Update — Readers will note that I’ve changed the title and URL of this article, and that’s because shortly after posting it, representatives of SendGrid reached out, apologizing for the situation, explaining that my situation isn’t what they intend, and offering to make it right.
All-in-all, barring what happened this morning, we’ve always had good experiences with SendGrid, and their product is really well designed, and so I’ve decided to continue giving them our business.
My company Makalu was engaged by a US educational non-profit to develop an online platform called “Letters 2 President,” through which America’s youth can publish letters to the candidates of the 2016 presidential election. While the platform is under development, a website was established to inform about the project, and start taking preliminary signups from schools, libraries and other organizations wishing to participate.
Most web applications these days outsource certain functions to third-parties. For example, it’s typical to use Amazon S3 for storage, CloudFlare for content distribution and site protection, and in the case of sending transactional emails, we’ve tended to use SendGrid.
Until now, that is. After today, we’ll no longer use their services, nor will we continue to recommend them to our customers. Here’s why…
For our project, we need to send notification emails to our customer whenever new applications arrive from organizations wishing to participate. We need to send notification emails to organizational administrators when group leaders create accounts. And we need to send notification emails to group leaders whenever a student creates or modifies a letter to be published on our site.
That’s why we need a transactional email service like SendGrid.
As usual in our projects, we create dedicated accounts with these third-party providers, as opposed to using our own Makalu accounts, so that when a project is finished, we can hand over everything—including provider accounts—so that the customer is free to operate their project without any dependencies on Makalu.
And in that regard, this morning I tried to setup a SendGrid account for use in our Letters 2 President project.
Ten minutes after creating the account, I received a notice from SendGrid that based on their review of a broad range of data points, our provisioning request had been rejected.
A rejection based on an automated data check process didn’t come as a surprise, for a number of reasons:
- Although the account was created in the customer’s name, the email address I used when setting it up was a Makalu address, in order that, until project handover, we can receive all the various confirmation and related emails from the service.
- As our office is located in Europe, the IP address that SendGrid saw on the request was outside the United States, and not corresponding to the business address specified in the account creation process.
I imagined that a simple email could clear the matter up, and so I replied to the rejection notice, explaining the purpose and nature of our project, explaining who’s involved, explaining the reasons for the checks I imagined triggered the rejection, and offering to answer any questions they might have in order to get the account provisioned.
Another 10 minutes later, I received a cold and unfriendly follow-up saying thank-you, but based on reasons that won’t be disclosed, our account will not be activated. Just like that. No chance of a discussion. End of story.
And, adding insult to injury, their note ends with the sarcastic-sounding, “We wish you the best in your future endeavors.”
I completely understand why a transactional email company has to be careful in the provisioning of accounts. We all know how big a problem spamming is. But I can’t understand at all why a company would be completely unwilling to even engage with a new customer who presents a clear case for the legitimacy of their use of the service.
So that ends any current and future business relations we’ll have with SendGrid. Fortunately there are many other providers of transactional email, who’ll perhaps enjoy the exposure when we later publish about the building of this exciting new platform.