A word of caution when using SparkPost.

twisted1919

Administrator
Staff member
TL;DR: SparkPost will close your accounts without any good reason, think twice before doing business with them.

I was using SparkPost for this forum to send email notifications when new comments are added, private messages are sent, support tickets and replies are created, and so on.
I was using SparkPost only for this, nothing else.

A few weeks ago, i receive an email from them that my account has been blocked for sending because of spam, which looked weird for me since i don't really send emails personally, so spam was out of question from my point of view.

I reached out to them to ask what is going on and they have shown me an email the forum has sent, a notification for a support ticket where a customer described a problem he's facing and in the description, there was a link to his site where mailwizz was installed, so that i can have a look to see what is going on.
Now, the problem was that that link was listed in one blacklist and this is what triggered SparkPost spam filters. I can understand that, I assume many people send lots of spam using their services and they need a protection.

I returned their email and explained them what type of business we're running here and that the link in the email was simply an accident, was not something i (and my sparkpost account) has sent intentionally, it was just a customer that was looking for help and added a bad link.

I haven't gotten any reply back from them for a few weeks after the incident and my account was still unable to send emails using their service, but i was able to login.
I'd figure out it will take a while for them to clear things out, so i just switched to my own smtp server for this forum notifications and moved on, with the hope someday i'll check back with them.

Yesterday, i remembered and i thought it would be a good idea to login to sparkpost and see what's the account status, but to my surprise, i couldn't login anymore, my account has been disabled for good, no notification about this, nothing at all! This was interesting enough, since the sparkpost guys reached out to me several times in the past, related to mailwizz and we always had good conversations, so i didn't think having a bad link in an email could lead to account termination.

I contacted them again to ask why my account has been disabled, and their response was simply they did it because they cannot offer a good service for me, hilarious, but that's that, what else can one do when receiving such reply? Nothing, just move on.

So, think twice before using them, I don't say SparkPost is a bad service, they served me and they served me well, but acting like the above is simply something you don't do if you care a bit about your customers, especially a customer that brings you many other customers by the nature of his business, but i guess once you reach certain size, you just don't care anymore, it's a shame.

Disclaimer: This is only my own, personal opinion based on the interaction i have had with their team lately.
 

frm.mwz

Well-Known Member
many people send lots of spam using their services
If they pay and if they look legit and if the complaints are not to high, they may just let it run.
(You probly had a free 100k account, so their dashboard may have shown something like this '$0/risk = unbearable'.)

they need a protection
Many third party delivery servers do not have sufficiently differentiated protection and hence come to wrong conclusions based on 'their algorithms' forgetting that such are human-made and hence error-prone and need constant review/improvement.

the sparkpost guys reached out to me several times in the past, related to mailwizz and we always had good conversations, so i didn't think having a bad link in an email could lead to account termination
When security flags red in 'large firms' (value at risk), individual good relationships become irrelevant.

their response was simply they did it because they cannot offer a good service for me
This might be a euphemism for 'you cannot complain about a free service and we do not have to give it to you'.

what else can one do when receiving such reply? Nothing, just move on.
In most cases, nothing. Sometimes it might help to have some payment made, so they do not have $0 on balance from you, see above.

think twice before using them
The real issue with SparkPost is, that they grow fast due to investment (wishing returns), and that often drives the quality of products and services down, in their case they claim everywhere to be great, but have only one sending location (west), and their web api is much slower than others'.

acting like the above is simply something you don't do if you care a bit about your customers, especially a customer that brings you many other customers by the nature of his business
True. They screwed up. And seems to be in their DNA, i.e. they seem to do it all the time, by algo and by business process?

once you reach certain size, you just don't care anymore, it's a shame
The bigger, the more top-down, hence, depending on what balance you bring them, they may 'efficiently' allocate their resources.

Hope this helps to get over it!
You don't need them, and it is their loss, you are doing a great job :cool:
 
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OptiBiz1

Active Member
Thanks for telling!

