Sunday, October 14, 2012

BeerTools, SPAM, and Marketing Assholes

I got an email from BeerTools about my login problem. Seems nice enough at a casual glance, but it seems a little odd, since I didn't have a login problem: Login Trouble

October 13, 2012
Dear Bob,

We would like to apologize for any trouble you experienced logging in at Technical details aside, it involved some trouble with files on the web server that hosts and we believe the issue is resolved. If you were inconvenienced by the inaccessibility of your recipes please accept our sincere apologies. We value you as a visitor to and hope to see you there again soon!

BeerTools Staff

Then I started looking at the content. All the graphics in it are tracking beacons that point back to some website called The links that say "" actually go to[queryString] The queryString part of each web address is a long string of seemingly nonsense characters that identify exactly who I am, and why I clicked on it.

It seems odd that the links to BeerTools in my email from BeerTools don't actually go to BeerTools. they go to instead. So, who the hell is There is an Internet service called "whois" and it will tell you:

Administrative Contact:
    Domain Administrator
    Constant Contact, Inc.
    1601 Trapelo Road Suite 329
    Waltham MA 02451

"The domain is used by the email marketing provider Constant Contact as the root domain for certain links embedded in email campaigns sent on behalf of our customers." Well, that's interesting. Constant Contact is a click-through sort of like tinyURL, but it's for designed for tracking those click-throughs rather than just redirecting you.

How does this all work? Let's say you get a 'helpful' email from BeerTools (really Constant Contact), you open your email and your email client is set to display the graphics. A call is made back to, and they track the fact that you were interested enough to open the email. After that info goes into their database, they send your graphics back to be displayed in the 'helpful' email. They probably get paid some small amount by BeerTools at this point. As a bonus, you might be a candidate for some targeted marketing some time soon.

If you click on the link in the 'helpful' email that says "" your request goes to and they read the queryString. Again part of that info goes into their database, and the rest is used to redirect you to They probably get paid some larger amount by BeerTools at this point and you're probably a great candidate for some targeted marketing.

Nice. Not as bad as a pedophile with a "lost puppy" on the playground, but not an actual solution for my non-existent login problem either. Oh look! Every other bit of brewing software in the world suddenly got more appealing when compared to BeerTools, and the chance of me ever buying anything from BeerTools is approaching zero.


  1. Just to clarify, constant contact is a service purchased by beertools, all emails are generated by beertools, CC doesn't do anything marketing related on it's own. The information collected is only used by beertools, CC wouldn't send you additional emails since it doesn't get a any benefit from click-through or view. They are a very legitimate company and will ban accounts that use it's service for abuse.

  2. Adding tracking beacons in your email messages that purport to be help for "Login Trouble" that never existed probably isn't the best way to bolster your reputation as a "very legitimate company."