There’s a saying that if something makes you angry you should wait before writing about it.
In June 2016, I signed up my company in South Africa with Mailgun, and shortly thereafter connected a subdomain so we could send emails. We didn’t need 10,000 emails. Rather, we send between 50 – 100 a month, even to this day.
Good news! The DNS settings you added for mg.motorfinity.com have been verified.
You can now send up to 10,000 emails per month through Mailgun for mg.motorfinity.com2016-06-10 10:35 PM MST
So in March 2017, after nine months as a Mailgun customer on the lowest plan because we weren’t planning on sending a lot of emails (more on this later), I encouraged my colleague Werner to sign in and start testing their API so that we could move our password reset emails to Mailgun from a self-hosted solution.
I am based in Calgary, Canada. Werner is based in Johannesburg, South Africa. Little did I know what a mistake this was, asking my colleague to use a system based in America.
After Werner signed in, he was almost immediately kicked out and our account was flagged as “suspicious”, so I opened a ticket:
Mar 22, 5:41 PM CDT
I received this message today when my colleague in South Africa (I’m based in Canada) logged in for the first time after asking for a password reset.
“Your account is on probation and domains are limited to 100 messages / hour. The restriction is removed if you keep sending good traffic.”
I sent 11 (ELEVEN) emails in the past 30 days, and most of them were to my own domain. How many “good” emails will I need to send before you lift this completely baseless probation, that has done nothing but insult me and want to take my business away from you?
Do you really want me cancelling my account and moving to a different provider? I have no qualms in talking badly about you on my blog and Twitter. Get your shit together.
I got a reply fairly soon thereafter, but the news wasn’t good. Our activity was flagged as suspicious, and we’d have to answer some business verification questions. Here’s Katy Hoyle from Mailgun Support with more information.
Katy Hoyle (Mailgun Support)
Mar 22, 6:33 PM CDT
Thanks for contacting Mailgun support.
The reason you are on probation is that your account was flagged by our automated systems as suspicious. We’ll need you to please review the link — https://help.mailgun.com/hc/en-us/articles/202850080-What-does-business-verification-is-required-mean- — and provide answers to the questions in this ticket, as well as send good traffic to be removed from probation.
We look forward to working with you!
This is what Katy looks like, according to the Mailgun website. I like to know who I’m writing to, because putting a face to a name makes emails so much more personal.
Needless to say, I was unhappy with this canned response. Nine months we’d been using their service.
This email was sent at 8:02 PM MDT, so it took me a little while to write. Long-time readers will recognise the sarcasm I’m known for.
I’ve CCed my colleagues in “Africa”, so they can see how patronising you are about your customers. Shaun is the holder of the credit card we used to sign up with Mailgun, and Werner is the user who logged in earlier today, which caused my account to be flagged as suspicious.
Now I’ll grant you that we haven’t sent enough emails to start paying with our credit card, because we’ve only sent eleven messages in the past 30 days.
Shaun happens to be the Managing Director of my company. Katy, that’s what CEOs are called in South Africa. Werner is also a director in our company.
We aren’t Nigerian spammers, Katy. We are a business in South Africa that helps vehicle dealerships introduce vehicles to the Electronic National Traffic Information System. That’s a government system, Katy, operated by the Department of Transport in South Africa. All of this information is on our website, if you’d bothered to look.
This whole situation is completely ridiculous, and I’m going to make a huge stink about it. Did you even read my original ticket?
Is it illegal to have colleagues in “Africa”?
Did you know South Africa is one of over 50 countries on that continent (54, plus ten non-sovereign nations), and by flagging my account when a South African IP address signed in, is basically accusing us of being spammers?
Africa is really big, Katy. For instance, did you know that Lagos and Johannesburg are 2750 miles apart?
(Katy, Lagos is the capital of Nigeria, the home country of “419” scams, named after a section of the Nigerian criminal code which makes these scams illegal. Johannesburg is the largest city in South Africa. They are in different countries.)
I know this is Trump’s America now, but do you really want to profile us that way? I’m pretty sure that’s illegal.
>> What types of emails will you be sending – transactional or marketing? Please tell us briefly about how your business uses email.
Transactional emails. Duo authentication emails (Duo is a MFA provider, which you may have heard of. MFA means multi-factor authentication, Katy. You see, we care about our customers’ security). Emails also go to my business colleagues, two of whom are CCed here, on my own domain letting them know what our weekly (weekly, Katy) sales figures are. Emails that are technically none of your business, but hey, you asked.
If you bothered checking the delivery reports for the grand total of eleven (ELEVEN, Katy. One more than ten. In thirty days.) messages from the last 30 days, you’d know all this. But you’re first line support and that’s ok, because you’ll still get paid if I take my business elsewhere.
>> Where do you source your database of email addresses? Please provide any available links.
Customers. Remember those? I’m your customer and you’re treating me like a criminal because my colleague Werner, a named director, signed in from a different country.
My customers get email when they want to receive password reset emails to sign into our product site. The corporate website is at motorfinity.com. We work with the South African government, but I guess that doesn’t matter to you, because “Africa”. I bet you didn’t even look at our website, nor check the MX records for the domain we host on Office 365. It’s funny, Katy, how every answer to your form questions thus far prove that you are wasting our time.