In our search for a suitable supplier that could handle our "max estimated" volumes, I contacted a few of those who looked the most interesting, Sparkpost was one of them. I made contact with them via their contact form and in that form they asked for the expected monthly volume. I selected their max.

It took less than 1 hour til 3-4 persons from Sparkpost had visited my Linkedin profile and after a day I was contacted by one of their UK based dudes (Pat something). He asked some additional questions and I answered truthfully about everything, that it is a white labelled reseller SaaS solution + the uncertainties in the expected volumes and I also sent them our overall architecture for our solution (with MW as a platform). After that I just got an email from that dude where he just said that this was not interesting to them. No explanation, no nothing. I was pretty upset because it was so friggin' unprofessional.

His response:

Thank you, I have checked into this, and seems this would be a partnership situation that from what I have learned we would not be able to check into.

Thank you for being so receptive and responsive.

Pat



1.5 months later, just a few weeks before then end of what I believed was their quarter, I was contacted by him again and suddenly this was interesting again and his interest was a lot more intense now than it was when he turned me down (money talks apparently). He also asked for when our service would be launched (pretty obvious that it was the sales targets that was in his interest). I was then handed over to another new guy. This probably since our launch date was outside the scope of his sales quarter.
I told the new guy that I was really surprised and disappointed on how badly that first dude had handled our case.

The new guy was much better and we had good discussions. He also got the same info as the first guy. The new guy was a LOT more professional and he has handled the process much better than the first dude. BUT, the thing is that we can't rely on such bad behavior and total lack of respect by not telling what was wrong, i.e. why we were not of interest to them the first time and the reply we got from the first guy.

One of the other suppliers, the one that we will most likely go with, is more expensive but the way that we have been handled has been very professional from day 1 and we have got all our questions answered, which has been 100% satisfying to us. Due to this, this supplier is most likely the one that we will select. It's not yet decided though.

Conclusions (why we can't choose Sparkpost as long as the first dude is still hired):

If we run a business that many relies upon, we can't in our turn rely on suppliers that doesn't respect their prospective customers (us), that doesn't respond to prospective customers etc. It gives very bad vibes and yet they knew about the prospective volume (which is high). That first dude is linked to several of my contacts in the San Fransisco area, so he had every chance to ask around if I was any good, but apparently he didn't. Then coming back just to fulfill his own sales targets is just idiotic. The new guy who took it over after him has, however, been good in every aspect, but it was the first dude who spoiled the deal for them with us. As long as the first guy is still employed by them, it tells me a whole lot about how they handle their customers.

I am telling you, it's not worth the effort. Stay as far away as you possibly can from them, it doesn't matter whether you pay for their services or not.


Disclaimer: It's my personal opinion and they have earnt everything that I have told about them and will continue to tell about them as long as the first guy is still hired by them. I once had really bad experiences in my own small business with a big payment gateway company so later on when I was working as a consultant at one of the biggest e-commerce companies in my home market, I managed to get their CEO to stop them from implementing their payment solution on 33 sites due to their bad customer services. A few years later, they came to me again via their national organisation, when I was with another company (also a big e-commerce company) and I stopped them there too. Bad customer services is never a good thing. It doesn't matter if the companies behave badly to small business owners, later on those small biz owners can still get them to bend over if they have behaved badly previously (and we tend to have quite big companies as our customers).
 
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twisted1919

Administrator
Staff member
@OptiBiz1 - Thanks for the input, seems you have had a rollercoaster too, and if i remember correctly, it was me who told you to try with them, sorry for that, i think this is the worst part, the fact i trusted them and recommended them to so many mailwizz customers.
Lesson learned, at least.

@frm.mwz - Thanks.
 

OptiBiz1

Active Member
@twisted1919 , don't think like that. We are all adults and can make our own judgements. Besides, I had my eyes on them even before you mentioned them. I am just glad that this was discovered before there was any issues in a running production environment, that could have been devastating.
 

