EcoPhones and Larry Lankford: spammers

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A number of companies choose to spam me because my name and email address is on a Cub Scout site. So I get offers for web hosting for Scouting organizations. And fundraising companies wanting to help me part with my money. And a variety of other scout-focused spam.

Today, Larry Lankford from EcoPhones decided to let me know about his fundraising programs. And he left a toll-free number to call. So perhaps you readers would like to call Mr. Lankford and ask him all about his fundraising and his spam, and his weekend hobbies, and anything else that might cross your mind. After all, the phone call’s free to you. Larry’s paying for it.

Larry Lankford
Director of Community Programs
Toll Free (888) 326-7466, extension 2

Perhaps someone should tell Larry that you don’t build community through spam.

October 6, 2006 10:10 PM

"someone should tell Larry that you don’t build community through spam." Wasn't MySpace built from spamming Friendster users? indeed it was!

Walter Engelbrecht
October 18, 2006 2:11 PM

Mr. Kalsey, Like you, we believe in giving back to the community. In fact, our entire business relies on giving back to local communities. EcoPhones has helped more than 20,000 schools, churches and community groups nationwide raise in excess of $1,500,000 while recycling more than 100 tons of potentially hazardous cellular waste. Specifically, EcoPhones' no cost, no obligation recycling fundraiser pays up to $300 per used cell phone for a wide variety of models and even pays for broken and damaged cell phones. We even pay for 100% of the shipping costs. (See The only reason you received an email from Larry was because of your leadership role in your local Scout troop. We apologize for any inconvenience we may have caused you. If you'd like to be removed from our email list please contact us and we will delete your name immediately. Lastly, we understand you're upset but your negative posting sends the wrong message to the vast number of young scout troops across the country eager to participate in their communities. Imagine if you were to use your position to promote worthy causes rather than harm them? Thank you. Walter Engelbrecht EcoPhones (888) Eco-Phones

Adam Kalsey
October 18, 2006 2:52 PM

Walter, You're a worthy cause in the same sense that disease-bearing rats are a valuable part of the ecosystem. I'm sure they have their uses, but I don't want them in my house. I've re-read my blog and realized that I'm not sending the right message. The message I intended to send was to point out that EcoPhones is a disreputable organization that any scout troop should avoid like the plague. A company with such a low ethical bar that they'd resort to spamming scouting volunteers isn't the sort of company that matches Scouting's ideals. If you're a scouting organization and want to run a cell phone recycling fundraiser, give a try. I don't have any connection to them and haven't used them, but as far as I can tell, they perform the same service and don't spam individuals and mailing lists. You see, marketers who care about other people use opt-in email marketing. They respect my time. They don't attempt to co-opt my resources for their own gains. If you were a worthwhile company you would spend your own money on your advertising instead of spending mine. The fact that I have an email address on a Scouting web site doesn't give you or anyone else the right to flood my mailbox with commercial offers. In searching for your company, I've found numerous email lists that you've spammed, often repeatedly, with your offers. Did those email lists have a leadership position in a scout troop too? Be truthful. Any non-profit organization that might need money is a target for the crap you're peddling. If you can scrape an email address, you'll send the trash, hoping it reaches a warm body. Lowlife scumbags like porn peddlers, counterfeit watch dealers, and financial scammers promote their goods with spam. Be mindful of the company you keep lest you be painted by the same brush. You want to start giving back to the community? Start by renouncing your spamming ways.

Walter Engelbrecht
October 19, 2006 1:20 PM

"EcoPhones is the best I've worked with. Timely, honest and accurate. Thanks!" -- Steve Bluestone - School, Anselmo, CA *This comment contained a dozen or so other testimonials. They've been deleted since they're a waste of space and don't contribute to the discussion. If you want to read testimonials, find their site and read them there. -- Adam*

November 1, 2006 6:52 PM

Mr. Engelbrecht, you're missing the point. No matter how good your services are, sending out unsolicited mail is the WRONG way to get people involved. I have now received the e-mail several times with my catch-all account, and I'm sick of it. Fundraisers are cool, I like your concept, but I am now biased against it because you guys bugged me.

Adam Kalsey
November 1, 2006 7:15 PM

I find it terribly amusing that I never saw Walter's second comment. I didn't notice it until Ken commented on this entry. The comment notification email that Movable Type sent me was spam filtered. Walter, Ken gets it. Why don't you? So some people said nice things about you. Lots of people liked Jimmy Hoffa too. You could be in the business of giving free puppies to disadvantaged children and solving all the hunger and disease problems of third-world countries. But if you advertise that with spam, you're still a spammer. And spammers aren't useful members of the internet. Period.

