Why Does It Take So Long When Unsubscribing From Newsletters?

I recently posted a comment on an article for the Guardian newspaper. The process was quick and easy but I inadvertently signed up for a daily newsletter!

This is annoying as it is. I am usually very careful to spot the check-boxes and rigorously read them to make sure that I do not sign up to more unwanted mail.  So when one slips through, I come to the conclusion that it wasn’t there.

But I digress, this article is about something that annoys me even more: the unsubscribe process.

After following the “unsubscribe” link, I am greeted with this message:
“This will take effect within 7 days.”

7 days?! It takes 7 days for a simple PHP script to update a single record in a database after pressing a button?!

The Guardian are not the only ones. Every time I have unsubscribed from any newsletter, they have shown me a similar message.

But I don’t understand why! They are able to sign you up instantly, so why can’t they unsubscribe instantly.

It is obvious to me that it is not a technical issue. Updates on a database should take seconds at most.

So if it is not a technical issue what is it? Is it so they can get as much of our attention as possible before we go? Surely anyone unsubscribing will just delete any remaining e-mails that come through, so this is a waste of time!

There is simply no good explanation.

I am not the only person to question this. But the answers people have suggested on that post are unsatisfactory.

The only decent explanation can be found as a comment of this post they said:

Until recently it used to take around 10 days (sometimes less) to process the unsubscribe requests as the email newsletters were managed by a third party company. The requests were sent through to them once a week in a batch.

That still doesn’t answer the question of why it doesn’t take that long to subscribe. If it took 10 days to unsubscribe, it should take 10 days to subscribe! There is no excuse really.

This answer was from 2010, but even then, I would expect any third-party company to handle instant requests! Maybe via an API?

So that concludes my rant. Let me know your thoughts in the comments if you have had similar experiences. I would be particularly interested if you are maintaining a system that handles unsubscribe requests, maybe you can enlighten us!

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