Osjtya

Active Member
MailWizz 2.0 Tester
WOW! I'm not alone in this world who receive such an un-professional email by SparkPost and make my face exactly like this :eek: Trust me guys it was pure Transactional emails not even a single SPAM complaint or Hard Bounce or even no Bulk Email:

Hello,
Thank you for your interest in SparkPost. We strive to offer the very best email service, and to that end, we maintain a strict anti-abuse messaging policy.
Because we cannot offer you the high deliverability you would expect from SparkPost, we must decline to provide our services. We wish you the best in your future business endeavors.
Respectfully,
The SparkPost Compliance Team

I don't understand who write such emails to their potential customers and coincidence was so hilarious that at the same time I was having discussion with their Sales Team for their 1 Million emails plan at final stage :D Thank to god, I didn't made any payment to them!

My Conclusion: SparkPost was not as like it is today, I feel since SparkPost was acquired by Port25 they are acting bit weirdly with their small customers (not large brand names) and think to do anything with their customers who are working hard and investing lot.

Disclaimer: This is only my own, personal opinion based on the interaction i have had with their team lately.
 

twisted1919

Administrator
Staff member
@OptiBiz1 - Ah, right..just imagine getting your first customers, which is sooo hard..and then sparkpost pulling this on you... it's just instant failure of a business :-s
@Osjtya - I got the exact reply from them, i totally agree with you, their attitude lately is weird, but it is what it is, thanks God we have plenty alternatives out there.
 

Lakjin

Active Member
The con (or pro, depending on your perspective) with SparkPost is, they don't need your money -- they don't care about the people with small volume. They are owned by a much larger company to whom little customers don't matter much. As such, they value protecting their network more than making chump change from small customers. To them, protecting sending for their large customers outweighs revenue from small customers. This is why they treated you the way they did (although, their business development skills needs wanting... you are the dev of MailWizz and they could have easily rolled you into a partnership of some kind to their benefit).

Personally, if I were a SparkPost user, I would be comforted by their stringent stance. On the other hand, sometimes being too stringent is also bad. I've used SparkPost in the past. My account with them was not small. A day after they approved my account -- even had their sending reputation people expedite my approval -- they disabled my sending activity based on some bounce rate statistic that was totally wrong. They fixed it within a few hours, but damn was it annoying... I threatened to leave and the whole time I was with them it never happened again.

I'm no longer with SparkPost simply because the economics don't make sense. Their delivery rates are on par with everything else I've tried. No need to pay the SparkPost premium. I would recommend ElasticEmail. Fair prices and excellent customer service.
 

Osjtya

Active Member
MailWizz 2.0 Tester
@Lakjin, I've personally used SparkPost's lot of higher pack services in past and as said they were good in relations but not now :)

You're right ElasticEmail is cheaper but I feel there is a vast difference between the SparkPost and ElasticEmail delivery quality :rolleyes: ElasticEmail network is lot of SPAM.
 

frm.mwz

Well-Known Member
the fact i trusted them and recommended them to so many
This happened to me too recently with a host (recommended them to many folks), whose packages are great, but the control panel lacks so many features, each action needs a ticket taking 1-2days (total joke) and then basic things did not even work reliably. So now I just don't recommend them anymore.

No need to pay the SparkPost premium
Very true. One can use almost any provider, as more and more filters go by domain rep and content, while updating IP rep (and you can get your own if you are sure, or stay in the fold of the crowd if need be).

ElasticEmail. Fair prices and excellent customer service
Similar to SparkPost, if you pay a lot, you get more attention to detail from them. I know someone who had a paid account, switched to free, and EE stopped responding...

