A Scottsdale company that lets timid complainers send anonymous messages to the targets of their gripes has gone global.
The Suggestion Box, which three years ago launched TheAnonymousEmail.com, now can spit out cyber suggestions in six languages besides English, said Brian Jensen, vice president of the Scottsdale Airpark-based business.
The new feature allows a subscriber to vent in French, Spanish, German, Portuguese, Italian and "simplified Chinese," Jensen said.
The company buys the automated translation technology from a software supplier, Jensen said, and when the tech translators improve the conversion of other languages to English, Suggestion Box will add those options as well.
Company founder Howard Baer thought up the idea of anonymous e-mail when he wanted to complain about one particularly bad experience in a restaurant that he often frequents.
Baer said he expected most people to use the service for similar causes, that is, to complain, tattle, insult or inform somebody about a personal problem such as bad breath or body odor.
But Baer said he spot-checks messages and has noticed a lot of serious uses.
"We had a teen who saw a drug dealer at a school yard and texted police," Baer said. "We've heard about a lot of that type of thing going through."
The United States is still the biggest market for the anonymous e-mail service, but India is second, followed by Europe and the Middle East, Jensen said.
Suggestion Box is pitching the translation option as a way for non-English speakers in Third World countries or dictatorships to develop pen pals and learn of doings in the free world without fear of government notice, he said.
But so far, accurate automated translators for the languages spoken in most of those countries are not available, he admitted.
For example, Arabic-to-English translators produce the right results only about half the time, while software to convert Latin-based languages like French or Spanish to English is 95 percent accurate, Jensen said.
But he hopes improved translation software will be available within a few years, and the company can spread its international scope.
Since it launched in mid-2005, TheAnonymousEmail.com has garnered 160,000 subscribers and sent out nearly 60,000 messages for them.
The real hit, however, was the texting option added a year after the launch, Baer said.
The company regularly handles 220,000 text messages a month, he said.
E-mails are free, but the tab for text messages is 50 for $9.95, Baer said.
The company also offers a premium account status for $9.95 a year that, among other perks, lets subscribers use any of several animated templates and the 2,500 or so domain names that the company owns, he said.