X Lounge Spams Thousands of UVa Staff

In one of the stupidest moves I’ve seen a local business make in a long time, the X Lounge blanketed UVa with spam today, apparently sending thousands of e-mails to UVa employees. The 7.1kb message appeared to originate from The Event Company, who shares an address with the downtown restaurant. The e-mail didn’t even make a gesture at compliance with the CAN-SPAM Act, the federal law that makes precisely this sort of thing illegal. It appears that all e-mail addresses were harvested from UVa’s online staff phone book, which is maintained for the convenience of employees. I received the e-mail via a UVa address that I do not use for anything. I don’t give it out, I don’t send e-mail under it, and the only place it’s listed anywhere is in that UVa LDAP directory.

The X Lounge can expect a pretty stiff upbraiding from UVa’s network administrators tomorrow. If they’re lucky, they may get off with reimbursing the university for their bandwidth costs. But if they catch the UVa postmaster on a bad day — and with the number of complaints bound to roll in, it may be a bad day tomorrow, indeed — they may find themselves on the wrong end of a formal complaint to to the Federal Trade Commission.

Writing a script to dig through UVa’s staff directory and then sending e-mail to every one of them is both illegal and a really, really bad idea. It takes a special kind of stupid not to know that.

31 thoughts on “X Lounge Spams Thousands of UVa Staff”

  1. I was wondering how in the world I signed myself up for that email.

    Seems kind of desperate, doesn’t it?

  2. Waldo, I’m not at all certain it takes a special kind of stupid to not know what you, the internet guru, find obvious. I think it may simply take an everyday, normal lack of information. All day long the office gets unsolicited faxes which burn up paper & toner and that seems to be perfectly legal. 85% of my snail mail is unsolicited and that seems to be legal. Unless you specifically sign up for the do-not-call list, you get legal solicitation phone calls during dinner. Whatever the obvious-to-you and unknown-to-me issues are (and I followed both of your links and read what was on those pages), in the context of our society, to me they still seem un-obvious.

  3. Elizabeth, if you have the technical skills to harvest email addresses and send out an email to a massive list, it is your job to know and understand the rules. You may not understand why this is illegal but the person(s) sending out the email certainly should.

  4. Hey, it serves them right. I went in there one time and a single shot, house brand screwdriver was eight bucks! What goes around, comes around.

  5. Has anyone been in contact with the owners of the X-Lounge about this, to let them know that their business is now synonymous with evil spam for the thousands of UVA employees who received it?

    I couldn’t find a web address with casual Googling, but would like them to know why I won’t be supporting their business anymore.

  6. It would be great to revert back to the days of handwriting letters. Technology has it’s strong points, but the human touch is being lost in the shuffle. I mean think about it, most companies would fail completely if their computer access completely failed. It’s a dehuminiztion of the way we all should be communicating and it will eventually contribute to the downfall of society in general…JC

  7. I didn’t get the spam (possibly because I’m just listed as a student). But I have had a number of their fliers attached to my car and seen them blowing around parking lots. Can that count? Because I would like to join in your outrage :)

    And I don’t think it takes too much know how to harvest Emails and send spam. All you have to know is a couple regular expressions and how to Email. I could easily see someone just copying and pasting/modifying a couple lines of script to do it (a la script-kiddies) or paying some kid a couple bucks to do it.

  8. Everyone should call the X Lounge every half an hour for a day so they’ll know what it feels like to get spammed.

    313 2nd St Se
    Charlottesville, VA 22902
    (434) 244-8439

  9. I received the X Lounge email yesterday and thought nothing of it, other than it’s good to know what’s new on the menu. I’m on vacation and logged on to cvillenews this morning to catch up . . . it must be a slow news day! Come on Steve, get a life! You won’t support their business? EVIL spam? Isn’t that a little extreme? I think when I get back in town I will head straight to the X Lounge for dinner, and if they don’t already have a spam special, I’ll suggest it. As for the eight dollar drink complaint – I guess you don’t get out much. What goes around comes around?!? Hopefully the next time I log on you will have moved on to some real news.

