Does spam... work?

A friend's email account was compromised, and this morning it sent out the following to everyone in his address book:

I find a good website:
On this website ,you can find many new and origianl electronic products .Now they are holding sales promotion activity, all the product are sold at a
low cost and good quality ,and the delivery is on time .
It is a good chance that you should not lose.
If you need some, visit this website .
Let us enjoy the happiness of shopping.

Now, before you run off to that website looking for great deals, please note that something about this seems, uh, shady. Spam usually attempts to look somewhat legitimate, but this one doesn't even try. And even if you're one of those people—presumably such folks exist—who compulsively clicks whatever blue text you see, that double-dotted .com would crash your party real fast, perhaps giving you time to think about what you're doing. This really is a stupendous piece of work.

But it got me to wondering... does this stuff work? Now, this isn't the Federal government, which freely spends money it doesn't have on things that don't get results. Somewhere behind this email there's some sleazy organization or business or... something... that's paying people to write this stuff, hack email accounts, and put some kind of site or malware on the other end of that sloppy URL—and, oddly enough, is turning some sort of profit. True, avarice motivates some strange and cynical doings, and the kind of undiscerning malice at the heart of most internet scams could care less about looking attractive. Still—somehow, someone is getting something out of this, and it's probably money.

All that spam in your junk e-mail folder, all those Viagra/Acai Berry/Weight-loss pop-ups, all those dodgy animated loan offers—those most hated and reviled features of the internet, loathed by everyone we know of (including, especially, us)—they're of a piece with this poor little email because, for some reason, people will go for it. It's a depressing thought, but something about spam... is working.