A hotel California: why Caribbean businesses do not allow email opt-outs

Many Caribbean organisations do not readily provide a means for email recipients to stop receiving messages. We discuss a few of the reasons why.


It happens quite innocently. You register for a specific offering, which you might have done online, or in person at a particular event,  Soon thereafter, you start receiving regular emails and you really do not know why. Initially, you might just delete the emails, but over time, they are just bothersome to receive, and are of no interest to you, so for a peaceful life, you want to unsubscribe from the mailing list.

You scroll to the bottom of the email, but there is no ‘unsubscribe’ instruction, although the format suggests that an email automation platform has been used. Do you send an email with ‘unsubscribe’ in the subject line, or in the body of an email? When you do, is it successful?

As trivial as such a scenario might appear, far too many of us experience it on an almost daily basis. Our inboxes are inundated with countless messages, many of which come from the fact that have subscribed to a number of online platforms, such as Amazon, Expedia and Twitter, to name a few.  As a result, we often have to wade through the deluge of messages we receive, and may even miss some important and time-sensitive ones in the process.

Although the onus would be on you, the user, to manage your emails and subscriptions, the task becomes far more difficult when it is unclear how to unsubscribe from those email lists. For those generated by automated email services, such as MailChimp and Constant Contact, the provision to unsubscribe is usually present towards the bottom of an email. However, there are several others, such as those frequently generated by Caribbean businesses, that do not allow (unwitting) subscribers no opt-out.

Email lists are very valuable

Although in digital marketing circles much is made about social media, for those in the know, email marketing is considered a more powerful approach. The backbone of any email marketing strategy is the email list. The larger the list of email addresses, the greater the reach, and the greater the ability to directly message the recipients and to drive action.

It is therefore not surprising that businesses, and Caribbean businesses in particular, essentially add every email address they receive with (i) little thought to the source, and/or (ii) whether or not the email address owner wants to be further (and indiscriminately!) engaged by the organisation, such as via email. Unless the organisation is communicating information that its recipients continually want to receive, it is likely that – eventually and for a broad range of reasons – some of them will want to cut ties with organisation.

It is not illegal

One of main the reasons platforms such as MailChimp and Constant Contact make it easy for individuals to unsubscribe from mailing lists is that countries, such as the United States (US) and Canada, and regions, such as Europe, have established laws that govern commercial email messages. Whilst in Canada and Europe users must explicitly opt-in to receive email messages, that is not required in the US. However, all three require every message to include opt-out instructions (Source:  L-Soft).

Currently, very few Caribbean countries, if any, have laws that address the behaviour associated with commercial email messages. As a result, Caribbean organisations can essentially hold your email address hostage, and not provide to recipients a clear way for them to remove themselves from mailing lists.


In summary, although a substantial email list can be an asset to an organisation, it should not to be maintained at any cost, or without regard to the members of the list. Individuals who find their email addresses on such lists should be have the ability – and the courtesy should be extended for them – to unsubscribe, or opt-out as and when they choose, and not feel as if they are at the mercy of the organisation that possesses their details.


Image credit:  GotCredit (flickr)


1 Comment

  • Highlights the state of double-edged-sword scenario: bring legislation up to speed by making it mandatory for organisations to include “opt-out” options and you have an occasional uninformed small-business being sued large sums. Leave it the way it is you have consumers being inundated with “junk” marketing emails…

    My opinion legislation needs to be revised or introduced, but with sufficient safeguards to accommodate possible lapses for small-businesses.

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