>> Are all of your email addresses double-opt in? (This means that the user has requested your emails through sign-up and then confirmed via email that they want to receive your communication).
Yes. The ECT Act 2002 in South Africa is more stringent than CAN-SPAM and the rules in Canada as well. Do you know the two main provisions of the ECT Act, Katy, when it comes to commercial email? I do. I studied law, Katy. Did you study law?
>> What is your expected monthly volume of messages?
Eleven right now. Maybe it’ll be twelve later. How about looking at past activity logs? Gosh, golly, gee whiskers, it might one day get to a hundred. A hundred emails, Katy. In a month. That’s not the activity of a spammer. Maybe spammers send 101 an hour. Who knows? I don’t, because I’m not a spammer, Katy. All that happened is that my South African colleague signed into his account earlier today.
>> Have you read our Email Best Practices document?
Yes. I read that before I signed up.
Any more patronizing questions, or can we get to the part where you take me off your probation? Must I take my business elsewhere, and tell people on my blog and on Twitter how you treated me?
We will also be very happy to tell our customers and other companies in South Africa and Canada to avoid you like the plague. See, being in countries that aren’t America, we have freedom of speech that allows us to say what we like, and we’d mention your name. Yours, Katy.
If you don’t think I matter, that’s even more reason to go elsewhere. Fix this. Make me happy, Katy. Make Shaun and Werner happy too, because you’ve profiled us, and that looks REALLY bad.
Eight minutes later, for anyone keeping score at home, I received this response from Chris Hammer at Mailgun:
Chris Hammer (Mailgun Support)
Mar 23, 9:10 AM CDT
Thank you for your interest in Mailgun.
At this time, we have made the decision that we do not wish to continue our partnership together. Our decision to terminate an account is not taken lightly, and we do everything we can to assist customers in bringing their account in compliance with our Terms of Service.
If you’d like to read our Terms of Service, they are readily available on our website. http://www.mailgun.com/terms
And with that, the abovementioned Chris Hammer closed our account. No appeal process, no reference to their terms and conditions. They just didn’t want to deal with me.
I would like to unsubscribe from this newsletter
Was I too sarcastic? Yes.
Would I change anything? Not a fuck.
We were flagged because we accessed the system from South Africa, and they doubled down.
Of course the real irony is that we continue to get $0.00 balance emails from Mailgun every month, to this day (December 2018). The unsubscribe option doesn’t work because you need to log into the account to unsubscribe, and they closed the account. I had to create a rule in Office 365 to delete the invoice emails.
After the first one we couldn’t unsubscribe from, despite the CAN-SPAM laws they were espousing, I wrote back to Chris Hammer at Mailgun on 23 April 2017:
My dearest Chris
I trust this email finds you well. It’s so important to stay healthy these days.
You know what, Chris? We had a lot of snow in Edmonton this weekend, where I was doing a talk at a conference.
Can you believe that despite the weather, we still had nearly a hundred attendees? On a weekend, no less! I tell you, Chris, it was so edifying to see so many folks turn up for free training in their own time. A few of the other speakers flew in just for the occasion, from the Antipodes and Southern Asia.
During my session, which dealt with migrating to the cloud, I may or may not have mentioned how terrible Mailgun is, but you know, it’s hard to remember things these days, what with the political climate, crazy weather, and bad customer service from so many places.
In fact, do you know, Chris, that at lunch today I had to grab the attention of wait staff at a restaurant, because the hostess had put us on an empty side of the room? It gave me pause, Chris, to feel invisible in a world of self-importance. There I was, talking to a hundred people the day before, and yet today I couldn’t get three people to notice me. It felt like that time you cancelled our account for no reason whatsoever. Do you remember that, Chris?
Speaking of things that are hard to remember, Chris, it would appear that when you terminated our account, you forgot to turn off our invoices. We got another one today. While it was simply marvellous to hear from Mailgun again after such a short time, it was disheartening to see that you were simply sending us a zero-amount invoice!
Lest I think even less of you, Chris (as hard as that is, to be perfectly frank), could you be a dear and delete our credit card details immediately, and ensure that we don’t receive any more invoices from your company? That would be super.
Thanks a stack. As usual, it’s been a pleasure dealing with you.
Please take care of yourself. I want you to live a long, healthy life, so you can think about how well you treat your customers.
Alas, you can no longer email anyone at Mailgun directly, so it bounced back. They’ve literally turned off emails at a company where their main business is to send emails.
To enhance the security of your account, Mailgun no longer accepts support tickets via email.
If you require assistance, for your Mailgun account, please log in to the Mailgun Control Panel and access the Support Center, to submit a ticket, or chat with our support team.
It has been almost two years since this incident, and I’m still annoyed with how they responded. We have since signed up with SendGrid, and they have yet to flag us for being African.
What I’d really like is for Mailgun to stop sending us a fucking zero-balance email every month. That would be super. I’d also like an apology from Chris and Katy, but I doubt that will ever happen.