  10. While I do not in any way condone spam, especially illegal spam, as a local business owner, I can understand the desire to connect with folks at UVA. Please keep in mind as you get irritated by this situation that this is a local company that is just trying to make it is a town where restaurant competition is high. They are one of the few restaurants around to offer a smoke free environment, excellent service and fabulous but affordable food. Frankly, it is my favorite restaurant in town. They have also done some great things for the community, such as helping tremendously with a fundraiser to fund cancer research. I agree that this should not have happened, but I would suggest that unlike the majority of spam the source here is ignorance rather than predatory e-mail mining. I think if the owners knew how out-of-bounds their e-mail was they would be mortified.

  11. That’s funny – my company (not affiliated with UVA) has been getting spam emails from the X Lounge for months. It’s nice to see that something might be done about it now.

  12. Sheri, I want to be sympathetic to local businesses, especially good ones, but even if one is somehow unaware of the illegality of spam, how can one be unaware of the unwelcome nature of spam? I find it very hard to believe that they simply did not know that people don’t like to receive unsolicited email. And, if Heather is right, it’s not just UVa that they’ve spammed. So it sounds to me like they’ve essentially said “well, people hate this, but it’s more important to us to achieve our own goal, so here we go.” I don’t really appreciate it, and having never been to the X-Lounge, this is now my one bit of information to associate with them, and it’s not positive at all.

    ‘Cuz I got the email too.

  13. I just checked my email and didn’t get the spam. I guess it’s because I work at the hospital. I’m torn between being irritated at the practice of spamming people, and irritated that the X-Lounge overlooked UVA Health System staff. Are we not cool enough for the X Lounge?

    (That last sentence is supposed to be facetious.)

  14. This is ridiculous. I can not believe that someone would pull out something from this guys past like that, with no information surrounding it, and post it to a blog. How do you know what the situation was there and now you are putting his name on a blog, associated with that and calling him a criminal. That is what sounds ignorant to me.

  15. I can not believe that someone would pull out something from this guys past like that, with no information surrounding it, and post it to a blog.

    I posted a link to a newspaper article explaining the entire situation. If you think that the newspaper article provides “no information,” then you’ll need to take that up with the newspaper, not with me.

  16. That newspaper article, which I clicked to, doesnt explain anything- but fine, Im with you, you were just sharing information.

    My problem is that you put someones name out there and then put the word criminal next to it. Most people would consider the effect that could have on someone’s business or their reputation.

    “Though it’s tempting to cavalierly declare that one must expect crime from a criminal, that wouldn’t be fair; I don’t know the man, and he’s presumably paid his debt to society (and his former business partner) by now. But I do think it’s a fact worth pointing out.”

  17. Ridiculous, how does it not explain anything? It explains that he pled guilty to embezzlement, and the details regarding the embezzlement. There’s lots of stuff explained in the article.

    Also, is it not accurate to call someone who embezzled a criminal? I mean, it might not sound nice to the person, but isn’t it accurate? Is it too harsh for me to say that if one doesn’t want to be called a criminal, one shouldn’t embezzle? I mean, he did apparently plead guilty, right?

  18. Cecil, I dont make a judgement about a person without knowing all the facts and since we werent in the courtroom and we all know that what is written in the media is ALWAYS the truth, Ill leave this one alone.

    BUT I still stand by the fact that sharing an opinion next to an actual name and business that could seriously impact the business/person is irresponsible. (and no, the fact that he added in that “that wouldn’t be fair; I don’t know the man, and he’s presumably paid his debt to society” doesnt help, because you have already laid the ground work by saying “one must expect crime from a criminal”)

    I think this all goes back to the situation currently being discussed nationwide, about what is appropriate and what is not when talking on a blog.

  19. Regarding making judgments: I think there’s a difference between applying an accurate definition and making a judgment. To me, a judgment would be “he is a bad person.” An accurate definition would appear to be “he is a criminal” since he pled guilty to committing a crime. If you have evidence that what the Hook reported (i.e., that he pled guilty to embezzlement) is in fact not true–he didn’t plead guilty, you should trot it out. Otherwise I don’t see where you’re going with the snide implication that I’m some kind of overly trusting dolt who’s being duped by the Big Bad Media. Yes–I do believe local media when they report things from court records. You’re taking skepticism of the media too far with your sarcasm.

