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eSnailer proves there's no free lunch

A new service called eSnailer lets you compose and send letters via post for free, but the required advertising commitment may be too much to bear for most users.

Despite the ubiquity of e-mail in all of our lives, most of us probably know someone who still doesn't use it. (Hi, Grandma!) And when was the last time any of us wrote and sent a letter via snail mail? A new service called eSnailer promises to bridge that gap by sending your virtual messages to actual mailboxes for free, but the whole process may cost you much more time and aggravation than the price of a first-class stamp.

If eSnailer seems too good to be true, you're right. It is supported by advertising, and in order to have your letter delivered, you'll have to sign up for one of its "free offers." According to eSnailer, "This is at no cost or hassle to you and takes truly no time," but when you go through the actual process of sending a letter, you'll discover that the advertising offers are provided by MyInsiderDeals, a site rated "very spammy" by McAfee SiteAdvisor. After signing up at MyInsiderDeals, the SiteAdvisor team received 240 e-mails per week.

eSnailer advertising offers
You must select one advertising offer to send your letter via eSnailer. CNET Networks

The other big warning sign for eSnailer is the lack of a privacy policy. On any site that asks for personal information like e-mail address, home address, phone number, or age, you should always read the privacy policy first. If there is none, your information can be sold to nearly anyone who wants it.

The advertising offers page on eSnailer does include MyInsiderDeals links for "Terms & Conditions," "About," "Unsubscribe," and "Privacy," but those pages make me even more concerned about eSnailer's legitimacy. The Terms & Conditions page tells all about the "MyInsiderDeals Hunt for the Money Giveaway," but there's no mention of eSnailer.

The "Privacy" link does indeed spell out MyInsiderDeals' privacy policy, but it's not pretty. "The personal profile information that you submit to remains your property, but by submitting that information to, its partners including, but not limited to, SilverNGold, Dealhighway, ConsumerValueDirect, SmartBrands, BargainSpot, SavingsAvalanche, Deal-zone, Couponandgifts, AskVinegarJoe... [59 more partners] ...and/or any and all other affiliates, you grant the right to use that information for marketing purposes." I admit I'm curious about AskVinegarJoe, but that number of advertising affiliates should make any user very nervous.

The sad part is that eSnailer is a great idea, and I would even pay more than the cost of a first-class stamp to use it. It's unfortunate that the company decided to go the route of affiliating with a questionable advertising company. (covered previously) offers a similar service, but it is more direct about the costs. It charges a flat rate of $2 for up to four letter-size pages. Unfortunately, I was unable to find a privacy policy on the site, so I personally would not use or recommend it either.