More Like Hey Spam-o…

I guess when you’re a darling of the tech media, you can eschew best practices and do what you want, like allow your service to be used for ill. At least, that seems to be the case with HeyCosmo, a marketing platform created by Arsenal Interactive Inc. that allegedly bridges social networking, texting, and telephony.

I received a call to my cell phone yesterday from a number I didn’t recognize. When I picked up, I got a weird recorded message that introduced itself as “HeyCosmo” and then proceeded to speak familiarly, and yet robotically, about plans for the weekend. I hung up–and instantly received another call from the same ‘bot!

That did it. I Googled HeyCosmo and came across the service’s site. After digging around I found out that I could put myself on its “do not call” list by going to a special “block/unblock calls” page. But when I inputted my number and hit the “submit” button, nothing happened. I hit it again and again, and nothing.

Furious at this point, I searched for a contact email address. I politely, but firmly, explained the situation in a message. I asked either to be removed from the database by HeyCosmo/Arsenal Interactive staff themselves, or else to be told an alternate method of how to remove myself. All I got was a lengthy automatic response that didn’t tell me anything useful. (Editing this post at 1 a.m., I checked my email again. No joy. Though the block feature finally worked.)

Sad thing is, HeyCosmo generated positive buzz as recently as this September at the big confab DEMOfall ’08. There, it unrolled its Blaster and Concierge services–both with the potential to elevate mobile marketing. So sure, it might be unfair to blame them for what might be the misbehavior of one user.

Then again, that doesn’t excuse the block feature on the company’s site being broken. Or the lack of company response when contacted. Unacceptable–everyone knows that message marketing best practices require a quick, easy opt-out process. Though best practices were thrown out the window the minute the perps decided to cold-call consumers, and regardless of whether or not they are on the U.S. Do Not Call Registry.

Also consider that this has been going on for at least three months now. That’s right, there’s been hundreds of other people who’ve had the same experience with HeyCosmo on their cell phones as I. Check some of them out here and here and here.

But even as people began filing complaint after complaint during the days after DEMO, the mainstream tech press had nothing but praise for HeyCosmo. I’m talking the  San Jose Mercury News (“a robo-calling idea you like,” seriously?); CNet News; and VentureBeat, among others.

I don’t know what’s more disappointing, media cluelessness or the fact that Hey Cosmo has fallen from potentially compelling to absolutely irritating.