    Why isn’t the criminal behavior the irreponsible thing, in your book? I mean, you’re suggesting that the irresponsible thing is pointing to a link that reports on someone’s guilty plea to a felony charge, rather than embezzling money in the first place.

    I think what is not appropriate on a blog is rumor; I don’t see any rumor here. I see facts that some find inconvenient or embarrassing.

  20. Ridiculous –

    Shouldn’t this particular thread all go back to what is appropriate and what is not when sending out bulk emails?

    At least with spam, there are rules in existence; not to mention common sense and ethics.

    Until bloggers have a CAN-Personal Opinion Act, we can write whatever we individually consider “appropriate” (or even “inappropriate”).

  21. Lisa- I was only commenting on part of what was happening here, as you can see, not on the original post.

    You are right. Anyone can legally say whatever they want, but does that mean that they should say damaging things about someone else?

    And Cecil, I am going home, I think I made my point. The “rumor” you are addressing did in fact happen when an opinion was stated about another person- you can look at it any way you want. And just because a few facts were pulled from court records does not mean that tells the whole story.

  22. The “rumor” you are addressing did in fact happen when an opinion was stated about another person

    I’m confused. What “opinion” did I state?

    And just because a few facts were pulled from court records does not mean that tells the whole story.

    Which is precisely what I wrote in my comment.

  23. He’s not a criminal. He is a self-professed criminal. If a person does not want his reputation damaged, then he should be the last person to do anything to damage it. Let other people make up lies about him and try to damage it. If a person will take around $13,000 for his own personal use without authorization, can we be surprised if he takes information without permission from a server database and use it in a manner in which he is not authorized? Thanks for the link, Waldo.

  24. I like that other definition of “internet troll” in the wikipedia article above. The one about usenet in 1990’s, where trolls would post about “glass flowing over time” to see if they could get newbies to argue with them (it does not). “These types of trolls served as a shibboleth to identify group insiders… [even] considered a positive contribution.” Led to the creation of Snopes.com.

    It’s sort of a different, more nuanced meaning than just posting insults, etc., which is more properly called “flamebait” I think.

    Well, I’m off-topic, whatever that is called.

  25. This might seem off topic but considering the comments made by “Ridiculuous”, I just can’t help myself:

    When someone posts “And Cecil, I am going home” – does that mean that this person is at work and spending time on cvillenews.com posting their opinions about email spam (or anything else)? If so, I would say someone needs to reevaluate what is “appropriate” as far as blogging/internet/technology in general.

    If someone was on my payroll and they spent time and energy on my dime blogging about this and then stopped when going home, I think I might have to have scream. Then have a discussion about what is appropriate and what is not.

    Apologies, I just can’t get past the word “appropriate” as used by this particular poster; or in regards to the original post.

  26. Lisa- I am not on anyone else’s dime, so you dont ‘need to scream’.

    And what I meant by Im going home is that I am not going to argue with someone for argument’s sake. I said what I wanted and everyone is entitled to their opinion, as you so obviously stated, so there is mine. I think that Waldo took a post about some ‘spam’ email to a level that it didnt need to go to by attacking not the business, but an individual, about something totally unrelated that happened 4 years ago (that had nothing to do with X Lounge if you read the article).

    So, Lisa, in my opinion, the comments were inappropriate, and since you all seem to value free expression, you should let me have my opinion without jumping all over it.

  27. Ridiculous “I don’t make a judgment about a person without knowing all the facts and since we weren’t in the courtroom”

    Not only is someone who plea bargains down and pleads guilty to felony embezzlement a criminal but he is also a felon. You don’t need to be in the courtroom. How many people do you know who plead guilty to felony embezzlement that didn’t do it?
    “Most people would consider the effect that could have on someone’s business or their reputation.”
    Maybe he should have thought about that before he did the crime – yes I said it – crime.

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