ElasticEmail network is lot of SPAM
They tend to allocate you into the rep realm in which your content/domain puts you.
But the main drawback observed with them is long delivery time on just above average volume, say 30k/h, which took them several hours. SparkPost is faster here. But SendGrid is the best for injection speed, global injection points, and delivery speed, though at different price levels ;)

since SparkPost was acquired by Port25 they are acting bit weirdly
That's exactly it, the investments hunting for quick high ROI oft drive bad behavior which cannot be fixed easily ;)
https://techcrunch.com/2015/02/05/m...lutions-to-create-email-infrastructure-giant/
https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/message-systems
(SparkPost = MessageSystems = Momentum/Ecelerity = Port25 = PowerMTA)

One can only hope that their customer service will improve :cool:
 

Lakjin

Active Member
@Lakjin, I've personally used SparkPost's lot of higher pack services in past and as said they were good in relations but not now :)

You're right ElasticEmail is cheaper but I feel there is a vast difference between the SparkPost and ElasticEmail delivery quality :rolleyes: ElasticEmail network is lot of SPAM.
Can't speak for others, but I see equal deliverability between SparkPost and ElasticEmail. Using shared IPs is probably a problem, you should get dedicated IPs and rDNS to your domain when using ElasticEmail. That eliminates any problems from ElasticEmail's network.
At the end of the day, the quality of your emails determines deliverability, not the network you use. The network you use has minimal impact beyond the basics.
 

Lakjin

Active Member
Similar to SparkPost, if you pay a lot, you get more attention to detail from them. I know someone who had a paid account, switched to free, and EE stopped responding...

Why do people expect top notch support when paying $0? I don't get it. Be happy with the free service, or pay if you want good support.

They tend to allocate you into the rep realm in which your content/domain puts you.
But the main drawback observed with them is long delivery time on just above average volume, say 30k/h, which took them several hours. SparkPost is faster here. But SendGrid is the best for injection speed, global injection points, and delivery speed, though at different price levels ;)

Not at all, or at least not anymore. We deliver around 200k per hour with ElasticEmail, and we could go higher if we wanted to.
 

frm.mwz

Well-Known Member
Why do people expect top notch support when paying $0? I don't get it. Be happy with the free service, or pay if you want good support.
To clarify, it was from premium to free+paid (after free bracket used up). Generally agree, that support should be good if paid, but some basic support should be there for non-premium, also if your 'account is just in positive balance'.

We deliver around 200k per hour with ElasticEmail
What I was referring to is final delivery into the inbox of the subscriber, not from mwz to EE. Have you tested how long it takes from the first email of the 200k to the last to land in the inboxes (since that is what we did)?
 

Lakjin

Active Member
What I was referring to is final delivery into the inbox of the subscriber, not from mwz to EE. Have you tested how long it takes from the first email of the 200k to the last to land in the inboxes (since that is what we did)?
That is what I was referring to as well. I think ElasticEmail has made changes over the past few months, because emails are largely delivered to inboxes as I send them to ElasticEmail. The largest waiting to be sent queue I've seen in recent months is 10,000 and that queue gets cleared pretty quickly.
 

frm.mwz

Well-Known Member
That is what I was referring to as well. I think ElasticEmail has made changes over the past few months, because emails are largely delivered to inboxes as I send them to ElasticEmail. The largest waiting to be sent queue I've seen in recent months is 10,000 and that queue gets cleared pretty quickly.
Thanks for that, will have to give them another try! ;)
 

OptiBiz1

Active Member
That is what I was referring to as well. I think ElasticEmail has made changes over the past few months, because emails are largely delivered to inboxes as I send them to ElasticEmail. The largest waiting to be sent queue I've seen in recent months is 10,000 and that queue gets cleared pretty quickly.

Thanks! I will have a look at them too.
 

OptiBiz1

Active Member
The service provided by MailBrainiers seem very interesting and deserves a thread of its own. Suddenly we have one more option to consider. Thanks @Nikhil Garg also for the hint on the hosting company. I will look into that.
 
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twisted1919

Administrator
Staff member
Just an update, yesterday i have received an email from SparkPost(from someone called Mitchell, their vp for global customer success), where they apologise for the way they have handled this whole situation, apparently they read the forum and saw that other customers have bad experience with them as well and they said they are committed to do better. They have also enabled my account.

At least now i can test the integration between mailwizz and sparkpost for other customers, in case there'll be issues, thing that was impossible with my account disabled.

Anyway, we're all grown-ups here so hopefully we can learn something from the above.
 
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