ST. LOUIS -- Employees can waste several hours a week erasing unwanted e-mail, otherwise known as SPAM. Schnuck Markets here recently installed a system at its headquarters that weeds out the electronic distractions.
The system, the P-Series Appliance from Proofpoint, Cupertino, Calif., serves the chain's 99 stores and 1,300 schnucks.com e-mail accounts. By analyzing over 50,000 message attributes, it has already reduced SPAM by 98%, said Schnucks. The feedback from employees was immediately positive.
"Our basic problem was that we were receiving tons and tons of e-mails on a daily basis," said Harold Johnson, Schnucks' IT department manager. "We started getting calls from people wanting to know if we could do something about it."
The company once believed that there wasn't enough money in the budget for a system that would block SPAM. Yet when the chief executive officer's secretary began getting over 400 e-mails daily, it became apparent that something needed to be done. Schnucks' asked Proofpoint to perform a SPAM audit, which showed that anti-SPAM technology was needed.
The initial cost of the Proofpoint P-Series Appliance was $30,000 for one year, plus a two-year maintenance fee. The projected ROI for Schnucks' was calculated by using a study from Nucleus Research, "Spam: The Silent ROI Killer," which estimated that SPAM costs $874 per year per employee in lost productivity costs.
"My approach to the whole issue was, if we have senior vice presidents receiving 400 e-mails, let's think about what we have to pay them to spend an hour each day deleting unwanted e-mails," said Johnson.
The system has the ability to become more accurate the longer it is in use, according to Proofpoint. It controls SPAM by looking for certain words and phrases in the content of the message and how many people it was sent to, and checking if the return address is legitimate.
In addressing the SPAM issue, the federal government this year enacted the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act, also know as the CAN SPAM Act. Taking effect in January, it legalizes the sending of unsolicited e-mail as long as it is labeled correctly, includes the sender's street address, and gives recipients the option to remove themselves from the mailing list. The act also gives the Federal Trade Commission the ability to create a "do not e-mail" registry.
Despite the government's best efforts to regulate SPAM, Schnucks found that using its own device worked best. "We just put the box in, turned it on, and it's worked ever since," said Johnson. "It sold itself."