John Gulley
April 24, 2007 11:02 AM

Walter Engelbrecht and his company are the next thing to the scum of the earth. We used them for our troop and did not get the money amount we were told we earned, and when questioned about the loss he was very rude and we were told that they had the phones and we could really do anything about it anyway. Stay as far away from these people and the fake fundraising games.

May 25, 2007 6:29 AM

We have no record of a 'John Gulley' in any of our online registration records, accounting files, etc. Moreover, I personally have never spoken to a 'John Gulley'. If 'Mr. Gulley' is a real person please feel free to have him contact me directly at 972-852-2785 and we will be more than happy to discuss any issues. We serve more than 22,000 schools, churches and community groups nationwide and have paid out more than $1.5 million dollars in the past 4 and 1/2 years.

Van Ajemian
August 30, 2007 3:15 PM

I stumbled upon this discussion, rather, argument. Adam certainly is angry. And Ecophones stands on its record. Where does the truth lie? No fundraising program is perfect, just as no youth program is perfect, if we believe the news of recent years about ghost Scout troops in some councils. Does that mean that the program should be discarded? Depends on how imperfect it is. Recycling is very important. We move slowly to address priorities. If Ecophones accelerates our recycling, that is a good thing. Misleading people is extremely bad, more so when recourse is difficult to come by. The person who had a bad experience should explain in detail why his fundraising went wrong. I very much would like to hear about Adam's Cub Scouts recycling. If there were a better way for Cubs to recycle, not as a once-a-year-get-up-on-a-Saturday-morning-and-knock-on-neighbors-doors, then BSA headquarters in Irving, Texas, should take notice and promote. Otherwise, the public benefits from Ecophones outweigh its spamming, although Ecophones could do better by buying ad space in BOY'S LIFE, announcing its company on listserves, and even serving on the board of directors of the local Scout council.

Adam Kalsey
September 3, 2007 4:32 PM

Van's comment came from an ISP in a Dallas suburb (Richardson, TX). I find it curious that everyone defending EcoPhones does so from nearby their corporate headquarters. EcoPhones' record isn't at issue here. The fact they're spammers is the problem. Spam is bad. Plain and simple. It's not a gray area, it's a question of ethics. Ethical companies don't spam. The main defense promoted by Walter and his supporters is that they're doing a good thing by recycling and giving money to charity. It's telling that no one has actually denied spamming. What a spammer is attempting to promote is irrelevant. The ends do not justify the means. Regardless of how worthwhile your cause is, if you promote it by spam, you are harming yourself and, in a growing number of jurisdictions, committing a crime. Why would a scout organization, church, or any other charity do business with a company of such low morals?

Adam Yensen
September 3, 2008 6:51 AM

you dont "give back" you rip people off who are too ignorant to know the value of their cell phone. You offer $1 for a V551 motorola. I can sell the phone broken and not turning on for $15 on ebay. Why should I "donate" to you. Just sell your items on ebay as is and you will get paid immediatly, and get much much more money

October 22, 2008 9:37 AM

I love the random stuff I find on the internet. Adam K obviously has a good point. However, if I "take the high road" all I'm doing is missing out on those low-hanging fruit that sign up with us as a result of our "spam". And I'm letting my competition (which is FIERCE) take the low-road while I sit back and blow too much money on magazine ads. Unfortunately, for one Adam Kalsey there are two people who say "yes, sign me up" and about 90 who don't give a damn. We hate bothering the Adam Ks of the world, but it's a sacrifice we're willing to make. That's the ugly truth of it. And yes, we DO help schools and charities fundraise. The term "give back" is just spin because ultimately we're just paying our suppliers. But Adam Y thinks he's lifted the lid on something and he really hasn't. People who want to do the research and go to eBay and start their own business are welcome to. But you find me a soccer mom or troop volunteer who's willing to do all that. Obviously, we do our best to make a profit and still make the program worthwhile enough to keep participants coming back. The participants aren't "donating". They are selling, and they know it. They look at price lists, they compare companies, they know what they're doing and they like the economies of scale from high-quantity, low-effort fundraising. If Adam Y cared enough, he could volunteer to sell individual phones for all of these organizations and schools on eBay for their "true value", for free of course. Now I'm afraid to post this comment because Adam K might think I'm just trying to advertise for free.

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