out at their site. For the latter two, ProQuo prompts the user that 'Action is Required'.

For the PennySaver (which I used to deliver as a child, how's that for irony), clicking on 'Action Required' displayed

'Save to desktop' created a customized PDF, with an instruction page (while strangely detailed, the instructions appear to leave some steps undefined. For instance, it's not specified that the user should lick the envelope glue strip before closing and sending. I wonder if these were usability tested? I'd bet ProQuo will lose 'non-technical' users here).

and a letter to send to the PennySaver

For those mailers that want the user to visit their site, ProQuo redirects the browser. From the tries I performed, the redirects happen without transmitting any of the information I've already given to ProQuo. Wouldn't it be nice if I didn't need to enter this again at the various mailers?

Additional to the 'Dashboard' from which users remove mailers, is the 'More Services' tab, from which users can add mailers.

I had been wondering how ProQuo was going to make money - a business model peaks through the clouds.

If my guess is correct, Proquo will try to balance itself between two opposing forces - representing the user (through mechanisms for users to opt-out of unwanted mail) and representing mailers (by mechanisms for users to opt-in to wanted mail).

Some users (e.g. like my wife's Crazy Aunt Aleta who enters any and every contest going) actually want to receive 'offers', and so for them the two forces need not be in opposition - both Crazy Aunt Aleta & the mailers are willing participants. Both benefit (it's presumably worth it to the mailers to pay for such a 'hot-lead'). I wonder if there are enough Crazy Aunt Aletas out there?


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